Category: Luke (Page 1 of 21)

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

House Call: Relationship

“Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” ~Luke 5:30

Jesus broke in to the tax collector’s world so he could eat and drink with Levi and his friends. This is God’s great goal through Christ: relationship with you expressed and experienced around a table. Eating and drinking with Jesus communicates relationship. Everybody around the same table, eating the same food, sharing the same drink; community and acceptance, nothing between us, no barriers or animosity. Perfect face-to-face, elbow-to-elbow, feet under the same table, please pass the mashed potatoes relationship. This is how our Lord communicates the new realities in the Kingdom of God.

It’s not that people are in two different categories so you’re either righteous or you’re a sinner, you’re either healthy or you’re sick. It’s that we are all sinners, we are all terminally ill and racing towards eternal death, but Christ Jesus has come to us and changed everything! Jesus totally blows up all our categories and classifications. His table is for everybody! The table says God’s mercy and forgiveness is alive and active, there is healing and celebrating, there is the creation of a brand new world, and all are invited to receive it.

If this is the mission of Jesus – and it is – then it is also the mission of Jesus’ Church. We initiate with others. We go to the sick and dying, we invite the lonely and lost, we go out and we bring in, we make room for others at the table.

Jesus went to Levi’s workplace, he went to Levi’s house. Jesus is always looking for lost people and, when he sees them, he runs to them. We’re not always like that. We typically run away from people who don’t have it all together like we do. We think it’s going to be too messy. They’re going to have issues. It’ll be awkward.

See, there are two strategies on sick people. The Pharisees say quarantine. Isolate. Keep them at a distance. But Jesus says herd immunity all the way! Everybody together around my table at the same time! In my grace! In my presence! That’s how we heal the sick!

There are lots of women and men out there who have negative feelings about Jesus. They’ve had bad experiences with the Church. They’ve been ignored or neglected, judged and condemned. But if we will show a steady, regular, consistent, and persistent expression of Christ’s love and grace and invitation to his table, or to yours, they will see Jesus. They will experience the Great Physician, the promised Messiah who came here to shoulder our sins and to die our death so we can be forgiven and saved and healed.

Peace,

Allan

House Call: Redemption

“I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” ~Luke 5:32

When you are in the waiting room at the doctor’s office, there finally comes that moment when they call your name. You put your magazine down or your phone away, you stand up and walk over to the door, and the nurse always addresses you this way: “How are you doing today?” And my instinct is always to reply, “How do you think I’m doing today? If I were okay, I wouldn’t be standing here talking to you! If things were good, if I were well, we wouldn’t be having this conversation!”

When I go to the doctor, I know three things: I am sick, I need to be healed, and I cannot heal myself.

That’s what Jesus is saying in Luke 5. “I’m coming for people who realize they need help, people who know they’re in trouble, people who know they don’t have all the answers.”

But Jesus doesn’t come to give you a placebo. Jesus doesn’t make this house call to give you a pep talk or good advice. He calls you to a radical life of repentance. I have not come to call the righteous, he says, or the people who think they are righteous. I’ve come to call the sinners, the women and men who know they need help. I’ve come to offer them repentance.

The word “repent” literally means to change directions, to go the other way, to get on a different path and head toward another destination, to change your mind and your actions and commit to living differently.

In Luke 3, John the Baptist is preaching repentance for the forgiveness of sins and the people in the crowd question him about what it means practically. Of course, he answers them plainly. He tells those who have two coats to share with those who have none, and to do the same thing with their food. He tells the tax collectors to stop collecting more than they are supposed to and to be fair with everybody. He tells the soldiers to stop extorting money and lying about people, stop using power and position for your own good. Here in Luke 5, Jesus is reaching out to Levi because he sees the potential for Levi’s repentance and redemption.

And he says just two words to Levi: Follow me.

That’s the radical call. This is the Great Physician’s prescription for redemption: Follow me.

And only Jesus can say stuff like this. Look at the great power of his Word. So far in Luke, we’ve seen that Jesus’ Word drives the devil away in the wilderness. His Word drives evil spirits away from the demon-possessed. His Word drives a million fish into Peter’s nets. Jesus’ Word heals the paralyzed and the lepers and all kinds of sickness, Luke says. His Word forgives sin and proclaims the coming of the Kingdom of God. And his Word invites Levi into healing repentance and eternal redemption. “Follow me.”

Levi is a very wealthy man with lots of power and many friends and he is confronted by the Word of Jesus inviting him to a completely different life. Why don’t we talk to the rich and powerful about Jesus? Somehow we’ve decided that rich and powerful people won’t listen to Jesus, so we don’t even bother. We wait for something bad to happen to rich people, we wait for them to fall and hit rock bottom, we wait for their fortunes to reverse before we think they’ll be open to Christ. But notice how these two words from Jesus actually create that reversal!

“Levi got up, left everything, and followed him.” ~Luke 5:28

Next thing you know, Jesus is inside Levi’s house at Levi’s table, eating and drinking with Levi and his friends. Levi has repented and now he is in intimate relationship with the Lord. There’s only one way to explain how something like that happens: Jesus knows who he is calling and his radical invitation is life-changing.

Peace,

Allan

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