Sunday, May 31, 2009

Acts 2 -- Filled For What

Today is the day on the Christian calendar when we celebrate Pentecost. It is the celebration of when the promised Holy Spirit was imparted upon the believers. Another time and place we can discuss the fact the day of Pentecost was around before Acts 2, not today. This is the day we celebrate the Holy Spirit coming for more than a passing visit, like the Old Testament, rather the Spirit was sent to dwell in and amongst us. Out of this giving of the Spirit many wonderful gifts have been poured out. Some of those gifts are celebrated, some are feared and some are plain misunderstood. More than giver of gifts the Holy Spirit is our counselor, guide and accountability partner on this journey.

Through out the New Testament we find accounts of people being filled with the Holy Spirit. Even now you can go to the book store and buy a Spirit-Filled Bible. I have people ask me all the time about being Spirit filled. I want to know for what reason we are so concerned with being Spirit filled. Understand, I believe and live that we are to be filled with the Holy Spirit, and our lives are continually shaped and formed through the work of the Holy Spirit. But for what are we filled for?

Is it so we can speak in tongues, is it so we can show how "spiritual" we are? Often when I hear someone talk about being Spirit filled it is contrasted with those who are not, and the contrast is in a elitist form. Do we want the Spirit so we can be better than another person? For what is it do we crave the presence of the Holy Spirit?

As I read the New Testament I find the filling of the Holy Spirit moves people to mission. Peter and the gang in Acts 2, proclaim the Good News. Peter and John in Acts 3 heal. Paul has the scales removed from his eyes, is filled with the Holy Spirit and then launches on the greatest church planting tour known to history. We are filled with the Holy Spirit for the sake of God's mission. Not so we can do ecclesial parlor tricks. The power of the Spirit and the gifts are wonderful, and feel blessed to participate in them. These gifts and special abilities are not the end they are the means to the end. So what is the end? To see the people of God live as the already, not yet kingdom of God.

We are filled so we can go and be about the mission God has called each one of us. May the Spirit invade your life today and everyday as we work in the Kingdom which will never pass away.

Acts 1 -- Now What

One of the most important sections of scripture is the book of Acts. The first chapter sets the stage well. The disciples about 120 of them at the time, have just had the experience of all experiences. The one they were following dies on the cross, then rises to life just as was promised. In the resurrected body Jesus appears to them to teach, encourage and send. Then Jesus is taken up on a cloud. To say the disciples experienced a mountain top moment is an understatement. Quickly they come to the now what part of the story. What is this rag tag bunch of people suppose to do now that their leader is not longer bodily with them?

When we have those mountain top experiences we the time comes when we must return to the valley. We cannot live on the mountain. The vision of the top is etched in our minds and gives us strength, but we live in the valley. The disciples begin to settle into community and do what they had been taught in uncertain times, pray together. In the valley praying together is where we find the disciples as we get ready for Acts 2. Together, confused, unsure, scared, but they were together. They did not give up simple because they were in the valley. Why? Because they remember the promise given at the top of the mountain. They remember the story is not over. the best is yet to come.

So they pray and prepare for what God is going to do next, the next summit. What do you and I do on the backside of the mountain?

Luke 24 -- Death Defeated

Here we are some 40 days after resurrection Sunday. Yet the place God has us in the Gospel of Luke is the resurrection of Jesus. The great tragedy of the church is our familiarity with this account. For those who have been in the church their whole life, or even those who have spent a large chunk of time in the church, the resurrection of Jesus can become stale. It is easy to see why this would be a tragedy.

To help prevent this tragedy we must remember what really happened. Jesus lived and died. Jesus was taken from the cross and placed in the tomb, dead. He did not stay dead. If Jesus would have stayed dead, the whole thing would have been a hoax. Sure there would still be some great teaching. Sure there would be record of a person calling people to a greater life in God, but it would have been just another prophet. The resurrection changed and proved everything.

We, the church of Jesus Christ, must keep this account if Jesus fresh and alive in our lives. Because of the resurrection we have life, death has been defeated. It is often said the fear of death is one of the greatest fears we have. For those who follow Christ we have every reason to not fear death, because death is not final. Death has been defeated and the resurrection is the proof.

May we live as a resurrection people!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Luke 23 -- Death Brings Life

Normally read at on or near Good Friday, Luke 23 gives the account of Christ's final hours on the earthly pilgrimage. Swirling around Jesus are the advocates for death, the religious leaders, the proponents of their own political safety, Pilate, and the mocking jealous, Herod. In the midst of all this Jesus remains quiet and confident. In the midst of so much violence and death Jesus has a calm reassurance.

Why is Jesus so calm, because he knows out of all the death the doors of life will be flung wide open. Jesus knew by the time the weekend was over death would no longer hold victory. It seems as though Jesus knew death would bring life.

Which leads me to wonder, what in my life needs to die so that I might experience life. What in my life is keeping me from enjoying the fullness of life I have been granted through Jesus Christ. Identifying those things is not enough, I must be willing to put them to death. This is rarely an easy activity, still if not done life will elude me.

If we merely read the account of the crucifixion, but do not act on it in our lives the death of Jesus was of no value, and quite senseless. May we all put to death those things which keep us from life.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Luke 22 -- Not How We Do Things

I often wonder what would it be like if Jesus stepped out of eternity and into our world today. Looking around we live in a world ruled by military power and threat. As I write this there are people in the US determining the course of action with North Korea. There are people in Israel determining a course of action with their surrounding nations. It seems that every "kingdom" is driven by power and might. When I stop and think about it this is not all that different than the world Jesus did in fact step into.

In his day, Jesus was expected to become the ruler of Israel in the same way as the rulers of the Romans and other nations did. There was an expectation that the kingdom of God would be run like the rest of the earthly kingdom. This section of scripture in Luke and several others show that Jesus is not interested in the same kind of kingdom.

The kingdom of Jesus is not based on violence, power and might. Not the kingdom of God is all about transforming the world in other ways. Through love and justice. Through submitting to a power greater than the earthly leaders can understand. From this understanding of kingdom we see Jesus submit to the will of God and head to the cross.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Luke 21 -- Waiting

Here in Luke 21, Jesus tells the disciples what it is going to be like before the Kingdom of God is fulfilled. It is not a pretty picture to say the least. For those who are living in the Kingdom of God, life will get increasingly challenging. War, strife, pestilence, and all sorts of human challenges will take place. Jesus even goes as far to warn the time will come when the followers will be arrested and dragged before courts. Persecution is coming.

These are not the happy words we like to hear from Jesus. I would much prefer to hear things are going to be okay. Not just okay, rather things are going to be easy. That somehow because I follow Christ there won't be challenges. I have lives enough life to know this is not how things play out, still it is nice to have a dream.

Basically Jesus is telling the disciples, then and now, that we are in the waiting. The fulfillment is still out in front of us, but we are already walking in the Kingdom of God. Our lives to this point have been in the waiting, but we are not to simply sit around. Our waiting should be active waiting. Living now as though the Kingdom has been fulfilled. It is going to be rough, it won't always be easy, yet we are to be the living embodiment of the kingdom now, waiting for the future fulfillment.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Luke 20 -- Questions

Luke 20 seems to be a collection of accounts where Jesus was challenged by the religious leaders. Repeatedly Jesus is questioned, and the questions are generated to trap him. Can you imagine asking questions trying to trick or trap Jesus? It seems crazy. Yet I cannot help but wonder how often I attempt the very thing.

I don't know about you, but there are many times when I try to get Jesus to act the way I want Jesus to act. Every attempt is made to create Jesus in my image of what Jesus should be rather than me transforming to the image of Jesus. That is exactly what the religious people of Jesus' day were doing. They had an expectation of who the Messiah would be and what that Messiah would do. Jesus was not meeting either one according to the religious plan.

Rather than simply telling the religious leaders to give up, Jesus seems to play with them by asking them questions in return. Often we feel we are not getting answers from God, only more questions. Perhaps it is because we are asking questions with an incorrect focus. The return questions from God are intended to re-focus our lives on what is most important. Questions are not the enemy of a vibrant faith. When we have answers and we stop seeking for better questions, our faith begins to die.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Luke 19 --Investments

As you read this you may or may not be convinced Jesus is the Son of God and Messiah. You might not think Jesus was the chosen One of God sent to show us the kingdom of God. If you are convinced of these things Luke 19 has a message for you, invest.

The most significant decision we will ever make is what we will do with Jesus. The basic question we must answer is, is Jesus a liar, a lunatic, or is he the Son of God? Once we answer the question the work is not done. If we choose Jesus as savior and leader we then must transform our lives. A sign of a transformed life is one that invests in the things of the Kingdom of God, for the sake of Christ.

What this means is we do not just sit back and revel in the glory of God through Jesus. Sure we should revel in the glory of God, yet it should move us to action. The action is found in what we do with the relationship we have. Do we invest what God has given us, or do we just sit back and savor? We are not to be quiet about our relationship with Jesus, we just do not always need words to make a noise.

Zacchaeus climbed a tree, the faithful servants invested, even the rocks would cry out. All invested in what God was doing right then and there. Can the same be said of us?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Luke 18 -- Not About The Show

In this chapter of Luke we find the accounts of people who live life based on the show. The religious leader who prays out loud about all that he is and and is not. The Rich young ruler who has much wealth, and lives a religious life. Both these men are shown to be missing the point of the kingdom of God.

They are missing the point because they think it is about the show they put on for God and humanity. Many of us fall into the trap of wanting to show people how godly we are by actions and words. Matters of the heart cannot be ignored. The prophet Isaiah records God's words saying, "their lips cry out to me, but their hearts are far from me.". Actions and words matter, only if they are a product of a heart that is transformed by Jesus Christ.

How much of our lives is based on the show. Are we good at doing the right religious actions, saying the right religious words with not real connection? In what ways are you and I presenting The Show?

Let's pray
Lord of Heaven help us to live in you. May we not be actors or performers in the show, may we be people of a transformed heart. May we be people who are deeply connected to and in love with you. Convict us Lord, and give us the courage and strength to be obedient to your leading. In Jesus Name, Amen.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Luke 17 -- Life

So much of our lives is in pursuit of our own well being and recognition. We work hard to get ahead so someday we won't have to work as hard, so we can enjoy life. We toil to gain the pleasures of this world and we expect to receive them. In Luke 17, Jesus flips things around. He says when we work hard, we should acknowledge we are servants of God and anything we receive for our effort is a gift not an obligation. Further, Jesus shares once again that counter cultural phrase, if you work to gain your life you will lose it, but if you lose your life for Christ you will gain it.

Many of us live self made lives. Very easily we lose sight of the fact that God is the one who is at work and we are simply making ourselves available to God for whatever work we are called to. It is God working through us. I like many people enjoy seeing my name in the lights, and print, but I am learning this is not what matters, Jesus is what matters.

That to me is the struggle of losing our lives. What we get, what we think we deserve really does not matter. It is not important if I get ahead of someone else or they get ahead of me. What matters is Jesus. Am I living life in such a way that the Kingdom Jesus declared is being seen in me? Rather than a poster, my life should be a reflection. People should be able to look at my life and not see me, but see Jesus.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Luke 16 -- Money

A topic on many minds right now is money. The number of conversations which start, "Well, in these tough economic times..." is staggering. We watch the stock market, out bank accounts and countless other indicators of the health of the economy. I will be the first to agree the change in our economic climate has created a challenge for a good many people. The impact has truly been of global proportions. Yet I wonder God is using this to teach us something about money.

In Luke 16 we find two accounts which deal directly with money. Jesus was found speaking about money often, and most of the people who had money didn't like what he had to say. As people, in particular those of us in the United States, get caught up in the money issue a lot. Whether we realize or like it many measure their worth from their financial security. I find it interesting that nowhere in the Scriptures is financial security a promise. The overwhelming majority of persons in America are rich compared to the rest of the world. That is not to say there are no poor people in America, only that there are some who think they are poor when they are not.

This love affair we have with money is not good for our relationship with money. The money itself is not the problem, it is the love affair we have with it that is the problem. I do think there are people who God calls to build up great wealth financially, not for their own consumption, rather for the funding of God's mission. Yet, money often replaces God as our top concern. Plain and simple, we cannot love God fully if we love money.

As we have seen money will come and go. Investments will tank, jobs will go away. Gas prices will rise and we will have to start doing without. Yet the Holy Scriptures remain. God is still there with full power, love, mercy and grace. Perhaps the lesson for us is to invest in the life of God, not the almighty dollar.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Luke 15 --That Which Was Lost

This is my all time favorite section of Scripture. There are many which I say are among my favorites, this section is at the top of the list. It probably has to do with my past and what God's faithfulness has meant in my life. Interestingly as I journey with God more I find the meanings to be deeper and contain more layers.

In all three of the stories there is something of great value which was lost. An all out search ensues, and once the lost becomes found there is a great party. In the third of the stories we find a son who demands his portion of the estate from his father. Basically saying he knows better how to live, and does not want any interference from dad. At this point when the dad grants this outrageous request the son is essentially dead to the father. While the father continues to look, hope and pray for the son in the Jewish tradition the son would have been treated as though he had died.

Independent living is what the son wanted and that is what he got. He was living the good life while the money lasted. He ran with the in crowd, life was a party. Once the money ran out the party moved on. Famine hit the land and the son was in some dire straits. This Jewish boy ended up doing the unthinkable, tending pigs. But this is the life he wanted, independent, making it on his own.

The moment comes when he comes to himself. He realizes even the servants back in his father's home had it better than he does. So he returns. In his return he is saying the father knows best how do go about this thing called life. To celebrate this recognition, the father throws a huge party. That which was dead is now alive, the lost is found.

The older brother is not real thrilled by all of this. He has not realized the freedom he has had all along because he was living connected to the father. The freedom was never experienced because the older son never chose to enjoy the freedom.

When we decide to live life the way God shows us, we can experience freedom. A freedom most of us think is out of our reach.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Luke 14 -- The Cost

I am not a big fan of excuses. Whether they are coming from my mouth or through my ears I really do not like it when there is a rationalization for inaction. Jesus calls people to follow him, and the list of reasons why not start flowing. Mind you it is not a no we won't follow, it is more of a we will follow just let me do a few things first. At the risk of being blunt when we do this, we are telling Jesus we want to follow on our terms, not the one who is leading.

Sad as it makes me there are times when I have more excuses than I have will to follow. All of the excuses are driven by the fact that I know if I follow I will not get to do some of the things I really want to do. My life will no longer be my own. Jesus kindly, yet with a firm hand, reminds us that excuses are just that, rationalizations for inaction.

Part of the excuses are driven by the fact of counting the cost of following. In Luke 14 Jesus implores us to do this. We should have a firm understanding of the commitment we are making before we make the commitment. We should understand that Jesus has a high standard, he expects all of our life, not just the parts we are willing to let go of. When we realize the cost of the call, the excuses start.

The challenge to myself and to you, is to put away the excuses and start following. If we are not willing to follow without excuses, it is time to evaluate whether we really want to follow.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Luke 13 -- Small Things Big Impact

It is easy to focus on the big things in life. The big celebrations, the big concerns and troubles. These all seem larger than life. The small things can often be overlooked or passed off as mundane or boring. Jesus lifts up small things which make a big impact.

First Jesus uses the mustard seed. A tiny seed which grows into a large bush for all of creation to see and enjoy. Second Jesus uses yeast. Just a small amount of yeast changes the flour and water into bread. These small things make a great impact.

It reminds me to look at the small things in life. Are there things that I see as too small to make a real difference? Those might be the things God is going to use to do something far greater than we can imagine. The small things we do in our day to day life might not seem like they are adding up to much of anything. The reality is those small things can be used by God to do something great. we might never see the great thing, and that makes it hard. Yet, God is the one who deserves the glory. It is the kingdom of God at work not ours.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Luke 12 -- Are You Ready

Fresh off picking a fight with the religious leaders, Jesus asks a key question, are you ready. My fist inclination is to ask ready for what. When we keep reading we find out for what, the culmination of time. Jesus is clear the timing of such events are not known, and therefore we should always be ready.

For nearly 2000 years people have been making claims about the proximity of Jesus' return to creation. Over that period the discussion has been less and less impacting on our world and within the church. This has caused us to get a little relaxed with our preparation. I am convinced that we will never be fully ready but I know we can be more prepared than we are.

How is that we become prepared? Live the life God has shown us through Jesus Christ and provided us grace to live. For me this means living an examined life. Living in such a way that I am always asking how it is with God and I. Please note this is not about how much I am doing for God. This is not about how many chapters of Scripture I am reading, or how many hours of prayer I spend. The question is how is it with God and I. Is my relationship in a place that I am ready for the return. If not what needs to be different for me to be ready?

Are you ready?

Friday, May 8, 2009

Luke 11 -- Picking a Fight

A common image of Jesus is of a meek and mild man full of gentleness and compassion. Often we remember Jesus as speaking words of peace and encouragement. In this chapter of Luke we find a different Jesus. The words of Jesus to the religious leaders of the day are not even close to meek and gentle.

Woe to you begins each of Jesus' statements to the religious leaders. At one point the leaders even stop Jesus and tell him that he is offending them. His response, woe to you. In this passage we find Jesus outlining the difference between religion and the kingdom of God. This was not an easy teaching to deliver, even harder to hear. Jesus was challenging everything the religious people held to be true.

More than questioning their beliefs, Jesus was threatening the entire way of life for the religious people. Many of the religious leaders were profiting greatly from the rules of religion. They were using the rules to oppress and suppress the average person trying to follow God. Out of this the religious leaders stepped up their plans to harm Jesus.

It is almost as if Jesus was intending to pick a fight with the religious people. He could have chosen nice words. Jesus could have taken a course which was more polite and socially acceptable. But no, he picks a fight. Not for the sake of a good fight, for the sake of Holy confrontation. Has God ever called you to Holy confrontation?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Luke 10 -- Outside Ourselves

I must confess that I am a selfish person. When it comes to how I would like life to work out, I would like to have it work out on my terms. My preference would be to have it all be about my pleasure and meeting my desires. A life lived on my terms. Problem, it does not work that way.

It is with a fair amount of confidence I suggest I am not alone. To varying degrees we all long to have live work on our terms. Often to make this work we only focus on what we determine to be acceptable or proper. In Luke 10 there is the parable of the Good Samaritan. This who parable is about getting outside of ourselves so we might see what God is offering to us at the moment.

There lies the challenge. It is hard to get outside ourselves. The pull to live on our terms is strong, and persistent. Still we must find a way to resist that pull. It would seem that Jesus suggests the best way to accomplish this task is to go out from where you are. In the first part of this chapter Jesus once again sends the gang out to be in mission. With the second portion of the chapter Jesus has the mission located outside of the everyone's comfort zone. The road between Jerusalem and Jericho was not a safe road. It was outside the city, outside of what was known and liked.

A key to a fulfilling life is not found in getting our desires met. The key to life is found in getting outside ourselves. Stepping away from what it normal, usual and comfortable. Stepping into the mission God is calling us to.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Luke 9 -- Teacher to Sender

To this point in Luke's Gospel account Jesus has primarily been a teacher to the disciples. Here makes a transition where Jesus adds another role which builds throughout the rest of the earthly mission, sender. There is still much teaching, and teaching will continue as long as people have breath. Still there is a transition to sending the people of the Kingdom into the field as it were.

This is not a subtle or insignificant transition. Jesus seems to know how important it is for a follower to be experiencing the life God has called all of us to rather than just hear about it. The title master teacher was and is given to Jesus. As to his ability to teach others I am not sure there is a parallel. Still no matter how much teaching Jesus offered or how much teaching the disciples sat under, they would not know what it meant to follow Jesus until they went out.

Note the disciples did not complain about not knowing enough. They did not give a list of reasons why they were not fit or able to go on the mission Jesus was sending them. One possible answer to this is that they have it all together. A quick read of the whole of chapter 9 reminds us different. The other explanation is they were works in progress.

Are you simply receiving the teachings and words of God and doing nothing? Jesus is not just a teacher he is a sender. Each and every person is called to go out in mission. This might mean overseas, it might mean across the country, across the street, the driveway or across the room. Nonetheless we are all a send people if we are a people following Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Luke 8 -- Reactions

It is pretty common knowledge that Jesus was in the business of healing. Whether a person believes it or not, most would agree one of the things Jesus did was heal the sick and broken. There are many different reactions to the healing work of Jesus. Those who turn and follow can be found, along with those who scoff and disregard. For some the healing work of Jesus brings fear, for others it brings joy.

In chapter 8 of Luke's Gospel we find people having all kinds of reactions to the miraculous work of Jesus. The demon possessed man is ready to follow Jesus where ever. The crowd and witnesses to the man's healing are afraid and ask Jesus to leave. The disciples are repeatedly amazed with the works of Jesus. The power Jesus displays can be a stumbling block for some, while for others it is the encouragement they need.

How are you responding the the amazing work and power of Christ? It may not be a miraculous healing. It could be as simple as strength to make it through the day. Do we assume this is our own doing? How is it that we react to the work of God?

Monday, May 4, 2009

Luke 7 -- Never Satisfied

I cannot imagine what Jesus went through when facing the various opinions from people as he went about his mission. In Luke 7 we have the account of the Roman centurion who has a important servant who is ill. Jesus is on the way to see the servant but before he gets there the Centurion sends a messenger. Essentially the message is, just do you work from where you are, I trust and believe you can do that. A display of great faith from a person the Jews would consider and outsider.

From there Jesus faces questions about his authority, and who gives him the right to do what he is doing. Jesus highlights the dilemma of religion, people said John who baptizes was wrong because he fasted and did not drink wine, Jesus was told he was wrong because he drank wine and hung around sinners. It seems that people were never satisfied with Jesus. There were some who chose to follow Jesus because of the wonders he did, there were just as many who scoffed.

It seems being fickle in our relationship to Jesus is nothing new. We join in centuries of followers who one day are completely happy and satisfied with Jesus, to the next day when we question everything we have ever known. The essence of the battle is found in our expectations of Jesus. Most if not all people realize our need for help greater than ourselves. To us that help comes in specific forms. We expect Jesus to act a certain way, we expect the universe to work out according to our plan. The problem is, we are not in charge.

Until we can grasp that truth with more than words and our minds, we will struggle to be satisfied with God. We will constantly be looking for our expectations rather than the plan God is working through Jesus Christ. We could find ourselves just like the Pharisees.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Luke 6 -- Religion vs. Following

As we turn through the words of chapter 6 we find Jesus in opposition to the religious establishment. through a series of teachings and comparisons, Jesus highlights the faulty nature of religion and calls people to be his followers.

The religious leaders are more concerned with rules and their own preservation, above the work of God at hand. No healing on the Sabbath, no picking grain on the Sabbath. This launches Jesus into what we call the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew's Gospel. The section called the beatitudes essentially warn those who think they have it all together, and offers hope to those who have been pushed aside by the religious. According to Jesus it is no longer about keeping the rules and doing what the religious people prescribe. It is simply following Jesus. Living like Jesus calls us to live. This means life is not always fair, this means we might lose out on something. It means we might give away everything.

Religion is much easier than following Jesus. In religion there is not a lot of question about what to do when. When we begin to follow Jesus, things can get much more messy. We cover territory that is not familiar or comfortable. We do not get a vote when we are following, we simple go where the leader goes and do what the leader does.