Tuesday, April 27, 2010



OK, now you know not to worry about things that don't matter, you know that God is capable of providing for your needs, you know that you are most valuable to God, you know that the only way to satisfy your heart is to seek His Kingdom and become a channel for God's blessings to flow to the poor. But knowing it isn't doing it. Now, Jesus is saying that what is most necessary is to BE READY.

"Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like servants waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. Truly I tell you, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready, even if he comes in the middle of the night or toward daybreak. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him."

Jesus concludes with a call to focus on what is really important. It is so very important that you be vigilant with respect to your relationship with your Master, Jesus, the King. If indeed this is a love relationship, then it's vital to act like it by being ready for Jesus to show up, even unexpectedly.

When the master arrives, the servants are to be ready. His coming or showing up is their most important priority. You are to be looking forward with great anticipation for Jesus and to stay awake or be watchful. You may be servants, but when the Master shows up He will serve you. This is how Jesus turns the world upside down. He upends the world system by making the poor rich and the rich poor.

Peter asked, "Lord, are you telling this parable to us, or to everyone?" The Lord answered, "Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom the master puts in charge of his servants to give them their food allowance at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whom the master finds doing so when he returns. Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But suppose the servant says to himself, 'My master is taking a long time in coming,' and he then begins to beat the other servants, both men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers."

"The servant who knows the master's will and does not get ready or does not do what the master wants will be beaten with many blows. But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked."

So the conclusion is be dressed and ready for service. Keep your lamps burning. Be watching for him. Even if he is delayed, don't fall asleep. Be a faithful and wise manager. Feed the servants under your care. God has given you much. Be worthy of that sacred trust He has in you. Two words: BE READY.



If you're going to be "rich toward God", then you must learn to trust God for your material needs: Then Jesus said to his disciples: "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes."

Don't worry about your life, because there is more to life than food and clothes. First, Jesus says, "Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?"

Then Jesus moves from birds to flowers:"Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you-you of little faith!"

Don't you see, it's so empty and foolish to be concerned or worried about these things, because you are so much more valuable than birds and wild flowers.

"And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it." Jesus here gives us an insight as to how worrying is set in motion. It is when you set your heart on something that you want or think you need.

There are two reasons Jesus gives for such worry. First-"For the pagan world runs after all such things." Worry and seeking stuff is what the pagans do. Why? Because they are not walking under the King and His kingdom. Second-"and your Father knows that you need them." God already is aware of what you need. He is the most faithful one you can count on in your relationship. He knows what you need and is not shocked with the situation you find yourself in, so trust Him with it.

Probably one of the most common hazards you and I face is greed. The only way to escape the peril of greed is to pursue God's Kingdom. NOTE how Jesus puts it: "But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom." All of the "stuff" we need will be taken care of, if we seek His kingdom and learn to trust Him with every part of our existence.

Jesus gives another insight into eliminating your worry and seeking His kingdom. He says, "Sell your possessions and give to the poor." Jesus is saying the same thing He mentioned in the previous paragraph. He wants us to serve as channels of blessings for others. And as long as we operate in His kingdom, He will bless us as the channels of His blessings.

Then Jesus says something that is curious: "Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys."

If you're neglecting to give to the poor and needy, then you will have an earthly purse that will wear out. However if you are a giver, you will have a heavenly purse that will never wear out.

So, if you worry about things that you cannot control and don't practice trusting God, then you will not be rich toward God and you will not be thriving-only surviving at best. Jesus gives the formula for practicing being rich toward God. 1. Don't worry about things that don't matter. 2. God is more than capable of providing for your needs and continually demonstrates it through how He feeds the birds and clothes the wild flowers. 3. You are the most valuable of God's creation. 4. Seek after His Kingdom. 5. Sell your possessions and give to the poor.

Then Jesus ends this section with the following: "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." If your focus is on the kingdom, your heart will be the heart of God and you will know the fullness of a satisfied heart. If your focus is smothered with worries about how you're going to eat and clothe yourself, your heart will be worn out by struggling to hang on to a lesser treasure. You choose. Keep on seeking His Kingdom or drown yourself in your worries. It is ultimately your choice.



In Luke 12:13-21 we come to the story of the rich fool. Someone in the crowd said to him, "Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me." Jesus replied, "Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?"

Then he said to them, "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed;" NOW THAT'S RELEVANT FOR TODAY.

JESUS GOES ON TO SAY: "life does not consist in an abundance of possessions." The word for "life" Jesus uses is the word that speaks of quality of life. So, He is saying that your quality of life doesn't consist in all of your stuff.

And he told them this parable: "The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, 'What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.'"

NOTE in those days everyone was in relationship to one another-family lived together and villages worked together in times of abundance and in times of loss. Yet this man "thinks to himself". You see, he consulted no one on his decision-no one, not even God.

"Then he said, 'This is what I'll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain.

Instead of sharing it with those in his family and village who are in need, he makes the decision to "store" his surplus in bigger barns.

And I'll say to myself, "You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry." The purpose for his decision is so that he can take life easy, eat, drink and be merry. This is called retirement in most cases. However, Jesus has us all on a mission. It's our real purpose for being here. We are only satisfied if we fulfill our God-given purpose and that purpose is not hoarding stuff for ourselves, but to be self-giving. This has nothing to do with making money and increasing your possessions. There is nothing wrong with that. It has everything to do with how you use what you have. Since all you have belongs to God Who enabled and empowered you to gather it, He wants you to use it compassionately.

NOTE what happens to this man: "But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?'

That very night of his boasting and his self-centered decision God "demanded" not only his stuff, but his life! The word used here means to "take it back" or "repossess" all you have and all that you are-your very life.

Jesus ends His story with a strong summary application: "This is how it will be with those who store up things for themselves but are not rich toward God."

RICH TOWARD GOD. It seems by Jesus' words that a person who is rich toward God does not live for himself-gathering and holding on to more and more stuff for himself. Rather one who is rich toward God takes thought of how to share his stuff and use it for the kingdom. Well, where are you in this story?

Think it over.

Monday, April 26, 2010



Speaking of hypocrisy, Jesus turns His attention to the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, warning His disciples of this problem within themselves. Meanwhile, when a crowd of many thousands had gathered, so that they were trampling on one another, Jesus began to speak first to his disciples, saying: "Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.

Jesus makes it clear that He wants His disciples to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and He defines it as hypocrisy. Jesus is saying first to pay attention to the primary sin of the Pharisees. Second, He speaks of this sin as a leavening agent. The nature of yeast or leaven is that it quietly influences everything it touches-usually the dough. In a sense Jesus is saying to be careful that the attitude and mindset of the Pharisees can be so easily caught. Thirdly, Jesus is saying that the disciples need to be careful not to embrace or be caught up in the outward show of a Pharisee. These warnings could be summarized in Isaiah's description of hypocrites: "These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me."

It's interesting to me that Jesus feels the need to give this warning to His disciples precisely when the crowds began to grow. With the larger crowds following along, it was much easier to go the way of the Pharisees-to please the crowd or to appear as the righteous.

So what is the antidote to this kind of hypocrisy? The primary antidote for this kind of hypocrisy is to be vulnerable about your struggle with being honest. In other words, the antidote is full disclosure. This is exactly what Jesus gives as His antidote. He says,

"There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs."

Then, after giving this serious warning, He also gives them three words of encouragement. FIRST-DON'T BE AFRAID: "I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him. Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows."

SECOND-PUBLIC ACKNOWLEDGEMENT BEFORE THE ANGELS: "I tell you, whoever publicly acknowledges me, the Son of Man will also acknowledge before the angels of God. But whoever publicly disowns me will be disowned before the angels of God. And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven."

THIRD-THE SPIRIT OF GOD WILL TEACH YOU WHAT YOU NEED JUST IN TIME: "When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say."

This section summarizes what it means to walk with Jesus. 1. There is a great danger in being contaminated by the religious leadership. 2. You must choose to counteract that contamination with a full confession of who you are. 3. Jesus will envelope you with His protection and His Spirit.

What is evident to me is that the only sure way to walk with Jesus without this contamination is to stick close. It's constantly asking the question What Would Jesus Do? (WWJD?). Or, a new way to view it is to discipline yourself to continually bring THE JESUS FACTOR into your life. Once THE JESUS FACTOR is introduced, you know what to do and say. THE JESUS FACTOR. Maybe THE JESUS FACTOR is the ultimate answer to WWJD?. When THE JESUS FACTOR is brought into your personal life, your marriage and family, your business life, your neighborhood and in your friendships, you know everything is going to be OK. Try using THE JESUS FACTOR and you'll see the difference it makes in you.

Sunday, April 25, 2010



In Luke 11:37-54 the increasing spirit of confrontation comes to a head when Jesus was invited by a Pharisee to dinner. When Jesus had finished speaking, a Pharisee invited him to eat with him; so he went in and reclined at the table. But the Pharisee was surprised when he noticed that Jesus did not first wash before the meal.

Then the Lord said to him, "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.

"Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone.

"Woe to you Pharisees, because you love the most important seats in the synagogues and respectful greetings in the marketplaces.

"Woe to you, because you are like unmarked graves, which people walk over without knowing it."

One of the experts in the law answered him, "Teacher, when you say these things, you insult us also." Jesus replied, "And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.

"Woe to you, because you build tombs for the prophets, and it was your ancestors who killed them. So you testify that you approve of what your ancestors did; they killed the prophets, and you build their tombs. Because of this, God in his wisdom said, 'I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and others they will persecute.' Therefore this generation will be held responsible for the blood of all the prophets that has been shed since the beginning of the world, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, this generation will be held responsible for it all.

"Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering."

When Jesus went outside, the Pharisees and the teachers of the law began to oppose him fiercely and to besiege him with questions, waiting to catch him in something he might say.

I recently came across the writings of Donald Williams on the net and he opened to me three universal problems of the religious leaders Jesus was facing and it's still with us today.

The FIRST problem is formalism-a commitment to outward forms-rituals, practices, creeds, type of worship, believing that these forms are key to true piety and make you acceptable to God. These forms aren't bad in themselves, but there can be a tendency toward an external focus rather than what flows out of the heart. Jesus points out their excessive emphasis on washings and cleansings. He has already provoked this part of formalism by not following through on the ceremonial washing as He entered the house. The Pharisee gloried in his washings as one of the most important evidence of being so self-righteous.

Jesus offers two answers when the Pharisee questioned Him on not washing. The first was the parable of cup. Pharisees were so careful to wash the outside of the cup, but the leave the inside filthy. In other words, all that really matters is how someone looks. The second thing Jesus does is to fire away with some sarcasm. He says your fathers killed the prophets and you build the tombs. In other words, you are complicit in the process of even making the death of the prophets look good on the outside. Formalism is just too shallow to amount to anything genuinely spiritual.

The SECOND problem is legalism-Legalism is not just a strict stance on the Law. Legalism believes that by keeping a list of do's and don'ts you will be able to earn God's acceptance and salvation. The focus here is keeping whatever set of rules you have adopted and that devotion to keeping the rules becomes the empty activity, again proceeding without the heart for it. Jesus pokes fun at their practices of tithing. They took tithing to the point where they would go through their spice rack and carefully measure out a tenth of each jar-while ignoring the more significant matters of the Law, such as love. This practice became "burdensome"

You see, Pharisees are hypocrites. But they were hypocrites, not only in the sense of talking one thing and doing another. They were hypocrites, because they were "hyper-critical"-knit-pickers, feather-pluckers. The Sabbath also became a badge of legalistic righteousness. The practice of keeping the Sabbath also became an empty ritual or, in this case, Law that must be kept to the nth degree no matter what. So, legalists do things because they "have to", not because they "want to."

The THIRD problem is clericalism-Clericalism is the wrong kind of dependence on the position of clergy. Within clericalism there are two classes of people-first class and coach. First class believers are the clergy-those who are in the professional ministry. It's the tendency to put clergy up on a pedestal above everyone else in the body of Christ.

When a person is in the hospital, get the pastor. Call the priest immediately. When someone needs prayer, we must wait for the pastor. I strongly disagree with this thinking. When a clergyman prays over someone, he puts his empty hands on a person's empty head and prays for God to come through on his behalf. Anyone can do that.

Formalism, legalism and clericalism are all very much alive among us and act as dangerous cancers in our fellowships. Jesus was totally upset by those who seek the best seats of honor in the synagogues. He was livid over the fact that these pseudo-leaders took the key to knowing God and His ways as if they were the gate-keepers of faith. Yet, these same gate-keepers have never gone into a full faith relationship themselves while hindering others in the process.

For many years I've been saying, "We don't need more ministers. We need more people ministering." Lord, deliver us from thinking we're something when we're not, from following a man-made list of do's and don'ts and from the pompous spirit of clericalism. Lord, deliver us from our tendency to be drawn to any of these Pharisaical practices that are empty and destructive. Lord Jesus, deliver us from ourselves.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010



In Luke 11:33-36 Jesus uses the image of a lamp that shines a light in your whole body-or not:

"None of you lights a lamp and puts it in a place where it will be hidden, or under a bowl. Instead you put it on its stand, so that those who come in may see the light. Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are healthy, your whole body also is full of light. But when they are unhealthy, your body also is full of darkness. See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness. Therefore, if your whole body is full of light, and no part of it dark, it will be just as full of light as when a lamp shines its light on you."

The most effective use of a lamp is to place it on a prominent stand or shelf in the house, so that it is able to shine throughout the house. When a lamp is placed properly, then you can see everything within the entire house.

Jesus switches then from a house to your house-your body. He says the lamp of your body is your eye. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light. But when it is unhealthy, your whole body is filled with darkness.

What is He saying? I see it this way. Since your eye is the window to your entire psyche, then maybe Jesus is referring to what your eye is focused on. This seems to fit His constant emphasis on those who have "ears to hear" and "eyes to see."

So, if your eye is focused on hearing and seeing what Jesus is saying and doing, then your eye is focused on the right things. If your eye is focused on Jesus and His Kingdom, then your focus is pure and clear. And, when your eye is focused in this way, your whole insides is full of light. But if your eye is out of focus on Jesus and His Kingdom, then your insides will be filled with darkness.

This is just another way of saying, "He who hears my words and practices them" has a firm foundation for his life. But those "who hear my words and don't practice them" have a shaky foundation and are vulnerable to destruction from the winds, floods and rains of life's trials and troubles.

Well, what part of this is unclear? I spent most of my life doing life my way for Jesus. Jesus says that this will not work well and He has proven to be right in my situation. Now, I am determined to do my life in the way of Jesus. You see, He is the way, the truth and the life. I highly recommend you choose to do the same.

You know what? It's like the process of elimination-NOTHING ELSE WORKS.



At this point in Jesus' ministry He is getting closer to Jerusalem. He began in the Galilee region and is making His way through Judea in this section. In verses 14-20 Jesus casts out a demon and really stirs up the crowds with strong reactions to this miracle.

By Jewish tradition there were three miracles that only the Messiah would be able to handle-healing a leper, a man born blind and a person who couldn't speak. They would say, "When the Messiah comes, He will be able to heal them. We can't do that ourselves, so we'll wait for the Messiah." Now, here we come to the healing of a man who couldn't speak, because of a demon. This was just too threatening to many of the people. Jesus did it, but it just can't be.

Jesus was driving out a demon that was mute. When the demon left, the man who had been mute spoke, and the crowd was amazed. But some of them said, "By Beelzebub, the prince of demons, he is driving out demons." Others tested him by asking for a sign from heaven.

Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them: "Any kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and a house divided against itself will fall. If Satan is divided against himself, how can his kingdom stand? I say this because you claim that I drive out demons by Beelzebub. Now if I drive out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your followers drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. But if I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.

Beelzebub comes from the same name as a Canaanite god the children of Israel faced-Baal. Baal literally means "god of the high place." By the time Jesus showed up Beelzebub was considered the Devil, the prince of demons. This was a slanderous accusation, but the only comfortable alternative for many of the religious leaders.

Jesus responds by telling them how ridiculous their accusation is. He points out that if He were empowered by Satan, then Satan would be fighting against himself by casting out a demon. Then Jesus questions the Jewish exorcists, "Now if I drive out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your followers drive them out?" Jesus wasn't the only one casting out demons. There was a variety of Jewish exorcists at that time. Jesus is arguing here that the same could be said of their own exorcists, that they are empowered by Beelzebub.

Then Jesus turns the corner a bit and says, "But if I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come to you." And, if this is true, then He is pointing out that they are too blind to see it as from God and not the Devil.

Next Jesus states two parables. One is to point out that He is doing these miracles because of His superior power. "When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are safe. But when someone stronger attacks and overpowers him, he takes away the armor in which the man trusted and divides up his plunder. "Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.

The second parable is a warning. "When an evil spirit comes out of anyone, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, 'I will return to the house I left.' When it arrives, it finds the house swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first."

There are three basic responses to Jesus' healing of the man who couldn't speak. FIRST-Many were in awe and were even more attracted to this miracle worker from Galilee.

SECOND-Unwilling to see the hand of God in Jesus' healings, there were some who accused Jesus' acts as being from the Devil-Beelzebub. We see Jesus' response to their accusation in Luke 11:27-28.

As Jesus was saying these things, a woman in the crowd called out, "Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you." He replied, "Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it."

After a woman yelled out a blessing to the young rabbi, Jesus responds with an even greater blessing for the crowd. He says, "Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it." His point is directly toward those who see His works as coming from the Devil rather than God. Because they refuse to hear or accept this sign from God through His Messiah and obey it, then they will miss out on the blessing of God.

THIRD-There were some who asked for a sign from heaven that He was from God. NOTE, this is as if Jesus hadn't already given several signs through all of His miracles to date. They were saying, "That was pretty good, Jesus, but show us another one and another one." Jesus responds to their demand for a sign in Luke 11:29-32.

As the crowds increased, Jesus said, "This is a wicked generation. It asks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah. For as Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites, so also will the Son of Man be to this generation. The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with the people of this generation and condemn them, for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon's wisdom; and now one greater than Solomon is here. The people of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and now one greater than Jonah is here.

His accusers are always wanting more signs, yet He has given them many signs. And, in this particular sign of healing the man who couldn't speak He is clearly doing a Messianic miracle longed for throughout the ages. So, if they are so blind as to reject Him after all He has shown them, then Jesus will not give them any more signs but one. The one sign He will give them is the sign of Jonah.

The sign of Jonah is the sign of the resurrection. Just as Jonah spent 3 days in the belly of the whale, so must the Messiah spend 3 days in a grave. But in the same way Jonah was delivered from this deep-sea grave, the Messiah will also be raised from His grave. We learn from Matthew's gospel that from this point on, Jesus speaks only in parables. He speaks in parables so that those who have ears to hear can hear and those who do not have ears to hear will not understand any more. If they continue to reject the clear signs of God's Messiah, they are piling up more judgment against them.

I don't want you to miss the underlying point Jesus is making in this section. In my opinion, the key statement in this passage is "But if I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you." If Jesus is using the mighty finger of God to work His works, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. If He is not, then nothing changes. If Jesus isn't from God, then we can remain in our own quiet desperation-alone. However, if Jesus is from God, then He, the King, has brought His kingdom to us. That's the good news! In a sense, it's a pragmatic thing. What have you got to lose by following Jesus-hearing what He says and obeying it?

I'm reminded of my favorite Snoopy saying, "It doesn't make any difference whether you win or you lose-until you lose." And then it makes a lot of difference.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010



We come now to Luke 11. One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, "Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples."

He said to them, "When you pray, say: "'Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation.'"

Jesus was a man of prayer. He was praying when the Holy Spirit descended on Him like a dove (Luke 3:21). He began His ministry with a 40-day fast in the wilderness (4:1-15). Other times He withdrew into the wilderness to pray (5:16). Then before choosing the 12 He was up all night praying (6:12). Just before Jesus asked that famous question, "Who do you say that I am?", He was praying (9:18). Just before He was transfigured He took Peter, James and John up on the mountain to pray (9:28). And He was praying here at the beginning of our text in Luke 11:1.

The example of Jesus praying so much is a powerful one. The reason the disciples wanted Him to teach them how to pray is because they witnessed Him in prayer so often. If Jesus, their teacher and master, feels the need to spend time in prayer, then how much more do they need to pray? Or, how much more do we?

Then Jesus said to them, "Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, 'Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have nothing to set before him.' And suppose the one inside answers, 'Don't bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can't get up and give you anything.' I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.

"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; those who seek find; and to those who knock, 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!"

Jesus gives them one of the most vital ingredients to praying effectively. The ingredient? God, your Father, will answer your prayers. You can count on it. In fact, you are to pray believing that He will.

Then Jesus amplifies on what a disciple's role is in praying. In addition to praying in confidence that you will receive what you ask for, you are to keep on asking, keep on seeking and keep on knocking. And if you do, He will give you what you ask, you will find what you seek and the door will be opened to you. This is one of the most beautiful promises Jesus makes and it's all for the asking, seeking and knocking.

I know what you're thinking, "Yeah, but what if this or that." If your mind is anything like mine, it races to a whole list of excuses for unanswered prayer. Yet Jesus makes it clear that we are to pray, believing and God will answer our prayers.

I must close with the only thought that makes sense to me on prayer. I come back to it often and repeat it to myself for comfort. PRAYER DOESN'T NEED PROOF; IT NEEDS PRACTICE.

Monday, April 19, 2010



At the end of Luke chapter 10 is the renowned setting in the home of Martha and Mary.

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!"

"Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed-or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her."

Martha was probably the older sister to Mary and they obviously had two very different personalities. Martha found herself doing all the work in preparing for her guests and Mary was focused on the guests, namely the guest, Jesus. When she realized what was happening, she complains to Jesus about her sister and wanted Him to tell her to help out a bit. Martha displays three problem issues with a fourth that most assuredly was present in her heart.

1. Martha was distracted from paying attention to her guests. 2. Martha was worried whether the preparations would get done. 3. Martha was upset with her sister's lack of concern and help. 4. Martha was most likely harboring some resentment that she was the only one concerned about getting all of the preparation work done.

Jesus' response to Martha's complaint was classic. He points out two things here. FIRST-Very few things are really necessary. SECOND-Only one thing is needed-only one focus is necessary. Jesus seems to be saying that Martha has lost her focus. Jesus says there is one thing that is necessary for her focus. What do you think it is?

I think it is precisely what was quoted in the previous paragraph. Remember? LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND; AND LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF. Jesus is saying nothing else is necessary.

This has been my life theme for quite some time. In fact, I have said many times that this is something I want placed on my tombstone-IT JUST DOESN'T MATTER!

There may be one more thing here in this scenario. It is too easy to become distracted by the many things pulling on our lives throughout the day-and, throughout the night. It's so easy to be caught up in thinking that we must be busy doing something all the time. This busyness seems to be the dues we pay for playing in this game of life. We wouldn't want anyone to think that we are slowing down or that we have too much time on our hands.

Everyone wants to feel like he is accomplishing something, keeping up with the Joneses, or winning in the rat race in this pressure-cooker world. The problem is that even if you win the rat race, you're still a rat.

Years ago I delivered a message on Jesus' encounter with Martha and Mary and I think the words still ring true today. I leave them with you for your personal and prayerful consideration. DON'T JUST DO SOMETHING, SIT THERE!



Now we come to probably one of the most familiar stories ever told-the parable of the good Samaritan. The story emerges from a scene where a scholar is trying to test Jesus.

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?" "What is written in the Law?" he replied. "How do you read it?"

Jesus turns the tables on this "expert of the law" by asking him two questions. First Jesus asks him what does the law say about the conditions for inheriting eternal life? He refers him right back to his own text-his own authoritative Scriptures. Then Jesus presses him further with another question, "How do you read the law in this case?" The "expert" trying to put Jesus to the test is now facing a major test of his own.

He answered, "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'"

"You have answered correctly," Jesus replied. "Do this and you will live."

Now the "expert" couldn't let it rest here. But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" And with this Jesus has him pinned up against the wall. So, Jesus shares this story in response to the question: "Who is my neighbor?"

In reply Jesus said: "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.

We don't know much about this man who was attacked on this treacherous road. All we see is that he has been beaten and left for dead. The story has to do with the three men who came upon him. The first was a priest and the second a Levite. The priest has to do with the operations of the sacrifices and the Levites were the caretakers of the Temple. Both of them saw the man and passed by on the other side. Why? Because they were fearful of being unclean. They would be considered unclean if they were to touch a dead person and this guy was as good as dead. If they were to become unclean, they would need to go through the inconvenience of purification rights. They both chose not to get involved.

Then Jesus comes to the third person who came upon the beaten man-the Samaritan: But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. 'Look after him,' he said, 'and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.'

Jesus uses one of His common tactics of extreme examples to demonstrate His point. He picks the most perceptively moral people to represent the worst behavior, then He selects a Samaritan who is perceived to be the worst type of person to play the role of model behavior. The Jews viewed the Samaritans as half-breeds and they despised them, much worse than the gentiles.

However despised the Samaritan was, he was the only one who stopped, bandaged and treated his wounds, put him on his own donkey to take him to the inn, then paid the innkeeper for his care of the man. On top of this, he gave the innkeeper enough money to continue his care of this man.

When Jesus finished His story, He asked: "Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?" The expert in the law replied, "The one who had mercy on him." Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise."

So here we are right back to the original question of the "expert" who was trying to test Jesus. WHO IS MY NEIGHBOR? The man had no room to move-no wiggle room to make himself look better. The only answer he could give was "the one who had mercy on him" was the neighbor and not the highly religious, super-spiritual leaders. NOTE the "expert" couldn't even say the word "Samaritan".

The emphasis is not on knowing, but on doing that which we know to do. So, here's the point. A neighbor can't be categorized. Your neighbor is anyone who is on the path who is in need. But here's the bottom-line of the story. To be a neighbor, you must be willing to go out of your way to help that person in need-to be wiling to step out of your comfort levels and conveniences in order to care for that person in need.

So, who is your neighbor? I was thinking. Jesus is your neighbor and He wants you to be a neighbor to someone else. GO AND DO LIKEWISE. NOTE when the "expert" quoted 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself," Jesus' response was DO THIS AND YOU WILL LIVE. Remember Jesus' words when He said it's not enough to talk a good game by calling Him Lord, Lord, but only those who DO the will of my Father will enter the kingdom of heaven. So, how are you DOING?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010



Well, the 72 were sent out and returned with great enthusiasm. Remember they were sent out with specific instructions to heal and tell of the kingdom of God, all in preparation for Jesus to show up personally.

The seventy-two returned with joy and said, "Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name." NOTE their joy over the fact that they were amazed at how demons were even responding to them and their presence.

Jesus responds with equal excitement for them. He didn't dampen their joy. He replied, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.

Jesus said, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven." This was no surprise to Him, since He had given them the power over all enemy forces. He uses a triple negative in describing it by saying, "Nothing, no way, no how will harm you-not even snakes or scorpions" could injure them. Now this isn't the same power He has given His disciples today. This was for a specific task in a specific time. So, don't try it today!

Now, NOTE what Jesus says: "However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven."

He is saying that they are not to get all excited over demons coming out of people. That is exciting, but there is something much more important than this to be excited about-their salvation-their names written in heaven.

Jesus is so excited about the field trip His disciples had just completed and the results they experienced. The next paragraph says that He was "thrilled with joy" about the whole situation. He was so thrilled that He broke into prayer for His special relationship with the Father.

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 was your good pleasure. All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him."

Then Jesus turns to His disciples: Then he turned to his disciples and said privately, "Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it."

More than the ministry results, Jesus is thrilled with joy that His disciples "get it". They have been blessed with eyes to see and ears to hear. Then He says that many prophets and kings were eager to see what the disciples now see.

What was it that the disciples were seeing and hearing that had been so anticipated by prophets and kings? I think it was the fulfillment of the mystery of the Kingdom of God and the revelation of the King. The prophets and kings had read about this revelation for centuries and now it had come to pass. Jesus, the King, had shown up proclaiming that the Kingdom was finally here.

Now, this is where we come in. Jesus and His Kingdom was the full revelation of the grand mystery of the ages. What He is looking for today is for us to embrace them both. The Kingdom will always lead us to the King and the King leads us to living the newly empowered lifestyle of the Kingdom. Would you like to get Jesus' attention and make Him thrilled with joy? Focus your life on the unchanging person of Jesus, the King, and the unshakable Kingdom of God.



We have come to chapter 10 of Luke's gospel. Each chapter is full of several amazing stories of Jesus in action. This first story in this chapter is one of my favorites. NOTE the fact that we have just finished with some very tough teaching on how costly it is to be a follower of Jesus. And now Jesus appoints 72 disciples other than the 12 and sends them on a mission.

The story is divided into two sections in the first 24 verses. The first is Jesus sending out two by two 72 disciples on a mission and the second section is an interesting time of debriefing. We'll handle the first today and the second tomorrow.

After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. He told them, "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.

There is a mixture of specific instructions for them in that particular mission and some universal principles for us today. Jesus' instructions not to carry a purse, bag or sandals was for that specific trip. However the sense of going two by two was carried out throughout the spreading movement of the fellowship of Jesus.

There is also an interesting statement about how plentiful the harvest is and yet the workers are few. Years ago I presented a message entitled, "Many Are Called, But Few Get Up." We have a serious addiction within the churches in this country. People are addicted to church attendance with a semblance of guilt if they miss, but participation is not part of the norm.

I think Christians do mission work the hard way, mainly attempting to "convert" people from whatever their culture is to become a member of the Christian culture. In the process we send the wrong message as to what the Jesus movement is all about. The goal of missions is not to set up Americanized churches full of spectators, but to encourage intimate touch and interaction about Jesus and the kingdom. NOTE what Jesus' strategic plan is.

"When you enter a house, first say, 'Peace to this house.' If the head of the house loves peace, your peace will rest on that house; if not, it will return to you. Stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for workers deserve their wages. Do not move around from house to house."

This mission is all about "entering a house" and bringing peace with you on that house. Whether the head of the house receives it or not, the peace is still with you. He says something interesting, "Stay there in that house and don't move from house to house." This reminds me of what a friend said to me, "Be a fountain" and let people come to you. If you have brought the peace of God to this household, then it will be evident to the neighborhood and village.

"When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick who are there and tell them, 'The kingdom of God has come near to you.' But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, 'Even the dust of your town we wipe from our feet as a warning to you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God has come near.' I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town." NOTE what they are to do. Heal the sick and tell the people that the kingdom of God has come near to you. And if they refuse to welcome you and the peace you bring, then shake the dust off your feet. Then Jesus says, "Be sure of this: The kingdom of God has come near." In other words, the kingdom of God has come near no matter the response.

Then Jesus curses the three cities in which He had performed many of His miracles. "Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to the skies? No, you will go down to the depths.

When you receive as much light as these cities have received and still are not particularly responsive to the message of the kingdom, you will be held responsible for that rejection.

Then Jesus says something that is most empowering for these disciples and for us, too: "Whoever listens to you listens to me; whoever rejects you rejects me; but whoever rejects me rejects him who sent me."

You and Jesus are united inseparably when you are on a mission in His name. Whoever listens to you is listening to Jesus and whoever rejects you is rejecting Jesus. You see, the key to appreciating the power of this statement is found back in the early part of sending the disciples out. The harvest is plentiful. There are so many who have ears to hear and eyes to see, because Jesus is the Lord of this harvest. So, we are to pray to the Lord of the harvest to send forth more workers to take His healing touch and the message of the kingdom of God to those who are ready to receive it. It's His harvest, His power, His message and His peace.

I've got one final thought for you. When you are praying for the Lord to send forth workers for His harvest, be sure that prayer includes you as one of the workers. Jesus will handle all of the details of the work. Just raise your hand and volunteer to be one of those workers.