Tag Archives: book of Luke

In the Direction of the Cross

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“When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.”  Luke 9:51

Right now we Lutherans are in the midst of Lent, a time when we remember Christ’s journey to the cross.  It’s apparent that Jesus knew exactly where his trip to Jerusalem would take him, because in the same chapter he tells his disciples:

“The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”  Luke 9:22

Yet, He was determined.  Why?  He knew it was His Father’s will, and He knew His sacrifice was necessary to save us from our sins, once and for all.  The suffering, the rejection, the pain was insignificant in light of the benefit to the world.  It’s embarrassing to think of how I often I am annoyed at the prospect of sacrificing for somebody else, even when all I am sacrificing is my own convenience or time!  This is not Christ-like, and not what is expected of us as true followers:

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”  Luke 9:23

Lent is a time to ponder the way of the cross.  The way Christ took and the way we’re called to walk as well.

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A Continual Feast

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All the days of the oppressed are wretched, but the cheerful heart has a continual feast.  Proverbs 15:15

This verse made me think about the things that oppress me.  That would include sin, worry, fear, loneliness.   According to Scripture, God has released me from these things.  Here are some of the verses that are important to remember when I am depressed about my sin, my future and my present problems.  (Note in some translations, be cheerful is translated as “take heart.”)

“But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying ‘Take heart;  it is I.  Do not be afraid.”  Matthew 14:27

Here Jesus is speaking to the disciples who are terrified because a storm is threatening to swamp their boat.  He reassures them:  you’re not alone;  you don’t have to fear.  I’m with you, and I am in control.  God is in control of our circumstances as well.  He’s always with us.  We can be cheerful!

“And behold, some people brought to him a paralytic, lying on a bed.  And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Take heart, my son;  your sins are forgiven.'” Matthew 9:2

Jesus heals the paralytic but even better than that He forgives his sins.  He has already forgiven our sins, as well, through His sacrifice and death.  We can be cheerful!

Because of all these things God has already done, we can have a continual feast.  Our hearts can be at rest;  we can celebrate with others; we can share the good news, as well as good food.  We can nourish those around us physically and spiritually.  There’s plenty of cheer to spread around.  There’s no excuse to miss this feast, although some try to beg off because they are too busy attending to worldly cares. (see the Parable of the Great Banquet in Chapter 14 of Luke).

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“And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled.  For I tell you, none of these men who were invited shall taste of my banquet.”  Luke 14:23-24

The feast is ready.  You’re invited.  You’ll be fed and forgiven, nourished and nurtured.  Don’t stay our in the cold.  Don’t be oppressed or alone.  Jesus is waiting for you at His banquet.  It’s a continual feast.

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner

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Have you ever noticed that in many of our commonly used table prayers, we invite Jesus to come and sit at the table with us?  These are prayers we’ve heard from youth, and we recite them by rote, from memory, not really thinking about what we’re saying.  Maybe we should remember to stop and pay attention.  If Christ were our guest, how would we behave?  Wouldn’t we be honored and grateful?  Would we sit up straighter? Mind our manners? Would we watch out language (and maybe even our thoughts)?  Wouldn’t our attention be on Jesus, instead of the cooking?  Would we think about our behavior that day and whether our actions had been worthy of our Lord?  Maybe we’d have some things to apologize for.

Especially in this season of Thanksgiving, let’s make sure our words match our behavior.  Let’s think about WHO we’re inviting and behave as if we mean what we say.  Jesus is not only a guest at our dinner table, He’s the real Host.  He’s given us everything we have, and is present with us constantly.  He doesn’t leave us or forsake us, but sometimes we forget Him.

Now one of the Pharisees was requesting Him to dine with him, and He entered the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table.  Luke 7:36

Jesus didn’t mind eating with Pharisees or sinners.  He’ll sit at your table, too.

The Greatest Bible Study

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“They said to each other, ‘Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” Luke 24:32

This has always been one of my favorite passages of scripture, titled in my Bible, “On the Road to Emmaus.”  Two followers of Jesus meet him on the way to a village called Emmaus, shortly after the crucifixion. They do not recognize him and tell him how their teacher was crucified, and that some of the women in their company claimed that He had risen.  Jesus proceeds to lead them in the greatest Bible study of all time:

“And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” Luke 24:27

Finally he reveals himself to them at the evening meal, when he blesses and breaks the bread and gives it to them.  Wouldn’t you love to have an experience like that?  Well, guess what, you can.  We have the very words of Christ, recorded for us in the New Testament gospels;  we have the opportunity to meet with Him in the celebration of communion.  You can meet Him on the road of your own journey.  Ask Him to open your eyes;  do you feel your heart burning?

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Inner Change

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Kate’s post yesterday reminded me of some verses our Bible Study group was discussing in the book of Luke yesterday. Jesus makes this statement after a Pharisee criticizes Him for failing to perform the ritual washing before a meal:

“Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness.  You fools!…For you tithe mint and rue and every herb and neglect justice and the love of God.” Luke 11:39-42

The Scribes and Pharisees were concerned with outer appearances.  They wanted to look good by following all the religious rules, while inside they were selfish and unchanged.  In another place Jesus calls them whitewashed tombs:  looking good superficially, but spiritually dead.  Their faith was useless to them and to others.

Here’s how the apostle James describes a living faith:

“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this:  to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”  James 1:27

It’s an easy trap to fall into.  We may go to church, tithe, attend Bible Study and serve at every church event, but have we allowed God to change us on the inside?  Do we feel compassion for the least of the least–or do we blame them for their situation?  Do we give sacrificially to the needy?  Or would we rather save our resources for our own benefit?  Do we feel true anguish for souls who are being lost?  Or do we secretly believe they are only getting what they deserve?  Like most people, I struggle with these issues every day.

I’ve been told that the actual meaning of the Greek word for repent is to “turn your guts around.”  That’s a real inner change, not an intellectual exercise or acceptance.  As Kate said, at the gates of heaven, God won’t ask you how good you looked on the outside.  He’ll want to know your heart.

“For the Lord sees not as man sees:  man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”  1 Samuel 16:7

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What God Has Done

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“The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him, but Jesus sent him away saying ‘Return to your home and declare how much God has done for you.’…”Luke 8:38-39

This was part of our Bible study on the book of Luke this week.  After Jesus healed a demon possessed man, he in effect, sent him back to his home to become a missionary.  He didn’t have any extensive instruction or education.  All he had to do was tell others what Jesus had done for him. It reminds me of another similar story in the book of John.  Jesus heals a man who has been blind since birth.  The man is brought to the Pharisees who try to manipulate him into saying that Jesus is a sinner. Exasperated he tells them,

“…One thing I do know;  that though I was blind, now I see.”  John 9:25

As witnesses, all we need to do is tell about our own life and how Jesus has changed it.  We don’t have to be eloquent or persuasive.  We don’t have to worry about the outcome;  that’s up to God.  We just have to state the  facts about God’s action in our life; and it can be as simple as this:  “I was blind and now I see”.

 

Don’t Hide the Light

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“No one after lighting a lamp covers it with a jar or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light.” Luke 8:16

We were studying this verse in our Bible Study class today.  The lamp, of course, is the word of God as we are told more specifically in Psalm 119:

“Your word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path.” Psalm 119:105

We’re also promised in Isaiah 55:11

“…it (my word) shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”

If God has promised that His Word will serve His purposes, why aren’t we shouting it from the rooftops!  Instead, too often, we keep it under wraps.  We’re afraid people will be offended;  afraid it might sound judgmental; concerned about being politically correct.  If we’re honest, we’re also afraid we might be asked to explain something we don’t completely understand.

Now I’m not saying we should beat people over the head with the Bible or browbeat them into conversion. I am saying we shouldn’t mind showing where we stand and why.  If the Bible guides us in our decisions (I’m hoping it does) we shouldn’t mind letting others know that.  If we read our Bible regularly, we shouldn’t care who sees it on our desk at work. We shouldn’t feel uncomfortable saying “have a blessed day” to a cashier in a store.  If a question about Christianity arises, we should be willing to speak up and to the best of our ability explain our beliefs. If we are following Jesus, our lives will be a reflection of His love and others will want to know more about what we believe and why.  I say all this knowing I am also often guilty of “flying under the radar” by avoiding what may be controversial

As my husband would say, that’s the end of my rant.  I’ll try to do better.  Maybe you will, too.  Let the light shine!

“To Die is Gain.”

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Once upon a time . . .

when humanity was young, and quite innocent; they lived in a place of unimaginable beauty and endless possibility. And then humanity was deceived. We failed to trust our creator, and though the lie was not ours, the doubt and greed fully belong to us. The rejection was not of the place, the food, or the vast kingdom that in inheritance belonged to us as well. The rejection was power and love our Father and Lord possessed. We rejected Him.

What was not known in the dawn of time was that with the failure of trust, blinded by greed and naivety, revelations would be made. The tree of knowledge of Good, and Evil. The name says as much as it implies. Before what would they have known? Neither good nor Evil. The infinite wisdom of God would be too much for them to bear. A better way is to slowly introduce information, to take eternity and explain and teach. God wanted to show us the universe while building a relationship.

From the very beginning it was Him who loved us more.  Suddenly, too suddenly, we knew what worse than bad was. We knew shame, and embarrassment, and lust. We knew regret, and sadness, and fear. We were overwhelmed.

Still God our Father loved us. For our own sakes, he removed us from Heaven. People without self-discipline tend to ruin good things. Not to mention Everlasting Life (The tree of Life) combined with Irrational, self-destructive sin would be disastrous. Therefore, we were separated. How painful that was. Not only for us, but for God. The Alpha and Omega that feels anguish as well as joy. Can you imagine first being rejected by your children, and then having to remove them from the situation to protect them? Maybe some can, because all this resulted in a broken world. A world that for our own sakes requires a barrier of sorts.

Luke 16:26 “And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.”

Not only between heaven and hell, but between heaven and earth. It’s a burden we must bear. Although Christ came so that we can eventually see our heavenly home, we mustn’t risk it with open borders. Narrow is the road. While we have hope of seeing not only our loved ones but also our merciful Savior, there’s still a gap. A lonely realization that we are to suffer here till our time comes. As Christians, it’s not that we don’t believe in a better, very real, life that exists beyond our reach; it’s that we cannot follow where they go. It’s the harsh separation that stares us in the face. Our despair comes with the knowledge that these bodies we inhabit must endure here for a time.

Philippians 1:21&22 “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. But if I go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. So what shall I choose?  I do not know. I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.”

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Seek The Kingdom

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“And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried.  For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your  Father knows that you need them.  Instead seek His kingdom, and these things will be added to you.” Luke 12:29-31

Yesterday I spent most of the day with a group of ladies who are preparing to conduct a Via de Cristo Women’s Retreat weekend.  The leader gave us an ice breaker question.  We were tell the group what was the most important thing to us about our original weekend.  It was interesting to hear because there were so many different answers.  For one person it was the music;  for another a particular talk;  for another a conversation with a Pastor.  Women spoke about the love they felt, the acceptance they received and the people they met.  I heard comments like, “God must have planned that weekend just for me” or “I knew I was there to hear that one talk.”

What I got out of this was how different we all are.  Everybody needs something.  Not just food and drink, or money to pay the rent, but things like peace, friendship, mentoring, uplifting.  How amazing that God knows all our needs, physical and spiritual, and when we seek Him genuinely, He provides not only provides it all, but we get it at just the right time!

The key is for us to remember to seek His kingdom always;  to rest in His presence and His provision every day.  He knows our every need!  He’s taking care of things.  If we learn to seek Him, not just on retreat, but in the press of daily living, our lives would be so much easier!

So, I’m asking our readers, have you been on a Via de Cristo weekend, or any form of Cursillo retreat?  How did God provide for your needs that weekend?  I’d like to hear more answers.

God’s Servant

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“And Mary said, “Behold I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” Luke 1:38

We’ve just started a study of the book of Luke in our weekly Bible study, and right away we have one of the best examples of obedience in the Scripture.  The verse above is Mary’s response to the angel Gabriel’s announcement(it’s called the annunciation) that she will have a very special infant.  The conception will come about through the action of God’s Holy Spirit, without a human father….but wait, that’s a problem!  Mary is a young, unmarried woman.  What will the neighbors think?  Even worse, what will her parents and her fiancé think?  She’ll be disgraced and that special child branded as illegitimate. She might even be stoned.  How can this be good?

If Mary thought any of these things, it seems to have been for a very fleeting moment, because almost instantly she responds by saying she is God’s servant (some versions say handmaiden) and she will do whatever He commands. I wonder how many of us would be so accepting.  I’m pretty sure I’d be begging God to find some other way to accomplish His purpose.  Some way that didn’t cause me difficulty and humiliation.

Thankfully Mary did not try to take the easy way out.  She trusted God and His plan for her and for everybody else.  Remember in one of my previous posts I talked about how what is for our immediate good is not always for our ultimate good?  Here’s a perfect example.

I need to keep this in mind when things are happening that I don’t understand or don’t like.  God’s ways are not mine.  He has a plan.  I am His servant, just like Mary.