Archive for » February, 2011 «

February 25, 2011 – Luke 11

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Have you ever noticed that Jesus rarely answers the way people want? It’s one of the characteristics of Jesus that he speaks to people and not about people. One of the more famous examples is when Peter asks what will happen to John (at the end of the book of John, if you’re wondering), and Jesus answers “what is that to you? Follow me.” Jesus is always more concerned with the people He is talking to than talking about other people.

That said, sometimes He reminds us it’s better to mind our own business than to worry about others. In today’s little vignette, Jesus is rebuking the Pharisees, and he chastises them for being so concerned with outward appearances of holiness without actually understanding God’s heart. He tells them essentially that they are prideful hypocrites, which I’m sure was a fun message for them to hear.


As he’s saying this, another group is standing there, the so-called “experts in the law.” These were not Pharisees, at least not entirely. They may have been a sub-set of the Pharisees, but it seems more likely that they were more like Bible teachers or scribes. A modern comparison might be that the Pharisees were like pastors or priests, and the scribes were more like seminary professors. A person could be both, but they were separate organizations.

In any case, one of these tweed-toga-wearers comes to Jesus during his speech about the Pharisees and says “But Jesus, you are casting a bad light on all of us righteous people when you talk like this.” Ok, lesson one, don’t interrupt Jesus when He’s talking to someone else, especially when he’s in a rebuking mood.

This expert probably hoped Jesus would say “Oh, sorry about that. I’m not talking about you, of course. Your theology is right on, you have an accurate understanding of the Trinity and God’s sovereignty, and the world would be alright if everybody just listened to your wisdom. Carry on, good and faithful one.” Instead, Jesus turns and says “Oh hi. Didn’t see you there. I have a few things for you, too.” The experts in the law get 3 “woes” as well, just like the Pharisees.


The truth is, neither our self-imposed piety nor our theology and education is a guarantee that we are serving God. It’s all about our hearts, and that is a challenge no matter how high or how low you are in society. God knows all of our deepest desiresand motivations, and there’s no degree or position or award that will blind Him to who we really are. Man looks at the outside, but God looks at the heart; there’s no hiding from Him.

Just ask Adam.

February 24, 2011 – Luke 10

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What should our strategy be to reach the lost? Do we engage them on their own ground? Learn as much as we can about evolution, satanism, post-modernism, cults, or the like? Do we spend our time studying the enemy’s moves, or focusing on our’s? Do we adapt our Christianity to make it easy for people to come to Christ, or do we keep the bar high to encourage holiness? Sometimes it’s hard to know which battle to fight, but at least regarding evangelism, we have Jesus’ own words to help us out. (always a good thing)


In Luke 10, Jesus is sending out his disciples to preach to Israel. It’s interesting that this is not only the inner group of 12 disciples, but a group of 70 (or 72, depending on your translation) of his followers.  Who were these people? Why weren’t they included at the Last Supper? Did they all fall away?

In any case, as he was sending them out, Jesus gave them some basic instructions. In verse 9, he tells them that if they visit a town that is welcoming, their message should be “the kingdom of heaven is near you.” Seems pretty clear; plus, it should be an encouagment to those who were anxiously awaiting the Messiah.

Jump down to verse 11, where Jesus is giving instructions for towns that don’t lay out the welcome mat. What is the message for them? “The kingdom of heaven is near.” Isn’t it interesting that the same message would be given to both the welcoming and unwelcoming, but for one it was an encouragement, and for the other, a warning.


So how should we apply this to our dilemmas? In the first place, our message is clear: the kingdom is coming. It’s so easy to get our minds and energies focused on things that seem important, but may not in fact be the message of God. We need to commit ourselves to “preaching Christ and Him crucified,” as Paul says.

Secondly, our message should stay the same regardless of the recipient. God doesn’t tell us to give one message to believers, one to almost-believers, one to non-believers, and one to never-believers. Our message stays the same: the kingdom is coming. Regardless of the hearers’ reactions, once the message is delivered, it’s time to move on to another audience. (of course, there’s a place for discipleship, too, but that’s another article). Preaching about Christ’s coming should always be our first priority.

That’s always a winning strategy.

February 23, 2011 – Luke 9

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There’s a lot to be said for new translations of the Bible; they’re easier to read, easier to understand, and (arguably) easier to apply because they relate more directly to our lives.  I’d much rather “think about Jesus said” than “ponder therefore unto these of which he spake.”

However, there are some drawbacks to translations, and one of them is that sometimes we see the section headings as divine separations. In reality, the books of the Bible were (mostly) written as a single unit, without chapters, verses, paragraphs, or separations. Sometimes these separations may make it hard for us to see certain aspects of the narrative, because we see things separated that should maybe have been taken together.


Today’s chapter, Luke 9, is broken up into several sections, but let’s look at what the chapter looks like if we break it differently. Verses 7-8 talk about what people thought about Jesus; he was a prophet, possibly Elijah, or maybe John the Baptist. When we jump down to verses 18-19, and Jesus asks his disciples, “who do people say that I am?” They shockingly answer “a prophet, possibly Elijah, or maybe John the Baptist.”

It’s almost as if these two sections are bookends, so we should naturally ask ourselves what is it exactly that they bookend? In between these markers is the story of Jesus feeding the 5000, one of the biggest miracles in the Bible apart from the resurrection. So, what’s going on? What does feeding people have to do with who Jesus is?


The answer comes from Peter himself. When the people were asking who Jesus was, the great King Herod decided that he needed to meet this miracle worker, quite possibly because he was afraid that John the Baptist had returned from the dead to draw attetion to his questionable morality once again. But Peter, when Jesus asked him for his opinion, answered “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”

Peter may have been a thundering bonehead on many occasions, but he knew the power of God when he saw it. Watching Jesus feed the multitudes with virtually nothing convinced him that this was indeed the Messiah that Israel had been waiting for. Jesus then proceeds to tell them that he must suffer and die for the world.

Seen in this way, this passage seems to be preparing the disciples for what lay ahead. Jesus did a powerful miracle to confirm what they probably already strongly suspected; that Jesus was God’s anointed. Once they had passed that crisis point, he began to prepare them for what lay ahead; his miracle had a larger purpose than simply feeding people. Jesus wanted them to know that even though he would suffer and die at the hands of me, he had the authority and power to raise himself again, to perform an even bigger miracle for the whole world.

What is he preparing you for?