Friday, March 31, 2023

Adore What You Store (Luke 12:13-21)

This is a moment when Luke puts us smack-dab in the middle of the crowd, listening and watching Jesus.  Jesus is telling the crowds in the previous verses that they are to avoid the hypocrisy of the Pharisees.  These are the role-models of the day on to how to walk and talk like a true child of Israel.  But Jesus says to not follow them; no longer would truth be hidden under the cloak of tyrannical religion--it will be shouted out, on the rooftops, by the people who are standing in the crowd, not just listening to but believing in Him.  

Then Jesus addresses their unspoken fears of going up against the spiritual leaders of the day. God is able to preserve their souls even if the leaders have them killed. They must not believe for a moment  that God has forgotten them if the heavy hand of the leaders strikes them--He knows even the number of the hairs on their heads.  If they fall, like a sparrow to the ground, God will know and be there through His Holy Spirit to comfort them and take them home.  

Jesus encourages them not to be afraid when they acknowledge Him publicly. He says that acknowledging Him before the world means that you are acknowledged in heaven.  Those who disown Him will likewise be disowned in heaven.  If people bash Jesus, that sin will be forgiven.  But those who blaspheme the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven--they have crossed a line from unbelief to a stone cold hardened heart that wants nothing to do with God and His Spirit.  

OK, Jesus. We get it, we think. You want us to put our faith in You and not allow the intimidation of the Pharisees to quash our baby faith in You. They are the ones who are in trouble if they continue to behave the way that they do, but even if they repent, You will forgive them as You are offering to do with us. You want the truth to be shouted out and if that cancels out our life in the community, You will come and comfort us. If it costs us our literal life, You will come and comfort us. You will also come in the time of our need, when we face our accusers, and put Your words in our mouths. Oh, hey, wait a minute. There's a guy making his way through the crowd, with a look on his face...

"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; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.'" (Luke 12:13-14)

OK, Jesus. This is a twist. How are we to get on in this world, where our security and place in the community will be threatened by our public stance for You? Shouldn't we stash some money away for our security? We might lose our jobs! Be exiled from our town! Hounded after and driven from place to place, all because we told the world that we follow You! Trusting Your Spirit to embolden us before the authorities is one thing, but we must eat and clothe our children!

"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."

“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. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’

Hmmm. OK, Jesus. When You really want us to lean in, listen well and try to understand the deeper things of God, You go into parable-mode. So, the man who own the field is not an average guy who suddenly gets a windfall. He's already rich. He's already got means. He should be looking out for others, right, Jesus? Isn't that what You tell us, to be concerned with widows, orphans and those who struggle and have next to nothing? But, we getting the feeling, in light of that young man who wanted his brother to hand over some money to him, that this parable will not be a rubber stamp on our belief that money provides our security--it's our Father, right, Jesus? 

“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?’

“This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:20-21). 

OK, Jesus, we see a pattern here:  Rely on God in the midst of persecution; the hard times; and in the abundant times.  You will be in all of our circumstances, and we owe You gratitude, not a fearful or possessive attitude demonstrating a hardened heart. Wait!  Shhh!  He's telling His disciples something.  I'll bet they'll get nailed (pun intended) harder that we will!  Their worry and concern is even greater than ours!
"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. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. 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?  

"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! And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. 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.  Sell your possessions and give to the poor. 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. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.'" (Luke 12:22-34)

OK, Jesus, we think we get it:  Whatever we store, we adore.  

Saturday, March 18, 2023

Who's At My Door? Do You Know What Time is It? (Luke 11)

Let's set the stage for this parable:

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:

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.'" (Luke 11:1-4)

We all know the Lord's Prayer--a beautiful example of how we should approach God.  First, reverentially:  His name is sacred, His Kingdom is eternal and He is the One to whom all blessing and honor should go.  Then, we approach Him humbly: Seeking His merciful hand to be extended yet another day, for our sustenance, so that we may go out and be a witness of His love and grace.  But, wait!  Before we go out and share Jesus, we must make sure that His living water may flow out of us unimpeded.  What restricts or hinders altogether the flow?  Sin, unconfessed and hidden away out of shame and conceit.  So, we ask Him to forgive us.  Lovely first step.  

But, in His light, we see light and now we recall those who have sinned against us:  all the ugliness, unkindness, soul-wrenching unloveliness that raged out of someone and knocked us off our feet. But with His Spirit released into our souls, and with sin's ugly stain washed white, we are able to forgive in His power alone. But as we go out, hearts ablaze and mercifully reaching out to others, help us to resist the temptation/testing (same word in the Greek) and keep our eyes on Him.  He will deliver us from evil with His love for us.  We affirm who God and who we are in Him by affirming He is still at work in the world, and in us. 

But once Jesus taught these God-fearing Jewish lads how to pray (they knew how, but not like they witnessed Jesus praying!), He moved into a parable to see how wide their sails were open to catch His wind.  Or were they just listening, and not really understanding?  So Jesus goes into parable-mode, where they have to dig deeper and seek harder His meaning.  In other words, after the teaching comes the final!

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 no food to offer 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 [yet to preserve his good name]* he will surely get up and give you as much as you need. (Luke 11:5-8)

I have never really understood this parable.  Isn't it odd that someone has a friend, who just shows up, and he goes to another friend, and asks for three loaves of bread, because he doesn't have any to feed his guest. 


Let me get this straight.  You have no food in your home; you've got a friend who shows up at midnight (!) and you have to ask your other friend for not just one loaf but three.  Hmmm.  Seems like Chaos Central to me.

Now, to add insult to injury, this supposed other friend won't even answer the door.  It's locked, and he's all snuggled down in bed and his kids are asleep.  In other words, back off boogaloo--your problem is not my problem.  Then we come to find out that the friendship isn't so important to him--he's not going to help this needy friend and get up.

Hmmm.  There is one and only reason for this man to get up and help his needy friend:  his reputation.  His needy friend knew exactly where to go to find (lots of) bread at an odd hour; he didn't go knocking on random doors in the neighborhood. This needy friend knew this man had a bounty of bread, and could spare the loaves no matter what.  

So, even though the friendship is not motive enough, how others will think of of this man matters.

The needy friend also had the gumption, the chutzpah, the boldness to come pounding on the door.  Why?  He knew his friend had bread to share, so he left his house, pounded on the door, and then explained his circumstance.  He then stood, and listened patiently while his friend groused.  Did Mr. Needy leave?  No.  He kept standing there.  Mr. Needy knew his friend cared about his reputation, and would, after some delay, rally to his cause. Mr. Needy wouldn't relent until his need had been met. 

So here's the equation:  Bold Request + To the One With Resources
                                      = Request Granted Based on the Giver's Character

Why?  Because the Giver wants those around Him to know Him as a Provider, a Resource, One whose Name is to be known throughout the earth.  Let's "fit" the Lord's Prayer into this parable:

Our Father in Heaven                            
The man is at his house, with a reputation of bounty 
Hallowed by Thy Name   
The man's reputation is of the utmost importance 
Thy Kingdom Come          
The man's home is available, right here, right now
Give us our daily bread                         
This man has resources:  enough bread to give away 3 loaves!
Forgive us our sins                                
The needy man is seeking forgiveness for the imposition
We forgive those who sin against us     
Mr. Needy needs to forgive his friend showing up so late and inconveniencing him 
Lead us not into temptation                   
Mr. Needy would rather not face such dilemma of waking up one friend to help another again

No, it's not a perfect one to one correspondence, but Jesus is making an important point:  Even here on earth are those whose name, whose reputation, means something and that person will act, even if the person would rather not.  

The person's name is tantamount to their character. 

Now, up the ante, and picture our Father. He is in heaven, His home, but He will hear the knock on His door as you offer Him a fervent prayer, any time, day or night. No one knows when catastrophe will just show up at your door, but now you hurry to your Heavenly Father's house and start pounding/praying for His mercy, His provision.  You are lovingly bold as you approach Him, not because of who you are, but because of who He is.  His name, His character is revealed throughout His word, and now it is being revealed in Jesus as He tells this story.   

Our Father is known for not ignoring knocks on His door, having plenty of bread, and has a willingness to hear our cries.  We don't enjoy unexpected "guests" to show up unannounced (a test!) but our Father is always at home and will give you what you need.  

Jesus pushes this a bit further:  "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).

Wow!  We are fallen, yet when our children are in need, (in this case, asking for food) any loving father would not give his child the opposite--he will not give snakes and scorpions.  God will not give us venomous, harmful and cruel responses to our cry, our need, our pain.   

We may confuse want with need, but even then the Father is measuring and distributing kindness and mercy.  His Holy Spirit longs to come in and dwell within us, empowering us to walk in love with the Father and everyone else. 


*NIV text note 

Sunday, March 5, 2023

The Parable of a Tiny Seed: Get Growing!

 Let's go!

"He also said, 'This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come'" (Mark 4:26-29).

Interestingly enough, only Mark records this parable.

Jesus compared Himself to a grain of wheat: "And Jesus answered them, saying, 'The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal'" (John 12:24).

Jesus sees the potential that is contained in a seed. He knows of its amazing hidden power to grow beyond itself. Jesus' death, like a seed, contained the hidden power of the Resurrection, which would not be made evident until Jesus was put into the earth, into the tomb. 

The Kingdom of God is no different. It must be planted and then its amazing power will be released.

You open an apple, and in its heart, in its center, is a group of seeds. Small and black, they look nothing like an apple or an apple tree. They certainly do not look like an orchard. So, in effect, it takes faith to take these seeds outside and plant them in the ground. 

Why faith? Because they look nothing like what they contain. They show no power. They show no growth. They are merely a handful of black seeds in the palm of your hand. For now.

That's where this parable tells of Jesus and His Kingdom, "A man scatters seed on the ground." The man scattering the seed is Jesus, but He is also the seed itself.  

Jesus came to earth with nothing to recommend Him. He was poor and from the boondocks. Philip was so excited about this Man, Jesus, but look at Nathanael's reaction: 

"Philip found Nathanael and said to him, 'We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote-- Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.' 

Nathanael said to him, 'Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?' 

Philip said to him, 'Come and see.'" (John 1:45-6)

The seed was also the message.  Jesus scattered the message of the Kingdom into the hearts of His followers. The seeds sat in their hearts for awhile, while He continued to teach them and show them the mighty power of God.  His message of hope, that later His death, burial and resurrection would verify,  took root in the hearts of those who were willing to listen and obey.  The seeds grew because Jesus was all too aware of the power contained in the message.

Why? The message was of His Father, the Almighty God: "For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak. I know that His commandment is eternal life; therefore the things I speak, I speak just as the Father has told Me" (John 12:49-50). 

The words, the message, the seeds: the power contained therein is of God Himself, and can produce an abundant harvest in the life of a follower of Jesus. 

Seeds grow and produce a harvest. Jesus' ministry grew and produced a harvest. But even more so, His death and resurrection released a power that now we as believers possess: "And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you." (Rom. 8:11)

Did you catch that? We have the same power living in us that raised Jesus from the dead! Whoa! Now that's good news! You may see yourself as a wee seed. God sees you as a field of waving grain, able to feed many. How so? The same Power that raised Jesus--the Father in heaven--raises you to new life and His abundance.

Maybe you see yourself as a seed. 

Jesus sees an orchard.

Maybe you see yourself as a seed packet in the garden section of a store. 

Jesus sees a beautiful garden.

Maybe you see yourself as a pine cone, lying in the dirt below a tall conifer.  

He sees a mighty forest.

Maybe you see yourself as one insignificant person. 

He sees His child, set to work by His power and His message of love.

See yourself as He sees you, and in the power of His Son, get growing!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...