Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Jesus Laughs at the "Show Me!" Generation

Luke 11:29-36
Have you ever been in an argument with someone who demanded you prove to them God existed? Or found yourself having to defend the Bible and some of God's harsher decrees? You are actually dealing with someone who is justifying themselves. They have done bad things, but hope to deflect any judgment by putting the question back on God. In fact, they are sitting in judgment over God. C. S. Lewis describes this 20th century phenomenon that has carried this force to the present day:
“The greatest barrier I have met is the almost total absence from the minds of my audience of any sense of sin... The early Christian preachers could assume in their hearers, whether Jews, Metuentes, or Pagans, a sense of guilt… Thus the Christian message was in those days unmistakably the Evangelium, the Good News. It promised healing to those who knew they were sick… The ancient man approached God (or even the gods) as the accused person approaches his judge. For the modern man, the roles are quite reversed. He is the judge: God is in the dock. ['dock' is British for 'court']

He is quite a kindly judge; if God should have a reasonable defense for being the god who permits war, poverty, and disease, he is ready to listen to it. The trial may even end in God’s acquittal. But the important thing is that man is on the bench and God is in the dock.”
Jesus warns both the wise and the worldly that the problem is in what they can see – and in what they want to see – not in God nor in His mercy towards them.

Amen.

Read in the round

Luke 11:29-36
29  As the crowds increased, Jesus said, “This is a wicked generation. It asks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah. 30 For as Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites, so also will the Son of Man be to this generation.
31 “The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with the people of this generation and condemn them, for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom; and now something greater than Solomon is here.
32 “The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and now something greater than Jonah is here.
33 “No one lights a lamp and puts it in a place where it will be hidden, or under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, so that those who come in may see the light.
34 “Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are healthy, your whole body also is full of light. But when they are unhealthy, your body also is full of darkness.
35 “See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness. 36 Therefore, if your whole body is full of light, and no part of it dark, it will be just as full of light as when a lamp shines its light on you.”

Questions
1)    What is Jesus saying here about the gathered crowd? Are they noble, righteous people or something different? Who does he mention in the Old Testament [i.e. the Jewish scriptures] as judges? Are they better people?
2)    What seems to make the "darkness" in people's hearts, according to Jesus here? Is it truth and reality -or their perception of it? What helps us to not be "dark" – is it a matter of focus?

Benediction
Psalm 73

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Quotes on Unrepentance and Revelation by God
o    All God's revelations are sealed to us until they are opened to us by obedience. You will never get them open by philosophy or thinking. Immediately you obey, a flash of light comes. Let God's truth work in you by soaking in it, not by worrying into it. Obey God in the thing He is at present showing you, and instantly the next thing is opened up. We read tomes on the work of the Holy Spirit when... five minutes of drastic obedience would make things clear as a sunbeam. We say, "I suppose I shall understand these things some day." You can understand them now: it is not study that does it, but obedience. The tiniest fragment of obedience, and heaven opens up and the profoundest truths of God are yours straight away. God will never reveal more truth about Himself till you obey what you know already. Beware of being wise and prudent. -Oswald Chambers

o    Religion today is not transforming people; rather it is being transformed by the people. It is not raising the moral level of society; it is descending to society's own level, and congratulating itself that it has scored a victory because society is smilingly accepting its surrender. -A. W. Tozer

o    Did you ever stop to ask what a yoke is really for? Is it to be a burden to the animal which wears it? It is just the opposite: it is to make its burden light. Attached to the oxen in any other way than by a yoke, the plow would be intolerable; worked by means of a yoke, it is light. A yoke is not an instrument of torture; it is an instrument of mercy. It is not a malicious contrivance for making work hard; it is a gentle device to make hard labor light…Christ saw that men took life painfully. To some it was a weariness, to others failure, to many a tragedy, to all a struggle and a pain. How to carry this burden of life had been the whole world's problem. And here is Christ's solution: "Carry it as I do. Take life as I take it. Look at it from my point of view. Interpret it upon my principles. Take my yoke and learn of me, and you will find it easy. For my yoke is easy, sits right upon the shoulders, and therefore my burden is light." -Henry Drummond

o    The world, indeed, seems to be weary of the just, righteous, holy ways of God, and of that exactness in walking according to His institutions and commands which it will be one day known that He doth require. But the way to put a stop to this declension is not by accommodating the commands of God to the corrupt courses and ways of men. The truths of God and the holiness of His precepts must be pleaded and defended, though the world dislike them here and perish hereafter. His law must not be made to lackey after the wills of men, nor be dissolved by vain interpretations, because they complain they cannot - indeed, because they will not - comply with it. Our Lord Jesus Christ came not to destroy the law and the prophets, but to fulfill them, and to supply men with spiritual strength to fulfill them also. It is evil to break the least commandment; but there is a great aggravation of that evil in them that shall teach men so to do. -John Owen (1616-1683)

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Jesus Teaches His Disciples How to Pray

One and a Half Men Praying
Jesus disciples were growing up spiritually as they walked with Him. At first, most of them were not men who cared much about the things of God – they were worried more about money and who was doing what with who in their lives. [You can see this in their comments and discussions about "who's the greatest" and "what about (this or that, him or her), Lord?"]

They were terribly horizontally focused; that is, focused on the things of this world, not of heaven above.

So when they ASK Jesus how to pray, He does - gladly.

But He is wise. He knows they are young spiritually. He makes it short and powerful, not long and tedious.

He starts with a very positive affirmation, then gives them a confirmation of God's care before ending with stunning self-conviction and contrition.

I can just about hear them thinking, "We got to pray that last part, too?"

Jesus smiles. "You asked."

I think that model is more and more amazing as I get older and have more people to forgive and tend to forget the blessedness of being a child under a parent's watchful care. It re-calibrates my position to God and to other people.

Of course, since Jesus taught it, it IS wise –for in Him "are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." [Col. 2:3]

Amen.

Read in the round

Luke 11:1-4

1    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.”
2    He said to them, “When you pray, say:
         “‘Father, hallowed be your name,
       Your kingdom come.
3    "Give us each day our daily bread.
4    "Forgive us our sins,
            for we also forgive everyone
              who sins against us.
     And lead us not into temptation.’”

Questions

1)    What parts of this exceedingly well-known prayer do you appreciate more today?
2)    What parts of it do you still struggle with?

Benediction: Psalm 117

Quotes on Prayer

  • Relying on God has to begin all over again every day as if nothing had yet been done. ~ C. S. Lewis
  • Work, work, from morning until late at night.  In fact, I have so much to do that I shall have to spend the first three hours in prayer. ~ Martin Luther
  • All I know is that when I pray, coincidences happen; and when I don’t pray, they don’t happen. ~ Dan Hayes
  • God never gives us discernment in order that we may criticize, but that we may intercede. ~ Oswald Chambers
  • Nothing tends more to cement the hearts of Christians than praying together.  Never do they love one another so well as when they witness the outpouring of each other’s hearts in prayer. ~ Charles Finney
  • I saw more clearly than ever, that the first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day was, to have my soul happy in the Lord.  The first thing to be concerned about was not, how I might serve the Lord, how I might glorify the Lord; but how I might get my soul into a happy state, and how my inner man may be nourished….  I saw that the most important thing I had to do was to give myself to the reading of the Word of God and to meditation of it. ~ George Mueller
  • The amount of time we spend with Jesus – meditating on His Word and His majesty, seeking His face – establishes our fruitfulness in the kingdom. ~ Charles Stanley

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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Jesus Gives Marching Orders to Special Ops Team

Jesus said “No one lights a lamp and then hides it under a bushel!” and now He puts that concept into action through his disciples. Strangely, however, there is not a single mention of personal sanctification, extreme fasting and prayer, or other common means of attaining spiritual insight before Christ commands his men to go forth.

It is almost as if he thinks being with him is enough to empower them. That they have already seen enough to make them fearless, bold and dedicated to his service. It is almost as if Jesus thinks they need NO training, no special theological framework or ministry supporters, just a relationship with Him!

Well, I know of several well-meaning Christian mission agencies that would argue with that.

But I also know that every apostle sent by God – and His Son – pass with flying colors if all they do is rely on Him and His Word alone.

He meets every need for those men and women.

Amen.

Read in the round

Luke 9:1-9

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. 4 Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that town.
5 “If people do not welcome you, leave their town and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.”
6 So they set out and went from village to village, proclaiming the good news and healing people everywhere.
7 Now Herod the tetrarch heard about all that was going on. And he was perplexed because some were saying that John had been raised from the dead,
8 others that Elijah had appeared, and still others that one of the prophets of long ago had come back to life.
9 But Herod said, “I beheaded John. Who, then, is this I hear such things about?” And he tried to see him.

1) What strikes you as surprising or unusual about the commands of Jesus to His disciples? In another fashion, let’s ask which command would give YOU the most concern? Why?

2) Did Jesus expect the disciples to always live in this fashion, or where these temporary orders?

3) What ‘order’ gave surprise and joy to his disciples as they obeyed [cf. Matthew]?

4) Lastly, who is the most confused in this passage about Jesus and his mission? Why did God thwart his desire, do you think?


Benediction
Acts 4:8-14

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Christian Leaders on Waging War with the World in Christ

  • Confronted with a cancer or a slum the Pantheist can say, "If you could only see it from the divine point of view, you would realize that this also is God." The Christian replies, "Don't talk... nonsense." –C.S. Lewis

  • Should all the hosts of death and powers of hell unknown put their most dreadful forms of rage and malice on, I shall be safe, for Christ displays superior power and guardian grace. -Isaac Watt

  • The will of God will never take you to where the grace of God will not protect you. To gain that which is worth having, it may be necessary to lose everything else. -Bernadette Devlin

  • If you... come to Christ, he will appear as a Lion, in his glorious power and dominion, to defend you. All those excellencies of his, in which he appears as a lion, shall be yours, and shall be employed for you in your defense, for your safety, and to promote your glory; he will be as a lion to fight against your enemies. He that touches you, or offends you, will provoke his wrath, as he that stirs up a lion. Unless your enemies can conquer this Lion, they shall not be able to destroy or hurt you. Unless they are stronger than he, they shall not be able to hinder your happiness. -Jonathan Edwards

  • His will is our hiding place. -Corrie Ten Boom

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Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Jesus Brings to Life Women Who Are Dead to the World

Jesus Heals Women Who Are Dead to the World

There’s physical death and there is spiritual death. There is financial death and there is social death. It does not matter to Jesus. He is able to bring life from nothing.

Even when he’s not paying attention!


Amen.

Read in the round: Luke 8:40-56

40 Now when Jesus returned, a crowd welcomed him, for they were all expecting him.

41 Then a man named Jairus, a synagogue leader, came and fell at Jesus’ feet, pleading
with him to come to his house

42 because his only daughter, a girl of about twelve, was dying. As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him.

43 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her.

44 She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped.

45 “Who touched me?” Jesus asked. When they all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.”

46 But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.”

47 Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed.

48 Then he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.”

49 While Jesus was still speaking, someone came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. “Your daughter is dead,” he said. “Don’t bother the teacher anymore.”

50 Hearing this, Jesus said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed.”

51 When he arrived at the house of Jairus, he did not let anyone go in with him except Peter, John and James, and the child’s father and mother.

52 Meanwhile, all the people were wailing and mourning for her. “Stop wailing,” Jesus said. “She is not dead but asleep.”

53 They laughed at him, knowing that she was dead.

54 But he took her by the hand and said, “My child, get up!”

55 Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up. Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat.

56 Her parents were astonished, but he ordered them not to tell anyone what had happened.

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1) By this time, is Jesus’ power well known? According to scripture, what needs to happen for it to be effective?

2) Who needs his healing? What number is mentioned in both accounts? What contrast and comparison was Luke trying to show here? Discuss.

3) What is so amazing about Jesus’ final command to the little girl’s parents? Why’d he say that?


Benediction
Romans 8:8-15

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Christian Leaders on Fullness of Life in the Midst of Sorrows

  • God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing. –C.S. Lewis
  • It takes moral courage to grieve; it requires religious courage to rejoice. - Soren Kierkegaard
  • God is attracted to weakness. (cf. Psalm 51:17) -Kimber Kaufmann
  • Earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot heal. -Thomas Moore
  • The ‘problem of evil’ is raised more often by spectators of life than the actual combatants. You will hardly ever find that the great sufferers are the great skeptics. -James Stewart
  • Our heavenly father never takes anything from his children unless He means to give them something better. -George Mueller
  • Many of us do not realize that pain and joy run together. When we cut ourselves off from pain, we unwittingly cut ourselves off from joy as well. -Clyde Reed
  • When I dwell on the goodness God has expressed towards me, my heart rises up like an artesian well, my eyes gush forth joy that waters my face and leaves the observer in wonder. -Gary Amirault
  • Health is a good thing; but sickness is far better, if it leads us to God. - J.C. Ryle

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Luke 7:11-17

Jesus Brings a Widow’s Son to Life

In the first century, and still in many parts of the world, widows were often overlooked and mistreated. They were essentially unwanted, past childbearing age and “unuseful” in a world that had no modern machines, modern medicine or electronic communication. Their beauty had passed, their years of frailty had begun and there were those who would either take advantage of them or ignore them since they had no man to defend them. Judges would vote in favor of the more ‘economically viable’ and unless there was a family who loved them, they had to survive by whatever meager means they had. They were one step away from being “bag ladies”. And if they were actually hurt or crippled, who could they work for to get needed basic necessities? They were next to nobodies in the eyes of the greedy and selfish in the harsh daily realities of Judea.

Again, no family equaled no aid. So it was no small wonder that Jesus brought back this widow’s ONLY son from the dead. Jesus’ own mother Mary was a widow [Joseph is gone by the time Jesus is grown]; and I perceive that this widow’s plight must have touched our Lord’s heart DEEPLY.

He stepped up and took charge. He told her not to cry, before He did the impossible. He raised her son up from the dead gave him back to her. What does it teach us, besides His great compassion and love for the weak and downtrodden?

When everything looks helpless and desperate, with no one to help you, Jesus is there.

Amen.

Read in the round

Luke 7:11-17

11 Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him.

12 As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her.

13 When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.”
14 Then he went up and touched the bier they were carrying him on, and the bearers stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!
15 The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.
16 They were all filled with awe and praised God. “A great prophet has appeared among us,” they said. “God has come to help his people.”
17 This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country.


1) What do we know about this woman’s life, if at her son’s death, “a large crowd was with her”?

2) What was the first command of Jesus to her? Why? What were her reasons for distress?

3) Since “the dead man sat up and began to talk”, what can we surmise about his demise?
What two things become apparent to these mourners at this event? Are they correct?

Benediction
Psalm 23

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Quotes from Various Christian Leaders on Hope

  • "You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream." –C.S. Lewis
  • "Hope is a state of mind, not of the world. Hope, in this deep and powerful sense, is not the same as joy that things are going well, or willingness to invest in enterprises that are obviously heading for success, but rather an ability to work for something because it is good." –Vaclav Havel
  • Everything that is done in the world is done by hope." –Martin Luther
  • We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be." –C.S. Lewis
  • When you say a situation or a person is hopeless, you are slamming the door in the face of God." –Charles L. Allen
  • "The Christian’s chief occupational hazards are despair and discouragement." –John R. Stott
  • "Pray, and let God worry." –William Law
  • "I've read the last page of the Bible. It's all going to turn out all right." –Billy Graham
Be blessed!

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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Luke 7:1-10 [Been a long time but we're still here!]

(Editor: We had stopped putting updates here, but we're going to change that, hoping to bless others who visit this blog.)

Jesus Is Amazed at a Centurion’s Faith

When something goes wrong, we head to the person in authority if we want a quick resolution. If we don’t, what we really want is sympathy for the trial or problem we are experiencing – assuming that there is NO authority to appeal to or to ask aid from - or we assume that the authority is unrelenting and unapproachable.

The faith of this Roman Centurion is not just that God exists and the Roman pantheon is wrong and the Jews are right – his faith has taken such legs that he has become nearly an evangelist by helping get a synagogue built for the Jews. He is definitely in another category altogether.

Somehow, this Roman soldier sought God and began finding him – and then heard about Jesus.

He does not hesitate, this man of action. Luke adds the detail that he refused to dishonor Christ by coming himself – but his need is very great. He absolutely takes it for granted that this godly prophet has the power to do miracles. We have a LOT more information about Jesus – but I must say, even as Christ said, “I have not found such faith in all of ISRAEL!”

Jesus is not trying to condemn our lack of faith, but we should feel pretty bad when those outside the Christian faith believe God is answering our prayers more often than we do!

Amen.

Read in the round

Luke 7:1-10
1 When Jesus had finished saying all this to the people who were listening, he entered Capernaum.
2 There a centurion’s servant, whom his master valued highly, was sick and about to die.
3 The centurion heard of Jesus and sent some elders of the Jews to him, asking him to come and heal his servant.
4 When they came to Jesus, they pleaded earnestly with him, “This man deserves to have you do this,
5 because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue.”
6 So Jesus went with them. He was not far from the house when the centurion sent friends to say to him: “Lord, don’t trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof.
7 “That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant will be healed.
8 “For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”
9 When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, “I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.”
10 Then the men who had been sent returned to the house and found the servant well.


1) Why did the elders think helping this Roman centurion was a good thing? What does that tell you about him?
2) What did this Roman soldier understand about Jesus? Have you yourself learned anything about Jesus because of your profession, job or other daily task?
3) What incredible compliment does Jesus pay this gentile?

Benediction
James 5:16-20
(c) Justice Carmon 2011

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Ephesians 4:7-16

A Conquering Christ Gives Ministers with Gifts
God answers the prayers of the world first by giving us Himself and then by giving His sons and daughters as ministers of His Spirit. When you think God has not answered your prayers, keep in mind His goal is not to make you comfortable but for you to join Him in the glorious work of ministering to others. You are His gift to the world. We may feel put out, put upon and bewildered at times, but just as Jesus came "to serve, not to be served" we must expect to be called by God to help others whose "faith is weak."

Listen to this from St. Francis of Assisi:
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

God has a purpose for our lives as saints: it is to minister to others with our gifts – and all our talents and abilities are a gift from Him to serve and to enhance the lives of others, and hopefully, grant us great joy as we do it! Our lives have wonderful meaning if we realize that "even a cup of cold water" that is given in Jesus' Name is rewarded by God.

If you have a lot of trouble with this concept, I suggest you watch that great theological masterpiece, It's a Wonderful Life and see how blessed George Bailey is, even though he does not get to do what he wants to do so many times.

As you may recall, George Bailey is finally shown by Clarence (angel, second-class) how important his life really was – not to the world–at-large perhaps, but to the small town of Bedford Falls, preserving it from being ruined by Old Man Potter's greed. In like fashion, we as ministers and followers of Jesus Christ, have no business dictating to God where we will be placed, but we can quench His work in other's lives if we forget that we are here for His purposes: to make Christ known.

As St. Francis said, "Preach the gospel always! And if you must, use words."

Amen.

Read in the round

Ephesians 4:7-16 (NIV) 
7 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.
8 This is why it says: [Psalm 68:18]
"When He ascended on high,
   He led captives in His train
        and gave gifts to men." [variant Targumic reading in Aramaic]
9 (What does "He ascended" mean except that He also descended to the lower, earthly regions?
10 He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.)
11 It was He who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers,
12 to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up
13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.
15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Him who is the Head, that is, Christ.
16 From Him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.



1) Paul reinterprets Psalm 68:18 here – why? Does he have a authority to do so? [Gal 1:11-12]
2) What does Paul imply being a minister is: a job or a gift? What's the purpose of it?
3) Do you see yourself as aiding the body of Christ, being aided by it, still growing – or all three?

Benediction
Isaiah 61:1-6