And Sometimes Y

June 10, 2019 at 1:17 pm | Posted in Luke | Leave a comment
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In elementary English, children learn that the vowels are A, E, I, O, U… “and sometimes Y.” In a previous lesson I looked at the “vowels of hell.” In addition to the devil’s “kingdom” being a.ctual, e.nergetic, i.ntelligent, o.rganized, and u.nited, I will now add that it is “sometimes y.oked.”

Yoked means attached. The kingdom of Satan is sometimes attached to a lost person (possession), or, as pointed out by Jesus, in some cases it is attached to a “movement.”

And when the people were gathered thick together, he began to say, This is an evil generation: they seek a sign; and there shall no sign be given it, but the sign of Jonas the prophet.

Luke 11:29

The sign of Jonah was that he was swallowed by a fish or a whale, and vomited up on dry land. When he preached, people repented. Jesus told the crowd that their generation was evil because they were seeking signs when the greater-than-Jonah was right there in front of them!

For as Jonas was a sign unto the Ninevites, so shall also the Son of man be to this generation.

Luke 11:30

Jonah was “buried” and “resurrected,” in a sense, but Jesus is greater. He actually died and actually come back to life.

The men of Nineve shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here.

Luke 11:32

There is a “movement” today which is sometimes (“sometimes Y”) yoked with satanic influence. This movement says that you don’t need to accept that Jesus is real unless you are seeing signs and wonders. Those of us who recognize this error in the charismatic and the “Word Faith” prosperity movement have to be careful, too, though, that we don’t fall prey to Satan’s influence in more subtle ways:
-“I lost my job, so what’s the point of continuing to go to church?”
-“I’ll start praying, but I better see some results.”

Let’s not be part of what Jesus called a “wicked” generation.

The Vowels of Hell

May 20, 2019 at 1:33 pm | Posted in Luke, parables | 1 Comment
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When we pray, we can be specific. We can ask God for the Holy Spirit, and be confident that He will help us.

If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?

Luke 11:13

There are times in the Bible when Jesus cast out demons, and it’s safe to say that casting out demons seems like it would always be a good thing… Well, apparently not to everyone, because when He did it in Luke Chapter 11 some people starting accusing Him of being on the same team as the demons.

But some of them said, He casteth out devils through Beelzebub the chief of the devils.

Luke 11:15

Jesus used some pretty simple logic to show that this was a ridiculous and blasphemous accusation. First, why would the devil cast out devils? He’s in the oppression and possession business, not the exorcism business.

But he, knowing their thoughts, said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and a house divided against a house falleth. If Satan also be divided against himself, how shall his kingdom stand? because ye say that I cast out devils through Beelzebub.

Luke 11:17-18

Jesus, while He was refuting the accusations of the skeptics with logic, also cleverly revealed some things for us about the devil’s “kingdom,” which we may categorize according the vowels of the English alphabet (although a little bit out of their usual order): A,O,E,I,U.

It is A.ctual. The devil is real and he has real power and has been allowed some limited scope of authority in this earth since the fall of mankind in the Garden of Eden.

It is O.rganized. Satan has an actual kingdom and he is trying to accomplish actual goals and he’s acting in furtherance of those goals. He’s not just running around randomly trying to get people hooked on meth, or trying to get them to sacrifice a goat. He wants to kill, steal, and destroy. He wants to try to rob God of glory. He wants to deceive people into believing lies and rejecting Christ, thereby playing a role in seeing them cast into hell.

Jesus’s next logical point was to turn the tables on the ones accusing Him of being in league with the devil.

And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your sons cast them out? therefore shall they be your judges.

Luke 11:19

This was a case of the pot calling the kettle black. There were plenty of Jewish exorcists around at that time. If the power of Beelzebub was required to cast out devils, then they, by their own reasoning, were promoting and working with Satan themselves.

Jesus’s third argument was to highlight their implicit admission that He did in fact have power over devils.

But if I with the finger of God cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you.

Luke 11:20

It did not make sense for them to claim He was a fraudulent messiah and more powerful than Satan at the same time. So Jesus laid it out for them with an illustration sometimes called “the parable of the strong man.” (Keep in mind the context as you study it, because there is a ton of bad theology and craziness about what the parable means and who exactly the “strong man” in the story is meant to represent.)

When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace:

Luke 11:21

Satan has many people under his thumb, and he’s not just giving them away without a fight.

But when a stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome him, he taketh from him all his armour wherein he trusted, and divideth his spoils.

Luke 11:22

Jesus is stronger than Satan and He can, and many times does, overcome him.

He that is not with me is against me: and he that gathereth not with me scattereth.

Luke 11:23

There is a cosmic battle between good and evil. God is getting glory and Satan is trying to stop that – and you and I CAN NOT be neutral. We’re either on Jesus’s side or not, and if we’re not, we’re automatically on the devil’s side. There is a playing field, but there is no sideline and there are no bleachers for spectators.

When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he saith, I will return unto my house whence I came out. And when he cometh, he findeth it swept and garnished.

Luke 11:24-25

Here are two more of the vowels I mentioned earlier:

E.nergetic. Unclean spirits, despite not readily finding places to rest, continue walking about, looking, until they find a suitable place to stir up fresh mischief.

I.ntelligent. Despite his foolhardy and unwinnable attempt at winning a battle against an unbeatable foe, and despite our reluctance to say anything complimentary about him, we must admit that Satan is no dummy. When unclean spirits are driven out of a home, and can not find a new one, they come back to see if they can re-establish their headquarters in familiar territory. Those who are set free from Satan’s dominion must receive God’s Spirit if they are to remain free.

Then goeth he, and taketh to him seven other spirits more wicked than himself; and they enter in, and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first.

Luke 11:26

U.nited. An evil spirit is able to do what (sadly) Christians are often unable to do. He is able to team up with seven other, and even more diabolical, spirits and work together to completely destroy someone’s life. Thankfully, Jesus (but only Jesus) provides the victory over Satan and his entire legion of demonic minions – if only we will trust Him completely.

 

Prayers Answered with Pranks

April 22, 2019 at 11:18 am | Posted in Luke | 1 Comment
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Jesus continued teaching His disciples about the model for prayer with this concluding thought:

If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion?

Luke 11:11-12

What do we make of this strange illustration which sounds so foreign to our modern ears? Can you imagine a child asking his father, “Dad, may I have some bread?” and the father responding with some sort of cruel practical joke? “Okay, Son, I have some bread for you right here… [reaches behind his back]… Ha! JK! It’s really a rock! Did you break your tooth?”

Or the son asking, “Dad, what do you have there? Is that a fish? I wanna see…” and the father responding, “Sure, Son, here you go… Whoa, it’s a snake – look out!”

It sounds ridiculous, and it just gets worse: “Dad, I’m hungry, how about an egg?” Dad: “Hmmm… I dunno – try this instead!” [hurls a scorpion at him].

Maybe I’m just obtuse, but this seems like a really tough passage of Scripture. The disciples were trying to make sense of the correct model for prayer and Jesus started going on about this crazy dad terrorizing his son. And I’ve read several commentaries which go to some length to assert that maybe a loaf of bread can look like a stone, and maybe a fish can sort of look like a snake. After all, neither have arms or legs, they say, so Jesus must have been teaching about deception, warning against being deceptive in prayer. And I’m certainly no scholar, so that might be the correct interpretation, but an egg being confused for a scorpion? Seriously?

I tend to think that Jesus was being humorous here (albeit with a serious point), and that we just don’t “get” the ancient Near-Eastern connotations with our Western modern mindset. I draw this conclusion because the next verse reveals what I believe to be Jesus’s point:

If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?

Luke 11:13

God is “our Father,” but he is not like “A father.” In other words, earthly fathers are evil. (If you are a father who is reading this, that is probably not very affirming, but that’s what it says.) Jesus wants us to talk to God the way a child talks to his dad, and, while an earthly dad is not always competent, appropriate, or trustworthy, even a really sketchy earthly dad who loves his child wouldn’t give the kid a scorpion or a snake in response to a serious request for food. Based on this line of reasoning how much MORE will God (the perfect Father) give His Spirit to those who ask HIM?

It seems like Jesus was changing the subject when He brought up the Holy Spirit, but He really wasn’t. The Holy Spirit – to Old Covenant believers – was not a permanent indweller. Rather, He was given at specific times for specific ministries. When my kids ask for candy, I won’t give them a hand grenade, but I might give them an apple instead. I – despite being evil – WANT to give them good gifts, but I don’t always get it right when deciding what’s “good.” Our Heavenly Father, on the other hand, has given us the Holy Spirit, and He’s always good. The Bible says that He will guide us into all truth. We need to ask God for the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and we can be confident that He will help us.

A Recipe for Importunate Prayer

March 22, 2019 at 3:13 pm | Posted in Luke, parables | 1 Comment
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Prayer is an expression of faith. A lack of prayer – by which I mean private prayer time, praying when there is no one else around – shows a lack of faith. I once heard a preacher say that we need to pray in two different ways: with our with our boots on and with our boots off. “Boots-on” prayer is when we pray through our prayer lists. This is the hard work of prayer. “Boots-off” prayer is our worship of God in prayer, and it should not feel like hard work. It should be joyous. In the event that you find all of your time spent praying to be difficult or awkward, this is not, however, an excuse to stop doing it. Prayer is like most spiritual disciplines. Often our “have to” comes first, but if we are PERSISTENT, our “want to” will catch up to our “have to.”

And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth. Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.

Luke 11:2-4

Our preparation for prayer should include seeing needs, noting them down, reading the Bible, sticking our noses into the spiritual walk and lives of our friends, listening to people when they talk so we can pray about their desires, fears, and needs. Even the first part of our prayer ought to be preparation for the rest of our prayer, getting God-centered and God-focused, seeking to make our will conformed to God’s will, so that we can ask God for what He wants us to have with confidence and passion.

And he said unto them, Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight, and say unto him, Friend, lend me three loaves; For a friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him? And he from within shall answer and say, Trouble me not: the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee. I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth.

Luke 11:5-8

Vance Havner used to jokingly remark how accurate this parable was in portraying unexpected company always seeming to show up at your house at the most miserable times. Notice the studied ambiguity whereby it’s unclear precisely whose “importunity” is being highlighted. It works either way. If it’s the borrower’s importunity, then it’s his “need” that is the cause of the friend rising at midnight. If it’s the lender’s importunity, then it’s his fear of shame in refusing the plea of his friend. We might define “importunity” as embarrassing insistence. Think of it like this: take need + urgency + persistence + shame and stir them all up in a pot and you’ll get “importunity.”

Let’s say the person who needs the bread at midnight is us. There is something we want, and we believe it is very, very important and that it is in God’s will, or maybe we want to know whether it IS in God’s will. The idea that we would pound on our neighbor’s door at midnight shows how crucial it is.

And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.

Luke 11:9

The words translated as “ask” and “knock” have a connotation of persistent asking and knocking, so if even a grumpy sleepy person will respond to your “importunity” – your obvious need – when you stay after him long enough, how much MORE will your Heavenly Father respond to you, His child, when you are persistent?

This is NOT teaching that God is reluctant to help us, but if we bug Him enough, He will finally cave. It’s showing that persistence helps us to be more DEVOTED to Him.

Now let’s say that “importunity” Luke 11:8 refers to the feeling of the lender – the person whose door is taking a pounding at midnight – and he starts to feel embarrassed, perhaps a type of second-hand embarrassment for the person who considers him to be his friend, but also because of his own reluctance to help out, and what what a refusal to help would say about him.

For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.

Luke 11:10

This is NOT teaching that we need to chide God, and say, “Lord, I can’t believe you won’t even make it so that I can pay my house note this month. I mean, COME ON, Lord, I really serve You, You know? After all I’ve done for You…” hoping that “God’s face will get kind of red and He will say, “I know, you’re right, what was I thinking..? Here you go – hey, psst, don’t tell anyone that I’m slow to answer prayers, all right? I have enough trouble getting people to come to Sunday School as it is!” That’s NOT the meaning of this passage.

However, we know from Scripture that God is zealous about His Name, and He is in the business of getting glory for Himself, and that one of the ways He does that is by answering prayer, so it is right and good – not as a manipulation tactic, but as a way of calling upon the promises of God – to speak to Him about His Own glory. Moses and other Old Testament patriarchs did this. “Lord, You’ve delivered us from Egypt when we had no hope, and You promised to bring us into the promised land, and it’s totally our fault – we’ve broken the Covenant, not You – but, Lord, You know what the heathen are gonna say. They’re gonna say You weren’t powerful enough to fully deliver, or You weren’t big enough to keep Your Word. Lord, don’t let us be the cause of Your glory seeming to be diminished.”

When we honestly pray for God to glorify Himself in answering our sincere petitions, God has authorized and encouraged us to be persistent about that.

Prayer for Preparation, Provision, and Perfection

March 11, 2019 at 1:37 pm | Posted in Luke | 1 Comment
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And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.

Luke 11:4 (emphasis added)

Previous definitions of prayer in these lessons included: talking to God; coming into God’s presence in order to submit to His will; and asking for God’s help. Now we can add that prayer is a restoration of fellowship with God.

Almost every time – if not every single time – you pray, you have sinned. When we pray, it is important to “confess” our sins – to get in agreement (I John 1:9) with God about our sin. Sin does not dissolve your RELATIONSHIP with God if you are a Christian, but it can hinder your FELLOWSHIP. “Forgive us our sins” is simple, but this does not mean that’s all we need to say. It means that there should be a simplicity about our admission that we were wrong and God is right. Elaborate prayers for forgiveness can easily turn into excuses, and, as Bible commentator Warren Wiersbe would sometimes write, an excuse is the skin of a reason stuffed with a lie.

And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.

Luke 11:4 (emphasis added)

Let’s add another definition of prayer: Prayer is a ministry planning session with God. Not only is it somewhat hypocritical to expect forgiveness from God while refusing to forgive others, but one of the first steps in effective Christian ministry is taking an inventory of our own hearts. Bitterness in our hearts will grow into a trap that defiles us and those we are trying to help. In prayer we deal with the stuff that only God knows about us. That is a great freedom and a great privilege.

And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.

Luke 11:4 (emphasis added)

Prayer is a key to sanctification. Look at Jesus’s instruction. He did not say to ask God to lead us away from SIN, but to lead us away even from TEMPTATION. The request for deliverance from evil has a connotation of being delivered from “the evil one,” referring to Satan. Evil is not a personal entity, but Satan is. This is not a prayer for deliverance from his claim on your soul. It is a prayer for deliverance from his influence.

It is very gracious for God to allow us a part in our own sanctification, and to ordain prayer as one of the means for us to do that. It is much more difficult to sin, or to contemplate in a speculative way the things that tempt us, while we are in direct contact with our Covenant Partner.

Prayer helps us in our preparation, with our provision, and on our way to perfection in Christ.

A Prayer Meeting for Need-Meeting

March 1, 2019 at 3:04 pm | Posted in Luke | 1 Comment
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And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth.

Luke 11:2 (emphasis added)

When we pray we can ask for God’s will to be done IN OUR LIVES and IN THE WORLD. These desires can be prayed separately or they can be combined. Jesus taught His disciples to pray for them in reference to “Thy Kingdom come,” so we recognize that we want to see God’s Kingdom advanced in this world, and that that it would be pointless – as a citizen of that Kingdom – to see ourselves “advanced” outside of it. Imagine a missionary going to China and praying for his own position to be improved to the exclusion of the people he came to reach for Christ’s Kingdom. That would obviously be wrong.

We can pray for our children, but not just for their health and their grades and their careers and their future spouses. Instead, we pray that those things will be working together to advance God’s Kingdom in this world. We can pray for our own health and our spouses and our jobs and our finances and our church and our influence and prosperity, but not so that we can be more comfortable. Instead, we pray that those things will be working together so that God’s Kingdom can be advanced in this world through us: “as in Heaven, so in earth.”

How is God’s will done in Heaven? With immediate obedience. With unquestioning loyalty. With fear and trembling. With exultant joy. With complete assurance. And with an eye toward future fulfillment. We look forward to the “sweet by and by,” but one of the things that’s going to make the by and by so sweet is that it’s going to come OUT OF the nasty now and now.

Simple definitions of prayer include: talking to God; coming into God’s presence in order to submit to His will; and asking for God’s help.

Give us day by day our daily bread.

Luke 11:3

From where did you get the food you ate this week? From the store? Indirectly, from your checking account? From your paycheck? From your job? From your employer? From your education and skills and experience? From your background/family? You could, in some sense, attribute your daily bread to all these sources, but Who was ruling over all these things and working them together just so you could eat and not die? God was, but was He obligated to do this? Is He obligated to keep doing it or to do it tomorrow? Jesus taught the disciples to pray as though they needed God every day, because He has not only ordained the situations and things we need to survive, but He has ordained prayer as the means by which we get those things. “Daily bread” may be seen as a synecdoche for all our daily “needs,” including our clothing, health, shelter, and other provisions.

It is important to remember, though, that Luke 11:2 is not an instruction to butter God up for Luke 11:3: “God, You are really awesome – and You are really nice – and You could really kick our butts if You wanted to – but we KNOW that Your name needs to be hallowed, and we’re really more concerned about your will than ours… NOW GIVE US WHAT WE WANT! OR AT LEAST WHAT WE NEED! No, the model prayer given by Jesus to His disciples is designed to be a truly God-centered prayer, not a man-centered prayer. “Lord, give us our daily bread, because if You do not give it to us, we recognize that we could not get it anywhere else.” The prayer calls it “DAILY” bread, not a year’s supply of bread in advance. “We trust You for today, and we now that You hold tomorrow in Your hands. We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves. You know what we ‘need’ better than we know what we need. Give us ‘day by day,’ don’t give us too much – keep us VERY close to You, Lord.”

How to Talk to God

February 15, 2019 at 5:35 pm | Posted in Luke | 5 Comments
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And it came to pass, that, as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.

Luke 11:1

Knowing that Jesus was God incarnate, and (incorrectly) thinking of prayer only as asking God for help with something we can’t do on our own, we might think it remarkable to find Jesus praying in the Gospels, but it really drives home the importance of prayer. Jesus’s prayer life must have been really phenomenal. If Jesus “had” to pray, how much more should we think that we absolutely MUST pray? “Teach us to pray,” said one of Jesus’s disciples. They didn’t ask Him to teach them how to preach, or how to do miracles, or even how to serve and minister. They asked Him how to PRAY.

Luke Chapter 11 contains a version of what is often called “The Lord’s Prayer,” but it is not a prayer that Jesus Himself prayed, and it was never intended as a magical formula to be repeated word for word. When I was in elementary public school we prayed “The Lord’s Prayer” and said the Pledge of Allegiance every morning. From what I understand, times have really changed regarding prayer in schools, but it is designed to be a model, not a mantra. Perhaps I should add that it IS okay to repeat it word for word at times, but it is better to incorporate its principles into your PERSONAL prayers.

Praying is simply defined as talking to God, although we could probably come up with a more theologically impressive definition that incorporates words like “intercession” and “supplication” and “petition.” You normally develop a friendship with someone while talking to them. When we pray, does God talk back? It depends on what we mean by talking back, but I DO believe prayer involves both speaking and listening, and, most importantly, that Bible study and prayer go hand in hand, since the Bible is the one sure way to know what God has to say to us.

And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth.

Luke 11:2

God is “our Father” in the sense that He created us, but, even more so for true Christians, in the special sense of the “new birth.”

Why do you think Jesus made a point of adding “which art in Heaven?” For one, it reminds us of God’s sovereignty. For another, it reminds us of our eternal home. It reminds us to have an eternal perspective. It reminds us of our citizenship. If we are praying out loud in the presence of others, it reinforces the idea for the listeners that we are praying to THE ONE TRUE GOD. It reminds us of His position OVER us – His power and our submission.

“Hallowed be thy name.” For God’s name to be “hallowed” means for it to be venerated, to be esteemed, to be considered and treated as holy, with reverence and respect. “Hallowed” is connected with the idea of holiness, so God’s name is set apart as different. It is to be treated with both love and awe. It is not to be trifled with – as the 3rd Commandment teaches us. God’s name is to be hallowed by us personally when we pray, and we should pray that it would be hallowed in this world. Blasphemy (taking God’s name in vain) was punishable by death in the Old Testament. Today it is almost the sine qua non for popular entertainment.

“Thy kingdom come.” Many times we are guilty of praying in direct contradiction of this model. We pray, “Lord, let my will here on earth be done in Heaven,” instead of asking God to cause His Heavenly will to be done here on earth – and especially in our own lives. We use prayer the way a pump is used on a sinking ship. It ought to be used as the plans for the ship, to help determine whether or not to set sail, whether to raise the sails with the hope that the wind will blow, the guiding of the rudder, the dropping and the raising of the anchor, and the preparation for the possibility that we may have to go down with the ship.

Here’s another simple definition of prayer: coming into God’s presence in order to submit to His will. In answering His disciple’s question, Jesus did not intend to give a word-for-word memory device, nor did He prescribe a posture of kneeling, standing, lifting of hands, or bowing the head. They wanted to know, “How do we think when we pray? What should we talk to God ABOUT? For what should we ask Him?”

Some of the best prayers in the Bible were answered in wonderful ways. Hannah prayed for a child and she got Samuel. Joshua prayed and Achan’s sin was uncovered. Jacob prayed and Esau didn’t get his revenge. But these prayers were made in submission to God’s will, and that needs to be our attitude in prayer also.

Loving to Serve and Serving to Love

February 4, 2019 at 1:43 pm | Posted in Luke | 1 Comment
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Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word. But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.

Luke 10:38-40

Both Martha and Mary were doing something good, but one was doing something better and one got bitter. The attitude of Mary of Bethany when it came to worship was focused on Jesus’s feet.

Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet, saying unto him, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.

John 11:32

Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment.

John 12:3

On all three occasions there was a smell associated with her worship: food, death, and perfume. This reminds us that our worship is described as a sweet-smelling savor to God. Are you more like Martha or more like Mary? Are you more of a worshiper or a worker? Working is very important. Christians ought to be the hardest-working people around, but that does not always equate to the “busiest” people around. Do you have a personal, private prayer time? Do you have a personal, private devotion time? Don’t get these backward: you don’t serve Christ so you can be a good worshiper; you worship so you can be a good server.

In Christianity our activity does not determine our identity. Our identity determines our activity. Why does it work that way? Because worship produces love, and love is the right motive for service. As a parent it is part of your job to play with your children, but hopefully you don’t just play with them because it’s part of your job. Hopefully you enjoy it, too. What are your children’s favorite snacks? Do you give them snacks merely because it’s your job to feed them? Or do you enjoy providing them with the snacks that will make them happy? When your children are sick do you take care of them because it’s your job, or do you actually enjoy caring for the children you love and trying to ease their suffering? When you serve someone you love, it can be difficult, but it is also a treat. When you worship God more, you will love Him more.

The Certains: a Lawyer, a Man, a Priest, a Samaritan, and a Savior

January 11, 2019 at 11:08 am | Posted in Luke, parables | Leave a comment
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And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?

Luke 10:25

The “lawyer” in this verse is not the same type of lawyer that we think of when we talk about lawyers today, but, even back then, they had a tendency to try to trip people up with tricky questions.

He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou? And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.

Luke 10:26-27

The lawyer’s answer to Jesus was both correct and incorrect. It was correct in the sense that this was what the Law required: moral perfection from the moment of birth to the moment of death, and complete devotion to God. But it was incorrect in the sense that it failed to acknowledge that nobody can accomplish this feat, or even come close.

And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live. But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour?

Luke 10:28-29

The statement that the lawyer was “willing to justify himself” is a figure of speech, but it is important to remember that in reality such a thing as a person objectively making himself “just” is not possible. He tried the old “define your terms” tactic on Jesus.

And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.

Luke 10:30

The phrase “a certain man” may indicate that Jesus was starting a parable, but we can not be certain. It is possible that this was something that had actually happened. The locations were real, and the behaviors described are certainly within the realm of known human experience.

And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him,

Luke 10:31-33

Luke, writing with a gentile audience foremost in mind, highlights the significance of Jesus’s identification of the compassionate man as a Samaritan, rather than a Jewish man.

And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee. Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves? And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.

Luke 10:34-37

Jesus corrected the lawyer’s question, which should not have been, “Who is my neighbor?” but rather, “To whom can I be a neighbor?” This man had fallen among thieves. We have “fallen” in sin. He was left “half dead,” and we come into this world alive physically, but dead spiritually. The identification of one of the callous passersby as a “priest” may have been intended to highlight the inadequacy of the Old Testament sacrificial system, and the statement that the other was a Levite may have been a way of addressing the lack of saving power in the Old Testament Law. These systems could only pass judgment, not save. If this is accurate, then the Samaritan would be an allegorical representation of Jesus. He pours in oil and wine, symbols of the Holy Spirit, and brings the rescued man to an “inn,” representing a local church, which was the agency whereby the injured man received care (one of the responsibilities of the local church). This man’s physical salvation was free to him, but paid for by another, just as our spiritual salvation is free to us, but paid for by Christ. Part of our mission as believers today is to care for others – to be good neighbors and “good Samaritans.”

The Joy of Service, Salvation, and Sovereignty

December 19, 2018 at 3:10 pm | Posted in Luke | 2 Comments
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Christians are ambassadors for Christ. We represent Him. This is a great privilege, but it also is a dangerous calling.

Go your ways: behold, I send you forth as lambs among wolves.

Luke 10:3

Some of the reasons for going forth with a partner, or as part of a team, as ambassadors for Christ are accountability, encouragement, guarding reputation, practicality, the possibility of meeting someone with a special ministry need, and safety or protection. That last one applies not just to physical danger, but to spiritual danger as well. We are lambs among wolves. Wolves do not charge into the middle of the flock and try to take down the ram right next to the Shepherd. They are looking for lone lambs out on the fringe, people out of church, out of Christian fellowship, maybe only tangentially related to the Body of Christ anymore.

One form of ambassadorship in the local churches of which I’ve been a part is called “visitation.” “Visitation” is not really about “just visiting.” We have a mission to accomplish and a message to deliver. We are laborers , not spectators. We are not like the internet-surfers, TV-watchers, or window-shoppers – activities which primarily involve “just looking.”

When thou comest nigh unto a city to fight against it, then proclaim peace unto it. And it shall be, if it make thee answer of peace, and open unto thee, then it shall be, that all the people that is found therein shall be tributaries unto thee, and they shall serve thee. And if it will make no peace with thee, but will make war against thee, then thou shalt besiege it: And when the LORD thy God hath delivered it into thine hands, thou shalt smite every male thereof with the edge of the sword: But the women, and the little ones, and the cattle, and all that is in the city, even all the spoil thereof, shalt thou take unto thyself; and thou shalt eat the spoil of thine enemies, which the LORD thy God hath given thee.

Deuteronomy 20:10-14

As ambassadors we declare “peace,” but if peace is rejected we announce judgment. Now, this sounds like heavy lifting, and being an ambassador is hard work. Does it sound like drudgery? Well, it’s not. It’s joyous work.

And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name.

Luke 10:17

1. There is joy in service.

Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven.

Luke 10:20

2. There is joy in salvation.

Every time I tell someone else how they can go to Heaven I am reminded that I am going there myself. Every time I talk to someone about Jesus I am reminded how marvelous He is. Jesus is not our “product;” He is the Rescuer of our souls and the Changer of our lives. Most people speak with respect about their company or their product or their boss, but they speak with JOY about their loved ones. How much more do we express joy over the One Who loved us enough to save us!

In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes: even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight. All things are delivered to me of my Father: and no man knoweth who the Son is, but the Father; and who the Father is, but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal him. And he turned him unto his disciples, and said privately, Blessed are the eyes which see the things that ye see: For I tell you, that many prophets and kings have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them.

Luke 10:21-24

3. There is joy in the sovereignty of God.

The idea that God is in charge of salvation – of revealing Truth and of Holy Spirit-conviction – is ENcouraging rather than DIScouraging.

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