Thursday, January 28, 2010

Luke 19:28-44; Spiritual eyes

When the Pharisees complained about the praise of the disciples -- probably a combination of envy over the attention and shock at the implication of thew words -- Jesus responded that if they did not praise him the rocks would cry out. Basically, the event was so momentous that even a rock on the side of the road knew what was going on. Anyone should have been able to see it.

Then he speaks words of mourning over Jerusalem. He uses terms like "if you had only known", "it is hidden from your eyes" and "you did not recognize".

What a sad comparison, i.e., is it possible that rocks have more spiritual vision than the people of God? What would he say about my recognition of the spiritual world around me? Do I really see what is important? Do I see spiritual truth?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Luke 19:11-27; Life in the Gap

The beginning of these verses says that Jesus told this parable for a specific reason, i.e., people thought that the kingdom of God was about to appear when Jesus reached Jerusalem. It was told to one crowd with two different groups.

To the disciples it was a parable of hope. Stay the course even if you don't understand or can't see me. Be faithful even when others are not and you will be rewarded. If you fail to do so, it will not go well.

To the opponents of the kingdom, the religious leaders who did not like the way things were going, the message was basically "too bad". They could try to oppose him but it would not work. If they did not join his faithful, the result would be death.

We don't talk about this parable very often; it is not a good North American church parable. It tells us to be patient, a very non-North American virtue. It tells us to work and be faithful even when we cannot see quick results; again, not very like us. It also says judgment will come to those who do not join with Jesus, a feature often downplayed to the point of silencing the concept all-together.

Silencing the concept was exactly what the opponents of Jesus were trying to do. Culture can sometime give us odd associates, whether we admit it or not.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Luke 19:1-9; Seeking

All of chapter 18 was about people seeking Jesus. The children came, the rich young man came and the blind man came. This scene is no different. Zacchaeus was seeking to see this itinerant preacher as he passed through. Jesus apparently had no plans of stopping as the context says he was passing through the town. But his plans changed.

As the procession marched deliberately towards Jerusalem, Jesus stopped and let Zachaeus know that God has seen his heart. Jesus spends time with Zacchaeus. Then Jesus in defense of Zacchaeus and his own actions, proclaims "The Son of Man came to seek and save what was lost."

Suddenly the paradox hits home. The children, the rich man, the blind man and Zacchaeus have all been seeking him. Now he proclaims that he, the Son of Man, has been the one doing the seeking all along.

God is seeking seekers.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Luke 18:35-43; Persistance

Luke began the chapter with a parable about persisting in prayer; he ends it with a man who was persistent in his outcry. He recognized his chance and seized the opportunity. The leaders of the crowd ignored him and even marginalized him more. Yet Jesus heard and responded to his shouts.

Once he is healed, everyone thinks it is fantastic. Those who rebuked him now praise with him. The crowd loves him after the fact; only Jesus loved him before.

It also strikes me that he joins the crowd only to march from Jericho to Jerusalem. The first events he witnessed with his new vision were those of the passion week, i.e., the death of the one who gave him sight. What the apostles could not envision (18:31-34), he was forced to watch.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Luke 19:31-34; Hidden

Jesus pulled aside his primary followers to give them special insight. It didn't work.

Somehow we think if Jesus were to come down here and talk straight with me, everything would be easier and clearer. I've heard that said many times. Yet it obviously is not true. He spent years with his apostles and even had moments like these when he pulled them aside for special instructions. Yet, they remained clueless in many ways. The meaning behind Jesus' words was still hidden from them.

So where do I get the right to think I have all the answers? Why do I think my perspective is so accurate? If a group of men who ate, drank and slept with Jesus for three years still misunderstood him, I have cause for being much more humble.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Luke 18:15-30; Coming to Jesus

Jesus had just compared the attitudes of a Pharisee and a tax collector coming to the temple. Now he compares children with his disciples and a rich man with his apostles. All three stories are "come to Jesus" stories. All three stories seem to go against conventional wisdom.

A follower that does not have the faith and pure heart of a child will not make it into the arms of Jesus. A follower who holds more tightly to this life than the next will not make it into the arms of Jesus. The Pharisee, disciples and rich man all seemed honorable and religious. Yet none of them made it to Jesus. Only the tax collector, little children and poor apostles connected with him when they came.

These stories are a wake up call to look at the heart and ignore the external trappings. Education, profession, age and wealth are not indicators of spirituality. Yet in a world where we are trained to pour time, money and attention into the superficiality of life, it is hard to not follow the same pattern in the spiritual realm.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Luke 18:9-14; Own righteousness

Its parables like this one that just scare me. When did the Pharisee cross the line? Obviously the easy answer is "when he came to depend upon his own righteousness rather than God's". But the question next to my heart is what did it look like when he crossed that line?

He gave himself to preserving the blood-line of Christ, to maintaining Judaism in its purest form. He studied the scripture, he went to the right places, he fasted twice a week, he tithed and he avoided what society considered to be major sins. He had great intentions and, at least at the beginning we assume, he had a good heart. So what does it look like when acts of piety move from being acts to place me before God or shape my behavior to being more Godly to become acts that move me away from God because of my misplaced confidence in them?

It scares me to think that my heart could just as easily forget the real motivation behind changing my behavior and I could miss the heart of God while dedicating my life to seeking it.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

LUke 18:1-8 v James 4:1-3

It is interesting that Luke gives us the point of the parable before giving us the parable. Usually a parable starts via some discussion or question posed by another. In this case, Luke just hits us with it from the beginning, i.e., "this is a teaching about always praying."

I can't help but get to the end of this parable and wonder why some of my prayers seem to have gone unanswered. I was persistent. I was sincere. Yet, the answer didn't come.

It leads me to put James 4 beside this teaching. What is the goal of my prayers? What motivates me? Am I living for something bigger than myself that even deserves prayer? The woman in the parable was seeking justice. What do I seek?

Friday, January 15, 2010

Luke 17:11-19; Gratefulness

It might be the hardest attitude to develop, i.e., gratefulness. It means that I am in a position of receiving. It means that I did not help myself but was helped by someone else. It means I recognize my weakness and vulnerability.

In a North American society that praises self-help and moving up through the ranks, gratitude is a confession that something is wrong. It is acknowledgment that society might not know everything; that I am still human and that I need others.

Only one went back to express gratitude that day; nine rejoiced in their changed state but without expressing thankfulness. Only one was commended by God. The question for me is will I be part of the 10% or the 90% today?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Luke 17:1-10; Rebuke, Forgive, Stay Humble

There is so much content in these few verses. In a society that tends towards tolerance and pursues pluralism, rebuking someone for an error is unheard of. Yet, it is a command. Just as much as loving a neighbor is a command, just as much as loving God is a command, so also is rebuking a brother a command. It is not cultural but it is Christian.

The next line is the command to forgive someone when they err. Rebuking and forgiveness go hand in hand. Rebuking is not done from a position of power but from a position of love, seeking the best for the other who is in error. Forgiveness flows from the same heart.

When it is all said and done, to have corrected another or forgiven them one hundred times means absolutely nothing about my spirituality. I means I am doing what God expects of me. It means I am being like him. It means I should not be held up, glorified or proud of myself. I am simply being what I was created to be.

Rebuke, forgive, stay humble. Three commands to live counter-culturally.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Luke 16:16-31; Reversal

Some call it the Divine Reversal, when God takes what we place first and suddenly flips it upside down to be last. When a beggar turns out to have a luxurious life while a famous rich man has less than nothing. When a rejected carpenter turns out to be the king while the leaders turn out to be dead wrong.

Yet in this life, Lazarus never saw the reversal. It came after the fact, after death. Our society does not do well at thinking beyond itself to the afterlife. We are trained to live for today with no thought of tomorrow. Our movies glorify those who live "as if there is no tomorrow". Yet the divine reversal brings everything into balance because there is a tomorrow after this life is done.

This section also reaches back to the first part of the chapter and calls into question our values. What is more significant to me -- possessions or people? What is more real to me -- this life or the next? Where will I be after the divine reversal occurs in my life?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Luke 16:1-15; people or possession

People or possessions -- which is my focus? That is what this passage seems to ask me. Even dishonest people are called shrewd or wise if they know their priorities. Money is made to be used, not loved. People are made to be loved, not used. Somehow we get this all swapped around in our world. In fact, Jesus said just that. What men value, God despises.

We value the creation over the creator, money over men, possessions over people. But God knows that only he and his people will last; everything else, money included is dust in the wind.

So what do I value? What do I really shape my life around? What drives me and controls my decisions? How highly do I value people?

Schweitzer was right, "One thing I know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve."

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Luke 15; Lost and Found

Two groups stood by Jesus that day -- the socially marginalized and those who had pursued God their entire life. Luke recorded three parables in series as Jesus' reaction to the attitude of the God-pursuing group. To record three in a row is highly significant; this was an issue dear to the heart of God. This was a core issue.

The ratio of lost to found is 1:99, 1:9, and 1:2 in these stories. Obviously Jesus is making the point that his great concern is the number of the lost. He calls them his sheep, his coins and his sons. How easily do I forget to look at the socially marginalized that way.

He concludes with a discussion with the son who was not lost. He represented those who had given their lives to pursue God. Somehow, however, he had missed the heart of God. The Father told him "everything I have is yours" and "we had to celebrate".

I pray that I will not lose sight of the blessings of being a "found" son. I pray that while living in the house of God, I will not miss the heart of God.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Luke 14:25-35; All or none

Large crowds were traveling with Jesus and received the shock of their lives. Rather than praise for beginning a long journey or dedication up to that point, Jesus called them to follow only if they were willing to dedicate themselves 100% to his work. All or none was the call. He was marching to his death and called them to do the same.

Jesus doesn't sound very touchy-feely in this passage. Those who love the picture of Jesus holding the sheep or the anemic Jesus loving up on children must struggle with this picture of him, i.e., marching to sure death and telling everyone around him that they need to do the same or go home.

In a world looking for purpose, Jesus calls us to living out his purpose. He calls us not to be good people but to be dedicated fanatics. He calls us not to a better life but to a cross. He calls us not to a Sunday facade but to a daily death.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Luke 14:15-24; Unexpected reply

It was basically a slap in the face that Jesus gave that day. In reply to "Blessed is the man who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God", Jesus told this parable. One would expect the reply of "Absolutely; it will be a great feast" or maybe a toned down but challenging, "Yes, be sure you are there." Instead Jesus gave a response that more or less said, "Those who eat at that feast will not be the one's you think; the "in" crowd of you religious elite will not share in that banquet. It is prepared for those who truly have a hunger and thirst for it."

How easy it is today to sit back and point the finger at the Pharisees and associate ourselves with those who were not part of the original invitation list. After all, are we not gentiles by heritage and therefore would be the descendants of those not at the table?

Yet, I have to ask if that is the proper view. How long have I sat at the table of the religious "in" crowd? Have I lost my raw hunger and thirst for God? Have I taken on the trappings and religious pomp of one who thinks he has God figured out?

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Luke 14:1-15; Right thing vs reputation

All three stories in the house of the prominent pharisee raise the same question, i.e., why am I doing that which I am doing? Is the primary concern of life to do the right thing to those who have the image of God in them, regardless of their social status? Or is life about kissing up to those higher up on the social ladder so that I can climb as well.

It is interesting to me that Jesus was even in the home of a prominent Pharisee. How did he get there? Why did they invite him? It seems a logical conclusion that he was invited in order to raise their status somehow. Yet his teaching in the house were no different than his teaching on the streets. Jesus did not change who he was or how he lived based upon the people around him.

It is hard in this life to not become concerned about social standing. From an early age we learn that "who you know" is a major feature of obtaining prominence. Yet the one who knew everyone, did not promote that teaching. He treated everyone with respect and honor because he saw the image of his father inside them.

What do my eyes see?