“A Graveyard and a Tomb’s Story”

He is risen

Luke 24 It is good to rehearse Luke 24 and the Resurrection story to remind us that Jesus has power over life and death and especially in this COVID scene when so many have perished. In the first century, the deceased’s names were marked only by a stone. On the morning of the first day, the women returning to anoint the body of Jesus were astounded to find the tomb disturbed and the seal broken. What would you think? Instead of a deceased body, two angelic figures asked them why they had come to the graveyard. Why are you sad? He is not here; he has risen just as he said.

Jesus was not, as Paul reminded the Athenians, a deity like gold or silver, an image made by human skill or imagination [Acts 17], but He, the very God of the very God, has risen from the dead.

The women and the two Emmaus walkers were asked; have you forgotten His words? Like them, we are slow of heart to believe. We have forgotten because we have not studied the OT scriptures which speak of Him, but when we open His Word, the Holy Spirit speaks, and our hearts burn within us.

The women and the two Emmaus walkers excitedly returned to tell the good news—HE HAS RISEN JUST AS HE SAID! How does this truth affect your heart?

“The Scoundrel and the Scam Artist”

God has the answer

Luke 18 Yesterday Luke introduced us to the “freak, geek and the seek(er).” Today Luke shares another group of citizens: the “scoundrel and the scam artist.” First we meet a widow who encounters the “scoundrel” who is an unjust judge who cared little about God or man. She also is taken in by the “scam artist” who has bilked her out of her savings. The world is full of these unsavory characters. The judge understands his own character yet sees no need or desire to change and the scam artist thinks he has gotten away with the widow’s pension. But, it is the widow’s persistence that wins out in the end. She gets her reprieve and the scam artist gets his due.

So what is the point? The last line in the parable asks: Will the Son of Man find faith when He returns? God is looking for those who will come to He who can change circumstances and people to help His chosen ones. The key is faith.  God is looking for those who will be like Joseph, faithful in and out of circumstances, EVEN when the answer is no, sometimes wait, and sometimes yes.

You may be facing scoundrels or even scam artists.  First be shrewd and patient. Secondly, persist in prayer. Thirdly, trust God even if His answering machine seems to be cluttered! He will answer in His perfect time with His perfect response.  

“Freaks, Geeks, Seek(ers)”

Luke 14 As a Master Teacher, Jesus never missed an opportunity to teach lessons we all need to learn. As an observer at a dinner party on the Sabbath, Jesus masterfully taught his host and the attendees as well as us some lessons in humility that we would be wise to emulate.

Consider the first guest who was perhaps considered the person least likely to receive an invite due to his physical condition called dropsy [edema due to congestive heart failure.]. We might call him the “town freak.”  The Pharisees invited him not because they cared about him but to watch closely to see what Jesus would do. Consider the next set of guests who sought to sit in the seats of honor. We might call them the “town geeks” because of their self-inflated ego. They miscalculated how the host saw them and found themselves humiliated when asked to move. The third lesson is to the host himself; he is the “town seek” because he is always inviting prominent persons to receive invitations back. Jesus point-blank told him that this smacks of favoritism.

Consider all of these lessons in light of what Jesus might ask us.  Who are we inviting to our homes, and why? At school or work, do we honor some and dishonor others? Do we find ourselves ignoring some while favoring others? Perhaps we can all begin to pray:

May I see others the way God sees them.

“A Manual on Prayer”

how to pray

Luke 11:2-5 Our greatest need is to pray. When asked, Jesus gave his followers a simple manual consisting of three basic elements of prayer followed by these words: “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it!”[vs 28]

First; begin at the beginning:  Hallow the Father’s name for he is holy and abides in heaven: “The Lord is in his holy temple; the Lord’s throne is in heaven.” [Ps 11:4]

Secondly; seek God’s forgiveness for sins of omission and commission so that you are able to forgive others. “But if we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous, forgiving us our sins and cleansing us from all unrighteousness.” [1Jn 1:9]

Lastly; seek God’s protection and direction so that we remain faithful. Claim the promise that Jesus has “Disarm[ed] the rulers and authorities, he has made a public disgrace of them, triumphing over them by the cross.” [Col 2:15]

We ask then how should we pray? Pray shamelessly and with confidence: “let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and find grace whenever we need help.”[Heb 4:16] for “we have boldness and confident access to God because of Christ’s faithfulness” [Eph3 :12]

Prayer is how we remove the barriers that keep us from true fellowship with God so the question is: how does your prayer life measure up?

“Be My Disciple”

Tell what God has done for you

Luke 8:26-39 Dr. Luke uses his pen to share with us that a true disciple loves as God loves and shows compassion as He does. In Luke 8:26-39, the focus is on the principle that works must accompany a disciple’s faith. James shared this same principle: “faith without works is dead.”

Dr. Luke shares the vibrant story of the healing power of Jesus. He removes the stigma of the devil’s works, which are impotent to His power, and as we read this story of the demoniac, we are confronted with the power of sin versus the healing power of Jesus. Jesus’ heart was touched with the compassion and love the Father has for the lost.  It is His love that draws him to this Gentile that the question asked by the disciples might be answered: “who is this man?” This is a question Dr. Luke continues to present to his audience and answers through Jesus’ healing, rebuking the wind, and as he reverses the effect of the evil one’s power. In doing so, the disciples are given evidence that “the gospel, …is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” [Romans 1:16]

Lastly, Jesus, full of mercy for the swine herders, leaves them a disciple who is a witness to God’s power lest they say to God that they did not know. They are now without excuse, as Paul noted in [Romans 1:20b]. The healed demoniac is a lesson in discipleship. We are to be God’s witness, and reveal what God has done for us.

“Is Old Good Enough?”

Is this your mindset?

Luke 4&5 Are you satisfied with your life the way it is? It seems that those in Israel were, and when Jesus arrives on the scene, they are amazed, astonished, or filled with resentment. Returning to his hometown, he is selected to read from Isaiah in his Nazareth synagogue. The listeners were amazed at the gracious words coming from him—until He explained that God healed those who were Gentiles. In an instant, the listeners were transformed from meek and mild Dr. Jekyll to the evil Mr. Hyde and, in their rage, sought to kill him. Leaving Nazareth, he headed to Capernaum, where three events show he is empowered and anointed to heal by the Spirit. First, he heals a demon-possessed man, then heals Peter’s mother-in-law of a fever and lastly, he rebukes the unclean spirits. Many are astonished, but not all.  Jesus encounters the religious leaders who call him a blasphemer because he forgave a paralytic of his sins. In fact, Luke sums up these amazing, astonishing encounters with this idea; the old is good enough, or as we say, don’t rock the boat.

Do we, too, respond, “The old is good enough;” when we are not ready for Jesus to change us or our situation? Do we feel comfortable with excuses like I am not prepared? Jesus is challenging us to be filled as He was with the Holy Spirit and alter our landscape with His power.

“Belief is More Than a Word”

Trust and Obey

Luke 1 to 3 The people of Israel waited four hundred years to hear from God and his prophets, but He had been silent. Now in a flash of a moment, God chooses a Gentile author to reveal that He is still at work. 

First, God sends an angel to tell Zachariah that he will be a father soon to one who will be like Elijah the Prophet to turn the children’s hearts. Then God sends the angel Gabriel to a peasant girl named Mary with the news that she was to be the mother of His earthly son, the Son of the Most High God, and God will give him the throne of His father, David. 

Hearing the angel’s pronouncement, Zacharias responded with, “How can I be sure of this?” Mary asked, “How will this be since I have not been intimate with a man.” Because Zechariah doubted he would be silent until the birth of John. Mary would submit but walk the road before her village as an unwed woman. Her courage came from the angel’s words: “nothing will be impossible with God.”  

How often do we stand amazed and wonder how I can be sure? Could it be that we need to assess if we are more like Zachariah or Mary? Remember this truth: “The steps of a person are ordained by the Lord” [Pro 20:24]


Jesus forgives

Mark 14 to 16 Jesus quoted Zechariah, “you will all scatter,” but Peter exclaimed: I will “never” forsake you and am willing to die for you.  His word “NEVER” echoes across the centuries as a reminder that words cannot be retracted. Peter will be found alone weeping bitterly; he will weep for the words that are now etched in the sacred scripture’s scrolls: I do not know the man.

Peter wept tears of repentance, but it was not until we see him through John’s eyes do we really understand what happened that night. Jesus offered total and complete forgiveness, yet He asked Peter three times: Do you love me? His sin had shattered Peter’s heart, yet he was repentant. How different from Judas, who was only remorseful and took his own life with no hope of eternity with the Savior.

Through this short vignette, we also learn a more important lesson; our words either refine us or define us. Jesus asks will you love me with a total commitment from this point forward until we meet in eternity. Jesus does not ask for a rehearsal of our sins; he knows them.

What he is asking is, where is our heart now?

Peter is an example of one who was truly repentant and was restored to full fellowship. Have you repented as Peter, or are you still tracing the footprints of Judas?

“Only Jesus Can Mend a Fickle Heart”

The heart is desperately wicked

Mark 11: During Christ’s last week, often called the Passion Week, we see His only miracle of destruction in the cursing of the fig tree, his second cleansing of the Temple (did they not get it the first time He did this?); the true heart of the religious leaders, the fickle heart of the populace. What are to learn from this action-packed chapter? With its pretense of leaves and lack of fruit, the fig tree is a picture of the fruitlessness of the religious leaders, the people, and Israel’s nation. Is this a picture of our hearts as well? The Temple’s cleansing shows us that God often has to come and cleanse our hearts because, as Jeremiah said, it is desperately wicked.

The attitudes are most noticeable. We read that the religious leaders were fearful of Jesus (vs18 and 32), and we recall that they seemed to have conveniently, like Thomas Jefferson, cut out the commandment they didn’t like: “thou shalt not kill.” And then there are the people with their fickle hearts. Is our heart fickle too? In this chapter, they sit amazed in the Temple listening to Jesus, but they will be crying for his crucifixion in less than a week. Truly our attitudes scream about our hearts.

If Jesus were to come to our churches today, what would he see? Would he see religious leaders much like the ones in His time? Would he see the parishioners with fickle hearts? May this chapter cause us to reflect and to seek His cleansing.

“Man-Made Rules and the Heart”

heaps of rules are not important to God

Mark 7 Mark wanted his audience to see that our lips and our outward worship may say we love God, but it is the inward heart that is God’s measuring rod. “God does not view things the way men do. People look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” [1Sa 16:7]

What did the religious leaders care about? It was the traditions passed down through the centuries. So they came asking Jesus: “Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders.” Their priority was the legalism of rules which cleansed the outward man but failed to seek cleansing of the heart. Jesus caustically rebuked them using Isaiah’s words: you honor me with lip-service, but your heart is caught up in the traditions established by your ancestors. In fact, you are so caught up, you find loopholes to set aside God’s commandments to satisfy your sins. Listen, God sees your heart and what lurks there: evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, covetousness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. In essence, he was recalling [Prov 14:17], “a quick-tempered man acts foolishly.” 

When your heart is pure and cleansed, it is revealed in the humility of the heart. To say the words “I love you, God,” but your actions say otherwise is repulsive to God.