Category: Luke (Page 1 of 21)

Christmas Revolution

As children of God, we know we’re called to imitate God and join him in doing the kind of work he is doing. Jesus came to this earth to show us the Father, to reveal to us God’s will and God’s ways. We look to Jesus to know how to think and act, how to believe and behave. We know how to do this – in theory anyway. We do it all the time.

We look at Jesus’ life and we say, “Yeah, we need to serve others. We need to feed the hungry and heal the sick and comfort the suffering.”

We study Jesus’ death and we decide, “Yes, we need to be sacrificial. We need to bear the burdens of those around us. We need to forgive others unconditionally.”

We celebrate the resurrection of Jesus and we say, “Yes, we, too, are living a brand new life in Christ. Everything’s changed now. We see the whole world differently now and we leave our sins behind and take bold risks for the Kingdom because we know we’ll never die.”

You know, the birth of Jesus also reveals God to us. We know much more about the will and the ways of our Father when we consider carefully the birth of his Son. The Incarnation of our Lord Jesus shows us what God is doing and how he’s doing it. And it teaches us, it trains us, to join him in that work.

Mary’s song in Luke 1 tells us that the birth of Jesus is radical. Her Christmas song is a song about revolution. The coming of the Christ is about wrecking the structures and systems of this world and restoring an all-new Kingdom of God.

Her song claims that Jesus’ birth scatters the proud, brings down rulers, lifts up the humble, feeds the hungry, and heals the sick. When Almighty God comes to us as a baby in a barn, he is overthrowing the world’s order and society’s hierarchies and chains of command. He’s destroying the gap between the rich and the poor and breaking down all the barriers between us.

Jesus is born in Bethlehem to show us that we all belong to the same family. We’re all equally lacking and equally blessed. Together. Look at the manger scene in the Gospels. Young and old, rich and poor, male and female, blue collar shepherds and professional scholars, Jews and Gentiles – when Jesus is born, everybody’s in the picture! The angels announce that the good news of great joy is for all the people! God with us means God with all of us!

So what does this mean for disciples of Jesus right now?

It means we don’t play into the world’s games of dividing people according to gender or race or national politics or who somebody voted for or whatever else divides people today. We don’t get sucked into the name-calling and self-righteous judging of others. That is decidedly un-Christlike behavior. It’s un-Godly.

We concentrate on bringing into the Kingdom the outsiders, the foreigners, the poor, the sick, even our enemies. Enemies of our comfort zones. Enemies of our decency and order. Enemies of our property values. Enemies of our traditions. Why? Because when we were God’s enemies he sent his holy Son to this earth as a human baby in order to save us.

God with us means us with God. And that means we don’t strive for anything less.

Peace,

Allan

No More Muttering

 

“The Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, ‘This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.'” ~Luke 15:2

“All the people saw this and began to mutter, ‘He has gone to be the guest of a ‘sinner.'” ~Luke 19:7

The religious people are pictured in the Gospels as continually muttering. When they see Jesus eating with tax collectors and “sinners,” when they observe him welcoming and socializing with “those people,” they mutter and grumble and complain. They gripe under their breath. Because a religious person would never say these kinds of things out loud.

These are the people we’re welcoming now? These are the people we’re supposed to eat with now? Those people won’t give. Those people don’t even speak English. Their kids are too rowdy. They’re going to mess things up. He just got out of prison. She has HIV. He cusses. She smokes. We have to protect our kids. We need to be careful here. Maybe those people should just go to another church where they’ll be more comfortable.

Hey, these are the very people Jesus came for! These are the very ones Jesus left his glory at the right hand of the Father to die for!

As disciples of Jesus Christ, we don’t ever dare to look down on, to distance from, to make fun of, or to ignore any person created by God, in the image of God, loved by God, and died for by Jesus. Ever! Just like our Lord, we look for them. We go out of our way to welcome them, to love them, to accept them, to come along side them in relationship – all of them. We stop our muttering and we join our God in his salvation mission.

We look. We search. We seek and we save. We’re climbing every hill, we’re turning over every rock, we’re going into the cloudy days and the darkest nights to welcome the outcast, to bring in the marginalized, to help the helpless, to defend the defenseless, and to protect the oppressed.

“I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak.” ~Ezekiel 34:16

Peace,

Allan

Show People God

“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.” ~Luke 11:52

The teachers of the law were guilty of prioritizing the letter of the law over the spirit of the law. They knew God’s law front and back, they had it memorized – book, chapter, verse. They could tell you exactly what you could and couldn’t do and what you could wear, what you could say, what you could eat, and who you could be with as you were doing it. Or not doing it. They were strictly enforcing the rules on others and felt no obligation to obey those same rules themselves. They would require certain things of others, but exempt themselves. They acted this way to improve their own position and increase their own power. There’s no love of God, no justice for neighbor.

Jesus says you are keeping people from knowing God. You’re blocking people from knowing who God is and what God is doing in the world. You yourselves don’t know God and the way you keep your thumb on people in the name of religion keeps anybody around you from ever experiencing God.

Jesus came here to reveal to the world who God is and what God is doing. If you want to understand God, you look at Jesus. He said it himself: “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father.” And we join him in that work. We, too, are called to reveal God to others. But these teachers of the law are doing just the opposite. They’re so concerned about keeping the letter of the law, they’re so consumed with following every tiny detail and making sure others are following it exactly the way they interpret it, they miss God. They turn the commands into their God, they make the Bible their God, and they beat everybody over the head with it.

This could also be a problem for us if we’re not careful. Sometimes we are capable of fostering an environment in our churches, our Bible classes, and our small groups – sometimes you can create this culture just around yourself – so that everybody has to believe everything and practice everything the same way we do. Or the same way you do. We can demand uniform compliance with the way we do things. Or the way I do things. People can walk into our settings and just feel like they’re being watched.

Just like the religious leaders were checking to make sure Jesus washed his hands exactly like they think he should, we can make it our goal to catch people. We catch people doing something wrong so we can wag our fingers in their faces or tell on them behind their backs. We can suffocate the people around us. If we’re not careful, we can straight up condemn people. How in the world are these people going to experience the love and grace and forgiveness of God if we’re acting like this in his name? That’s not him! But we make people think it is.

“Is this the kind of fast I have chosen? Is that what you call a fast? Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter – when you see the naked, to clothe him?” ~Isaiah 58:5-7

Our Lord and the Scriptures tell us again and again that it’s not about the fasting or the sacrifices or the details of our worship. It’s not making sure the people around you know the law, it’s making sure the people around you know the Lord.

Show them God. Bring them into the presence of God. Show them his mercy and love. Express to them his grace and forgiveness. Extend to them his joy and acceptance.

Jesus tells us to turn the other cheek, forgive without limits, walk the extra mile, give up your coat, and love your enemies. Why? Because, he says, that’s the way of our Father in heaven. Live like this because that’s how God is. Join Jesus in his revelation. Show people God.

Peace,

Allan

Make People Holy

“Woe to you, because you are like unmarked graves, which people walk over without knowing it.” ~Luke 11:44

Around the dinner table at a Pharisee’s house, Jesus calls out this group of religious leaders for prioritizing outward appearances over inward godliness. They’re paying too much attention to the details of the religious rituals and their hearts and souls are left untouched by any of it. Everything looks great on the outside — it’s clean, it’s shiny, you could eat off of it, literally — but on the inside it’s greed and selfishness. They practice their religion to boost their own self-importance. They give their money and they tithe meticulously – right down to counting out the mint leaves and mustard seeds, so they look good to others. They go to church to be seen by others as doing the right thing. They become religious leaders to be seen by others as being the right people. None of it is done to benefit anybody but themselves. It’s done to increase their own status and improve their own standing. There’s no love of God; there’s no justice for neighbor.

Jesus says they are unmarked graves, full of death and decay.

The Jews clearly marked their graves so people could avoid them. If you came into contact with a grave, it would make you religiously and ceremonially unclean; it would defile you. Jesus tells the Pharisees, in essence, you don’t look dangerous, but you are. You’re keeping up appearances, but you’re deadly. When people come into contact with you, they expect to be made more holy, but you’re killing them. They come into your church hoping to be made clean, but your very presence with them makes them dirty.

Jesus is the Redeemer. He came here to buy back what we’ve lost. He came to heal and forgive, to reconcile and restore. He came to make people holy. And we join him in that work. We, too, are in the business of making people holy.

But the Pharisees are doing the opposite. They’re making people unclean. They’re so concerned with how they look on the outside, they’re neglecting their own hearts on the inside. They’re not nurturing their own souls and minds in compassion toward others, or in empathy, sympathy, or justice for others. They’re more worried about making sure everything is done just right at church.

I think this can be especially hard for us in the Churches of Christ. At the very least, it’s a temptation we battle within our Church of Christ heritage. Our whole movement is built on restoring things to the way they were in the New Testament. So when we do land on something, we’re typically convinced that it is right. We’ve done the hard work of figuring it out and it is correct. We’re pursuing truth and we’re pursuing the ways of the Lord, and those are good and faithful things. But in our enthusiasm for being right and dotting all the I’s and crossing all the T’s, we can lose our hearts. Our insides can become dull to the real Gospel needs of the people around us.

“What does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” ~Micah 6:8

Our Scriptures are very clear about God’s priorities. Act in justice for the people in your community. Help the poor, protect the foreigner, take in orphans, feed the widows. Those are the top concerns for our Lord. Take care of the people in society who cannot take care of themselves, just like God takes care of me when I am completely unable to take care of myself.

Love mercy for everybody all the time. Don’t just be merciful to some people some of the time, but love mercy consistently. Love mercy as a strategy, as a way of living, as a way of being and doing. Love mercy as an inner-life quality of God’s character he is forming in you.

Don’t carelessly or presumptuously do things your own way. Pay attention to what God is doing and walk humbly with him. Know your place next to God and walk with him – not against him, not in front of him. Walk with God’s vision and God’s priorities. God has shown you amazing love and he’s brought to you life-changing justice because that’s how he treats everybody. Now you walk with him and join him in doing those same things. Join Jesus in his redemption. Make the people around you holy.

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Abilene Christian University’s men’s basketball team has won the Southland Conference Tournament Championship and will face third-seeded Texas in the NCAA tournament opener in Indianapolis on Saturday. ACU will bring their suffocating defense to this tilt against the Horns, hopefully keeping the Wildcats in the game a little longer than they were against second-seeded Kentucky two years ago. ACU’s defense forces turnovers on more than a quarter of their opponent’s possessions — astounding! Their full-court pressure is a beautiful thing to behold and they’ve got a big seven-footer who’s not afraid to D up down low. ACU only lost to Texas Tech by seven earlier this season and only by thirteen to Arkansas.

So…? Upset? Probably not. The Longhorns are rolling right now and they are so much fun to watch. Jericho Sims is playing his best ball of the year as Texas finished the season on an 8-2 run, capturing the first Big XII Tournament title in school history. The guards are driving the paint with supreme confidence right now and Texas is absolutely flying. I don’t know how far the Horns will go – it’s never a good idea to get your hopes up for any U.T. team – but some are picking Texas to make the Final Four.

With their outstanding defense, ACU could keep it close, I’d say within single digits until maybe the 16-minute mark of the second half. Hopefully Wildcats coach Joe Golding has packed more than one pair of pants this time.

Peace,

Allan

The Goal of Forgiveness

Your forgiveness is a redemptive gift of God’s limitless love and amazing grace for the purpose of relationship with God. That’s the goal of forgiveness: To remove what stands between you and God so you can be a member of God’s family and eat and drink with him at his table.

The woman in Luke 7 kind of barges into Simon’s house to eat and drink with Jesus, and Simon doesn’t think she belongs. But Jesus says, no, she does belong at the table with me because her sins have been forgiven. Jesus sees her as forgiven. He regards her as righteous. There’s nothing to judge here – no sin. Jesus sees this woman as pure and clean and whole. Jesus makes the point clear when he asks Simon, “Do you see this woman?”

Do you see her the way I see her? As forgiven. Do you see what I see?

Jesus tells Simon that he sees kindness in this woman. He sees a tender heart, he sees love. He sees generosity and service. He sees sorrow for sin and gratitude for forgiveness. He sees her faith. He sees her as a restored daughter of God.

Forgiveness restores the relationship and places you at the table with the Messiah and with all of God’s people right now today and forever. In Luke 13, Jesus heals a woman, he delivers her from a crippling disease, and calls her a daughter of Abraham who’s been freed from Satan. In Luke 19, Jesus yanks Zacchaeus out of the tree and forgives his sins so he can eat and drink with him in Zacchaeus’ house. Why? Jesus says because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. Forgiveness restores the relationship.

In Luke 15, Jesus gives us the story of the prodigal son to show us that God’s love and forgiveness can take care of every kind of sin and can restore every kind of broken relationship. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you’ve done, the Father says, “I’m not going to wait for you to pay your debt – you can’t! You’re not going to have to earn your way back into the family – I’m just going to take you back! I’m going to cover you completely with the glorious robes of my love and forgiveness!”

And the story ends with the forgiven son inside the Father’s house, at the Father’s table, eating and drinking to the sounds of music and dancing. Why? The Father says, “Because this son of mine was dead, but now he’s alive; he was lost, but now he is found.”

Sin destroys relationship with God. So God took care of it. God made his Son, who had no sin, to be sin for us. And our sin – this includes all of your sin – died with Jesus on the cross. So you are welcome to sit at Christ’s table with all of God’s people right now today and forever.

Peace,

Allan

Your Sins are Forgiven

We are all in want of forgiveness. Big forgiveness. It’s the universal need. Regardless of whatever factor or circumstance you want to claim for your life; whatever your blurry past, your uncertain present, or the preconceptions you have about your future; the views you have about yourself and your world, no matter how accurate or distorted; you must have forgiveness. Nothing else matters. Nothing else will fill the void or right the wrongs or give you satisfaction. Not even justice or fairness or all the other things we seek – only forgiveness truly fixes what’s wrong and brings lasting peace to our messed up times and lives.

In Luke 7, Jesus is confronted by a sinful woman inside a Pharisee’s house. And he looks right at her and says the four most important words ever said in any language: Your sins are forgiven.

Jesus is the Savior who came here to say those four words. It’s his purpose, it’s his mission. It’s who he is and what he does. Forgiveness. Jesus left his home in glory at the Father’s side to make it plain to you that your sins are forgiven.

But how do you know God can really do it? How do you know God forgives all your sins? You look at Jesus. If you want to understand God, you look at Jesus. Our Lord says it himself: If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father.

Look how he loves this woman at Simon the Pharisee’s house and says to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” Look how he saves the woman caught in adultery and tells her, “I don’t consider you guilty.” Look how he forgives the tax collector in the tree and the best friend who betrayed him three times. Look how Jesus prays from the cross for his accusers and executioners, how with his dying breath he prays for his killers, “Father, forgive them!”

God will forgive you. He already has. Your sins are forgiven. How do you know? Look at Jesus.

Peace,

Allan

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