Prayers Answered with Pranks

April 22, 2019 at 11:18 am | Posted in Luke | Leave a 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 as 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 | 1 Comment
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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.

The But Chapter: Immaturity and Independence

November 9, 2018 at 1:10 pm | Posted in Luke | Leave a comment
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In the last lesson we looked at Luke Chapter 9 and considered the “buts” of incomprehension, indecision, and ignorance. Now we will see:

4. The But of Immaturity

But they understood not this saying, and it was hid from them, that they perceived it not: and they feared to ask him of that saying. Then there arose a reasoning among them, which of them should be greatest.

Luke 9:46

Rather than marveling at the greatness of their Master’s mission, the Disciples were asking what a distressing number of us often find ourselves asking: What’s in it for me? Instead of looking back at what God has done, and looking forward to what He will do, or looking up to Him, we’re looking around – and not to find a need to serve – but to compare ourselves to those around us. “Why can’t I have what he has?” “How do I measure up to her?” “I attend Sunday School AND I have family devotions – the Lord MUST like me more than so-and-so…”

Jesus responded by calling a child into their midst.

And Jesus, perceiving the thought of their heart, took a child, and set him by him,

Luke 9:47

Notice that the children were right there with the grown-ups when Jesus was teaching. He didn’t have to send someone to fetch a child from children’s church. The point of summoning this child was not to illustrate CHILDISHNESS. That was the Disciples’ problem: they wanted to follow Jesus, BUT they were exhibiting the “But of Immaturity.” “I’m greater than you.” “No, Jesus likes me more than you.” The child that Jesus took from the crowd wasn’t CHILDISH – He was CHILD-LIKE.

And said unto them, Whosoever shall receive this child in my name receiveth me: and whosoever shall receive me receiveth him that sent me: for he that is least among you all, the same shall be great.

Luke 9:48

This child was child-like in the sense of being un-self-conscious. One of the paradoxes of the Kingdom of Christ is that child-likeness is a sign of maturity – because it seeks to please others, not self. Childishness is a sign of immaturity because it looks out for number one.

5. The But of Independence

And it came to pass, that, as they went in the way, a certain man said unto him, Lord, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest.

Luke 9:57

Note the play on the word “certain.” Here it means that a particular man is being referenced, but we also use the word “certain” to describe someone who is absolutely sure about something. This man was certainly gung ho about following Jesus. He didn’t just say, “I’ll go where You go.” He said “WHITHERSOEVER thou goest.” That’s the kind of followers Jesus wants, right? Hold on a second.

And Jesus said unto him, Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.

Luke 9:58

Just did not respond with, “Ha! I gotcha now – you made a commitment and that’s all we’re looking for. You’re on the right team now – just do what you can. Serve when you feel like it, and get your bucket ready. My Father’s going to pour out blessings so that you won’t be able to receive them all.” No, instead, Jesus told Him to count the cost – to make a sober assessment of his commitment to follow Christ. Following Jesus means following in discomfort as well as comfort. Jesus never preached a gimmicky gospel. He would have never raised enough funds to keep His TBN show on the air. He never promised a bed of roses as much as a crown of thorns.

And he said unto another, Follow me. But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father.

Luke 9:59 (emphasis added)

Notice the command: “Follow Me.” This man wanted to go, but he still wanted some independence. He wanted to go in HIS time.

Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God.

Luke 9:60

Christians preach to dead people – spiritually dead, not physically dead, people.

And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath even as others. But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)

Ephesians 2:1-5

Christians are not “independent.” We were and are completely dependent upon God for everything good we’ve ever known.

And another also said, Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house.

Luke 9:61 (emphasis added)

The But of Independence puts conditions on our service to Christ. We think that we will decide what’s important for ourselves, then serve within that framework, but Jesus says:

And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.

Luke 9:62

The Lord can’t use you if you’re always looking back at your “but.” Jesus sets the priorities and the agenda. We depend upon Him to let us know where to work, what to wear, what our schedule is, who our friends are. You can’t play follow the leader if you’re looking back, and you can’t keep up if your “but” is too big.

The But Chapter: Incomprehension, Indecision, and Ignorance

October 24, 2018 at 11:12 am | Posted in Luke | 2 Comments
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There are 16 buts in Luke 9. “But” can be a cop-out word that often simply nullifies whatever we say before it. “Honey, I think you look beautiful today, BUT…” “I promise I am going to clean up the house, BUT…” However, the “buts” in Luke 9 are very instructive.

1. The But of Incomprehension

Jesus gave the disciples their instructions, and then:

And they departed, and went through the towns, preaching the gospel, and healing every where. Now Herod the tetrarch heard of all that was done by him: and he was perplexed, because that it was said of some, that John was risen from the dead;

Luke 9:6-7

Herod was baffled and confused. He didn’t seem to comprehend the ministry of Jesus and His disciples. Herod had ordered the beheading of John the Baptist, and it may be that he knew it was wrong, and that his conscience was bothering him.

And of some, that Elias had appeared; and of others, that one of the old prophets was risen again. And Herod said, John have I beheaded: but who is this, of whom I hear such things? And he desired to see him.

Luke 9:8-9 (emphasis added)

Some people were speculating that Jesus might actually be Elijah or another one of the Old Testament prophets resurrected, but Herod did not comprehend who Jesus was. Is that YOUR problem, too? You can’t really be a Christian without knowing Jesus, but a DISCIPLE needs to not only KNOW Him personally (although that is of paramount importance), but also to keep knowing more and more about Him. Disciples need to know His attributes and principles and precepts. Perhaps you aren’t following Jesus like you should, and it’s a little similar to what Herod was experiencing. Something is bothering you. You know that you need to be serving Jesus in different ways and with more passion, but have you really comprehended WHO HE IS? You are wondering: Will He leave me or forsake me? Will He forget to repay my costs and my hurts? Just how trustworthy is He? What does He think about people like me? What does He think about the people around me? Jesus does not have to be incomprehensible to us. Herod desired to SEE Him. If you desire to see Him, you can.

But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.

Hebrews 2:9 (emphasis added)

First, see Him on the Cross – a Man suffering and dying for you. You will comprehend that He loves you. Then see Him seated in glory at the Father’s right hand. You will comprehend that He is victorious.

For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren,

Hebrews 2:10-11

This promise will demolish any “but” of incomprehension that stands in your way. Jesus has suffered what you have suffered – and MORE than you have suffered – yet He is not ashamed to call you “brother” or “sister.”

2. The But of Indecision

It doesn’t always work out this way when you compare the Gospel accounts, but you can look in Luke 9 and Mark 9 and see the same incident.

And it came to pass, that on the next day, when they were come down from the hill, much people met him. And, behold, a man of the company cried out, saying, Master, I beseech thee, look upon my son: for he is mine only child. And, lo, a spirit taketh him, and he suddenly crieth out; and it teareth him that he foameth again, and bruising him hardly departeth from him. And I besought thy disciples to cast him out; and they could not.

Luke 9:37-40

Here was a child possessed by a violent demonic spirit, yet Jesus’s disciples could not cast the demon out. Mark gives a parallel account of the incident:

When Jesus saw that the people came running together, he rebuked the foul spirit, saying unto him, Thou dumb and deaf spirit, I charge thee, come out of him, and enter no more into him. And the spirit cried, and rent him sore, and came out of him: and he was as one dead; insomuch that many said, He is dead. But Jesus took him by the hand, and lifted him up; and he arose. And when he was come into the house, his disciples asked him privately, Why could not we cast him out? And he said unto them, This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting.

Mark 9:25-29 (emphasis added)

Now you can see why the disciples could not deal with this demonic spirit. They believed they had authority, BUT they were undecided about what was wrong. They had not prepared. How in the world are we going to know what to do when we face an unexpected spiritual battle if we haven’t been preparing by prayer and intense serious devotion to God? If I don’t meditate on His Word – in prayer, too – then I’m going to wind up on my “butt” when the first tough ministry opportunity knocks me right down.

And Jesus answering said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you, and suffer you? Bring thy son hither. And as he was yet a coming, the devil threw him down, and tare him. And Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, and healed the child, and delivered him again to his father. And they were all amazed at the mighty power of God. BUT while they wondered every one at all things which Jesus did, he said unto his disciples,

Luke 9:41-44

Don’t get caught “wondering” in the “but of indecision” while it’s time to act. Be prepared.

3. The But of Ignorance

Let these sayings sink down into your ears: for the Son of man shall be delivered into the hands of men.

Luke 9:44

Jesus’s disciples knew by this time that He was referring to Himself when He used the prophetic title “Son of Man.” They also knew that “delivered into the hands of men” meant taken captive by His enemies – most likely through betrayal – for punishment, torture, and death. Why didn’t this have a bigger impact on them?

BUT they understood not this saying, and it was hid from them, that they perceived it not: and they feared to ask him of that saying.

Luke 9:45 (emphasis added)

They were ignorant of what Jesus came to do. Is that the “but” of your problem when it’s time to serve Jesus? Are you really ignorant of exactly what Jesus came to do? Was He a good role model? Yes, but you are ignorant if you think that’s the message of Jesus’s Gospel. Was He a good example – willing to serve others even to the point of laying down His life as the ultimate example? Yes, but you are ignorant if that’s what you think His real message was and is. Was He on the right track, but He just got overcome by the evil in this world, so we honor Him for “a good try?” That’s romantic and heroic, but you are ignorant if you think that’s what the Gospel of Jesus is about.

But they understood not this saying, and it was hid from them, that they perceived it not: and they feared to ask him of that saying.

Luke 9:45 (emphasis added)

We can’t be afraid of facing what Jesus really came to do. We can’t be afraid to tell people that He suffered and died, and that it was a bloody gruesome death, and that God forsook Him on the Cross and emptied the cup of wrath on His head. We’re afraid to talk about that because of its implications. Why was the death of the Son of God so awful – so horrible – so atrociously bloody? Because you and I were so wicked, so vile, so perverse, so at enmity with God, so undeserving of the love wherewith He loved us. We can’t remain ignorant of those facts, and we can’t let others “but” their way around that Truth. We needed an awesome Savior because we were awful sinners.

Next time we will look at the “buts” of immaturity and independence.

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