Tag Archive for Luke

Me, not first

“If a community had to choose between building a shelter for the poor and a synagogue, they were required to build a shelter for the poor.”* Such was apparently the guidelines for semi-autonomous Jewish communities in the 12th century.

When I read this line, I couldn’t wonder how different the world would look if Christians had traveled the world with a similar concept in mind over the course of the last 550 years. What if instead of conquering indigenous peoples in the name of Christ and decimating their livelihoods and cultures, we would have approached the world with humility.

What if before building our own frivolous cathedrals and unnecessary church buildings, we would have been content to gather in homes and warehouses until the needs of those less advantaged than us were met first? What if this was the way we planted churches today?

There is nothing I can do to change history, but perhaps there is something I can do in order to properly reflect on how I interact with the world from this point forward. Maybe “me first”, “mine first” and “ours first” will never lead to a better world. Maybe that is not what the kingdom of heaven is about.

“In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples. Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out. Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.” Luke 14:33-35

Today as you go, may you remember that following Jesus is about putting His words into action. It isn’t about finding deep and mysterious, unobvious truths in Scripture. For did not He Himself contend that the way is simple, pure and obvious?

“At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, ‘I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.'” Luke 10:21

* Thistlethwaite, Susan Brooks. Interfaith Just Peacemaking : Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Perspectives on the New Paradigm of Peace and War. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012.

A Pearl of Great Price

I have been thinking about how Revelations says that the twelve gates of heaven are made of pearls. One pearl for each gate. Pearls.com says that natural pearls form when, “an irritant – usually a parasite and not the proverbial grain of sand – works its way into an oyster, mussel, or clam. As a defense mechanism, a fluid is used to coat the irritant. Layer upon layer of this coating, called ‘nacre’, is deposited until a lustrous pearl is formed.”

Jesus said the kingdom of heaven is like a pearl. “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.” Matthew 13:45-46

I have been considering that Paul and Barnabas said, “We must endure many hardships to enter the kingdom of God”. Acts 14:22

Paul also said that the way of the cross is so simple that it is a stumbling block to the religious and offense to those who are learned.

“Jews demand signs and Greeks search for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:22-24

The world looks different to those who are being saved. Faith changes life.

Jesus promises a hundred times as much as I had before, but then He adds, “along with persecution”. Mark 10:30

He says I cannot be His disciple unless I carry a cross. When He said this, a crucifix with someone dying or dead hanging on it was likely within sight. If not literally, certainly each of His immediate hearers could clearly remember the last time they saw one. (Matthew 10:38, Matthew 16:24, Luke 14:27, Mark 8:34)

Yet the way is not hard.

“Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

Survival of the Fittest

I have been listening to a podcast about animals, and the phrase “survival of the fittest” is brought up consistently. It is no secret to anyone that in the natural world it is the strong that survive while the weak perish. The fastest lion will always eat the slowest gazelle. One must always be at worst the second slowest gazelle to survive.

I can’t help but wondering if survival of the fittest was what Paul was talking about when he said that all creation has been groaning since the beginning of time. I love this passage in Romans 8:19-22.

“For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.”

When Paul said creation was hoping to be liberated and to share in the freedom and glory of God’s children, I wonder if he meant we are all waiting for the day when everyone survives not just the fastest – or at least the least slow.

I say this because the kingdom of God works differently. In the kingdom of God it is the weak who are strong. Jesus said to the Apostle Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Paul concludes, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. “ 2 Corinthians 12:9

Jesus instructs His disciples:

“You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:42-45

There is the ever present warning that we must be as a child in order to enter the kingdom of God. For Jesus said:

“Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” Luke 18:17 (similar passages are found in Matthew 18:3, Matthew 19:14 and Mark 10:15)

Does creation groan waiting for the day when the weak not only survive but thrive? Does the animal kingdom cry out for the day when the strong will not eat the weak? Do snakes cry out for the day when eagles will not eat them? Do birds cry out for the day when snakes will now swallow them? Is every one wanting this rat race of pain to finally end?

After speaking of all creation, Paul says in reference to us, “Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” Romans 8:23-25

We can wait for the day when the physical creation stops groaning patiently and with great confidence knowing this day WILL come. In the meantime, remember that there is rest for the weary human being!

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

Perhaps today you will go to a job that seems like it is simply a race for the “survival of the fittest. As you do so, rest in Him. Know His grace is sufficient for us! Be patient. Wait confidently. Hope with great assurance that some day ALL the weak will thrive!

“The wolf will live with the lamb,
the leopard will lie down with the goat,
the calf and the lion and the yearling together;
and a little child will lead them.
The cow will feed with the bear,
their young will lie down together,
and the lion will eat straw like the ox.
The infant will play near the cobra’s den,
and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest.
They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his resting place will be glorious”

Isaiah 11:6-10

A look at destiny

Much of what God has destined me for, I am really excited about. I am excited about becoming like God (Romans 8:29), being holy and blameless in His presence (Ephesians 1:4), being adopted as His son (Ephesians 1:5) and being for the praise of His glory (Ephesians 1:12).

I am a little less excited about 1 Thessalonians 3, which says I was destined for trials and persecution. Indeed Jesus Himself warns us constantly in the gospels that the life of a disciple will be one fraught with pain. We will have to lay down our entire lives (Luke 14:33); we may lose our entire families (Luke 12:51, Matthew 10:34); we may be called the devil (Matthew 10:24-25). The list could go on and on.

In 1 Thessalonians, Paul reminds his readers that he warned them frequently in person that they would under go persecution and “it turned out that way as you well know.” He had sent Timothy to strengthen and encourage them in their faith, “so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. For you know quite well that we are destined for them.”

It’s not a fun fact, but it is a fact. You and I will have many trials in this life. Jesus has a good way of cheering us up! “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

It’s true that we will face trials and persecution here, but it is just as true that we are seated in the heavenly realms with Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:6) We don’t submit to our trials. We don’t worship them. No, they are under our feet. We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us!

Today as we face each trial and every unkind word, let us remember Romans 8:35-39

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or distress or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: ‘For Your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor principalities, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Grace, Grace, and more Grace!!!

Have you ever wondered how you can quickly tell the difference between a pastor that teaches the law and one who teaches grace? Listen for whether they teach you how you should act versus what you should believe about the identity of Christ and yourself.

In both Romans and Galatians, the Apostle Paul quotes Leviticus 18:5, which reads, “The person who does these things will live by them.” Later he (or the writer of the letters to Timothy) instructs the young pastor that “the law is good if one uses it properly.” (1 Timothy 1:8)

The law isn’t bad. Paul states in Romans 7 that rather it is holy, righteous and good. It simply needs to be used properly.

In Romans 10:5-13, Paul explains the difference between living by the law and living by faith. In this text, he once again quotes the Law of Moses, “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart.” (Deuteronomy 30:14) This verse, he says, refers to life lived by grace. He then makes the very famous statement, “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9)

A life lived by grace is one that is lived by learning what to BELIEVE and not by learning what to DO. The two stand in direct opposition to each other. Many pastors and teachers disguise the law by calling it “wisdom teaching”. When someone has lives by what they do, they can live a very fruitful life. Moses states this, and Paul reiterates it as being what distinguishes the law from grace. (Romans 10:5, Galatians 3:12)

When we live under grace, we learn how to believe. We learn God’s identity as a Being who is loving, kind, just, patient, joyful, good, etc. We learn our identity as beings made of the same substance as God Himself.

When we are in a grace-based relationship with God, we also are loving, kind, just, patient, joyful, good, etc. It is the natural outflow of being “of God”.

In Romans 10, Paul goes on to declare that those who believe will never be put to shame by their belief. He quotes two more Old Testament passages as referring to this relationship with God that is based on grace and belief (faith) rather than on actions (law). He quotes Isaiah 28:16 (in the Greek translation) as saying, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” He also quotes Joel 2:32, which says, “Anyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Paul’s conclusion is, “For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile – the same Lord is lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him.” (Romans 10:12) Once again notice that there is no racism in Christ.

Why say all this? Why know the difference between a grace-based life and a law-based life? Well, it is very important! Note that a grace-based life is lived from the inside out while a law-based life is lived from the outside in. Jesus has something to say about those who live from the outside in.

Jesus said, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.” Matthew 23:25-26

A consistent theme in the teachings of Jesus is the importance of what is inside us.

Note how this same teaching of Jesus is described in Luke. “Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You foolish people! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? But now as for what is inside you—be generous to the poor, and everything will be clean for you.” Luke 11:39-40

Isn’t it interesting that Jesus ties generosity with the poor to having a clean inside (heart)? It ties back to what I said yesterday about there being no classism in Christ.

Today as we go out, may we live from a place of grace and acceptance. May you come to know and understand the difference between living in condemnation and living in freedom! May you know that you know that you know that you are PERFECT, HOLY, RIGHTEOUS, LOVED, PRICELESS, A REFLECTION OF GOD’S IMAGE, A VESSEL OF GOD’S GLORY, ACCEPTED, CREATIVE, BEAUTIFUL, KIND…..

For your own sake and for the glory of God, BELIEVE!!!!!!!!

No racism, classism or sexism in Christ. Period.

Anytime I write something brilliant, it is usually something that I never knew that I knew. It came through my finger tips as I simply wrote the next thing that I thought the Spirit wanted me to say. Such was the case on my church history final where I observed a list of the three greatest divisions in society which are listed clearly in Scripture as abolished in Christ.

Jesus Christ abolished racism (Jew or Gentile), classism (slave or free), and sexism (male or female). In Christ Jesus, these separations do not exists.

The Apostle Paul teaches that believers are all children of God and clothed with Christ Jesus. In Galatians 3:28, he declares, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Unfortunately these divisions still exist in His body – the church of Christ. We, as His sisters and brothers, have not stepped into the freedom that He died for us to gain. Instead the rich are often against the poor and the poor against the rich. The uneducated find the educated clueless and vice versa. We like to hangout in churches with people of like ethnicity, and we often create Jesus in our own image through art, music and worldview. (Consider Jesus as a white European male with blue eyes rather than as the Jewish man that He actually was.) While Jesus and the early New Testament writers called women to a position of freedom, by the second century the church was busily putting them back into the place where paganism, religion and fear had bound them. Jesus saw her as a daughter of Abraham; but by the middle ages, the church didn’t even view her as created in the image of God.*

Today I want to challenge us to step into the freedom Christ has for us. It is most certainly a freedom where “isms” don’t exist!

If you are part of an oppressed race, gender or class, I encourage you to know your value is equally as great as the most exalted race, class or gender on this earth. YOU LACK NOTHING. You are complete in Him. You are as valuable as it is possible for a human being to be. You do not need to become a different color, sex or obtain a different economic status to find your value. YOU ALREADY HAVE YOUR VALUE. You are created in the image of Christ. In Him you are completely complete. YOU ARE PERFECT.

If you belong to a privileged race, class or gender, I challenge you to become aware in your interactions with those who do not share the same privileges. Many of these privileges are subconscious, and most people have no idea that they are even receiving them. I am white. White people are privileged in American society. This is a truth that I know and experience everyday. I am well-educated (with a background as a bit of a redneck). Educated people are privileged in Jersey City, NJ. I am also a woman. However, women are in no way privileged or free in most of the evangelical church.

How do we advocate for ourselves without being so aggressive that we are tuned out by those who don’t want to lose the privileges that society has given them?

How do we advocate for others without patronizing them? (Patronization as defined by helping others because we think we are more capable, valuable, intelligent, able, pure, etc. than they. are)

I propose the solution to the problem is simply in seeing Christ in those around us. Seeing them as having INFINITE VALUE. We will not condescend in our interactions with a homeless person if we see them as PERFECT, BEAUTIFUL, AND COMPLETE. When we give to someone in need, it is a necessity for us to realize that we are giving to an EQUAL.

Today be ONE in Christ. Let the “isms” fade away, as you worship His holiness, meeting all His children in perfect harmony of mind and thought! The blood of Jesus and the power of the Spirit unite us!

*General historical references about women taken from my reading of Her Story: Women in Christian Tradition by Barbara J. McHaffie. It is available for purchase on Amazon here. The reference Jesus makes to a daughter of Abraham is found in Luke 13:10-17.

Good things for the hungry

“And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.” Acts 17:25

This verse was in my morning time of meditation. I love how as Paul is talking to the then-heathen world, he flips their understanding of the supernatural, spiritual world on its head. The culture of the time sustained their gods with sacrifices and worship. Their gods needed much to survive. Paul proclaimed to them a God who needed nothing to survive. Rather He was the source of all life. 

How refreshing this advent season that we do not need to bring anything to God! It is enough to approach Him with humility while understanding that He is the only source for everything we need. Should we approach Him in any other way, He will simply send us away empty. We will leave with less than we had when we came. 

When she visited Elizabeth, Mary sang, “He has filled the hungry with good things,but has sent the rich away empty.” (Luke 1:53)

This advent season, let us approach God hungry! Perhaps fasting will intensify our hunger for Him. Maybe other spiritual disciplines such as extended times of prayer and thanksgiving or meditation or Bible reading are more appropriate for stimulating your hunger. 

Whatever the case, I beg you not to be sent away empty this advent season! Come hungry, and leave full. He is the only Source of life! Let us approach Him as such!! 

“If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Luke 11:13

The Peace of the Gospels

As I have read Josephus, the ancient Jewish historian, it has constantly stood out to me how different his writing is than that in the gospels. Though they were written about the same time and about events happening in the same places, the gospels are full of peace and the writings of Josephus are full of war.  It reminds me how important it is to hold the gospels in their historical context as we read them.

Jesus didn’t live in America. He lived in a country under the heavy oppression of the Roman empire. His fellow Jews were a people consistently looking for a way to fight against the Romans. Death and violence were normal. While the Jews in Judea never gathered in amphitheaters to watch victims devoured by wild animals, things like cutting off hands and gouging out eyes were closer a part of daily life than a figment of one’s imagination. Crucifixes with dead bodies hanging on them randomly lined the roads to warn people that if they rebelled they would suffer the same fate. 

In all this turmoil, Jesus came as the Prince of Peace. His eventual death on such a cross would bring life to millions of people around the world. His dying words as he appeared to end his life on that cross were “Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they are doing!” (My paraphrase of Luke 23:34) 

His violent death ushered in peace that cannot be understood with one’s reason. In the millennia to follow His followers would find themselves occasionally looking at each other and saying, “I just don’t understand. I should be so upset right now, but I am not. I have an amazing peace instead!”  

Jesus gave believers the Holy Spirit, so that they might have the ability to stand in bloody, war-torn countrysides without being overcome by fear.

Today I encourage us to ask Jesus for the same peace that He had on the cross! It was not a peace devoid of the reality of His pain, but it was a peace that was strong enough to shout forgiveness over the grave injustice being committed against Him. 

May the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, be with you in great abundance today! (Philippians 4:7)

Joy in the Morning!

Good morning, people!! I am so excited to be sitting here, eating breakfast and writing for the first time in a long time! Last night I did a happy dance in my kitchen as I sang, “No more pencils, no more books! No more teacher’s dirty looks! Come on, children! Scream and shout! It’s time to let the monkeys out!” 

Now I love school and I am incredibly excited about the excellent education that I am receiving, but that doesn’t prevent me from being incredibly excited that I have four weeks to do what I want to do and read what I want to read. Beginning the complete works of Josephus, that ancient Jewish historian, is the first thing on my plate. I am so excited! 

As I come back to blogging, I have decided to switch it up and begin blogging in the morning instead of at night. I hope to have my daily posts mostly reflect encouraging biblical truths – the kinds of things that make you want to jump up and down with happiness. Well, they make me want to jump up and down anyway. 

May God bless you with His incredible goodness today. He delights in giving good things to His children! And as He has promised, He will give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him. 

“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for  a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Luke 11:9-13

Ask away! God will give you the amazing gift of His Spirit. All you need to do is ask! And if you already have Him and His Spirit in you, celebrate that like children, we get to keep going to God and begging, “More! More! More of Your Spirit!” 

He will never say “no” to that request!