Category: Luke (page 1 of 18)

Thoughts and Prayers

The people who are criticizing Christians and politicians for sending their “thoughts and prayers” to the victims of the tragic shooting in Parkland, Florida but aren’t doing anything tangible or practical, are exactly right. Such is the backlash against supposed followers of Jesus in this country who offer their prayers but no real work toward real solutions that “thoughts and prayers” is trending. It’s a hashtag.

And they’re right.

When we pray to God we pray through the name of our Lord Jesus.  And we are ordained by God’s Holy Spirit to act as our Lord’s body — his representatives, his ambassadors — on this earth. We are the Body of Christ and it’s on us, Christians, to do something. That’s how prayer works. We ask God for the boldness, courage, and power to do what needs to be done. And then, by his grace, we do it.

I think about Jesus telling his disciples to pray for workers. In Matthew 9 and Luke 10 he tells his followers “the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest , therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” And then the very next word is “Go!” Jesus says in the very next verse, “Go! I am sending you!”

Pray for God to raise up workers. Oh, by the way, YOU ARE THE WORKERS!

I think about the inspiring prayer of Paul at the end of Ephesians 3. The apostle prays to our God who, yes, “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.” But how does God accomplish his will? How does God work in the world? “…according to his power that is at work within us!”

As part of the curriculum for the Transforming Community experience I’m in, I’m finishing up a book this week by Ronald Rolheiser called “The Holy Longing.” He addresses this near the beginning of a chapter on Consequences of the Incarnation:

“Not only God in heaven is being petitioned and asked to act. We are also charging ourselves, as part of the Body of Christ, with some responsibility for answering the prayer. To pray as a Christian demands concrete involvement in trying to bring about what is pleaded for in the prayer.”

We must put skin on our “thoughts and prayers.”

If I pray that more young people would be involved in our church, but I don’t seek out any young people for friendship or don’t give young people any opportunities for service or leadership, I’m not praying like a Christian. I’m not concretely involving myself in trying to bring about what I’m asking God to do. If my daughter is sick and I pray that she gets well but I don’t drive her to the doctor, I’m not praying like a Christian.

So, it is good to pray for the victims of the shooting and their families. It is good to ask our Father to bless those children and their loved ones with his merciful healing, comfort, and peace. It is good to lament the tragedy and it is good to pray for the soul of the shooter. But we’re not praying like Christians, and we deserve the criticism from non-Christians, if we’re not attempting to do something about the problem.

I understand it can seem hopeless. We live in a sick society with a fetish for guns. We drink the water and breathe the air of violence in the U.S. — it’s “our thing.” But Christians are a people of peace, not violence.  Followers of Jesus are reconcilers, not dividers. What does that look like in your context as it relates to what happened at Douglas High School on Ash Wednesday and what keeps happening every week in this country?

This is not meant for prescription, but for discussion. And reflection.

If you vote, maybe you cast a ballot for politicians who might change some gun laws. Maybe you stop giving money to organizations that promote the easy access to and proliferation of assault weapons in our cities and neighborhoods. Take the violent and divisive bumper sticker off your car.

If you don’t vote, maybe you stop going to violent movies. Maybe you destroy your own guns. You might speak against violence when the conversation at work turns to war or crime. If you’re praying for peace in the world, maybe you can start doing something real by forgiving your own enemies in your family or at church, being kind to people who are different from you, reaching out to the lonely and depressed people around you with love and grace and friendship.

Thoughts and prayers are good. To be Christian, though, it cannot stop there.



Word and Table

“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” ~Acts 2:42

The Greek word koinonea means fellowship. Communion. Sharing. Having things in common. Luke describes it in the above verse as eating together and praying together. That’s what makes a Christian assembly, those are the worship habits: Teaching and Fellowship. Scripture and Communion. Word and Table. That’s the time and place where everybody ministers together, everybody participates, everybody’s heard, everybody shares. God meets us, Jesus is present with us, and the Holy Spirit shapes us in our regular gatherings around Word and Table.

That two-thousand-year-old pattern, I believe, is based on the habits of Jesus during his ministry.

When Jesus taught, he generally did it in the context of a meal. He opened up the Scriptures and ministered to others around a common table. The Word is proclaimed and then the reality of the Word is practiced and experienced around the meal.

In Luke 14, Jesus is eating a Sabbath meal at the home of a prominent Pharisee and, as we would expect, he starts teaching: “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

At the banquet at Levi’s house, Jesus gives us the Word: “I have come to call not the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” And he’s sitting around a table with tax collectors and prostitutes. The Table is the tangible experience of the Word.

With five-thousand hungry people in the wilderness, Jesus tells his apostles, “You give them something to eat. You engage the mission. You participate in serving others.” And then he empowers them to do just that. Then they all ate together, as much as they wanted.

At Zacchaeus’ house, the Word, the teaching: “The Son of Man came to seek and save the lost!” And around the meal, the hospitality and community of the Table: “Salvation has come to this house! This man is a son of Abraham!”

In John 13, on that last night before he was crucified, Jesus shared a meal with his disciples. And some teaching. The evening meal was being served, the Bible says, and Jesus got up and washed everyone’s feet. A tremendous act of humble service. Jesus made himself the least important person in the room in order to serve others.

“Do you understand what I have done for you? You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.”

Our habits together around Word and Table shape how we think and act. It shapes us into a people who think and act like our Lord. Jesus gets up from the table during the meal to say to each of his followers to say, “I am your servant.” And he tells us to do the same for each other.

Some of us view our worship gatherings as a legal duty and everything has to be done exactly right. Some of us see our worship assemblies as an experience; it’s all about how it makes me feel, so there aren’t really any rules to follow. Some of us have grown up with no real understanding about community worship, so we don’t really think about it at all.

Our worship assemblies are the time and place where our living God meets us, where we all meet in the presence of God together. We are gathered by God’s Spirit around the Word. The Word of God reminds us who God is and what he’s doing and who we are and to whom we belong. The Word has to the power to teach us, train us, and transform us to continue the Kingdom work Jesus has already begun. The Word reorients us away from the shadows of this world’s fading kingdoms and toward the eternal realities of the Kingdom that has come and is coming.

And we experience those realities around the Table. The Holy Spirit brings us together around a meal where we actually experience God’s mercy, acceptance, wholeness, equality, compassion, and peace.

But we can get so wrapped up and bogged down in the details of our worship practices and the finer points of our traditions and our methods, that we don’t give much thought at all to the main point of our assemblies. We worry about how we do church and what we can and cannot do in church, forgetting this a Holy Spirit endeavor. All of this takes place in and by the Spirit.

We worship God in Spirit. It’s the Holy Spirit who mediates God’s grace and the presence of Christ to us around Word and Table. God gathers us together. God initiates and enables our praise. God eats with us, the Holy Spirit prays with us and for us with groans we can never comprehend, Jesus intercedes for us. God gives us the words to say in our worship. God speaks to us through his Word and then places that Word into each heart in exactly the way he wants it to go. We are brought together in the presence of God and he’s the One doing everything!

We should relax about our rules and stop worrying about our methods and submit to what God’s Spirit wants to do. Instead of fretting about how we do church or how somebody else does church, we should pay more attention to how God does church.




His Presence is the Proof: Part 4

“Jesus himself stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.'” ~Luke 24:36

It’s a greeting of comfort. Peace be with you. It’s a blessing from the risen Lord to all the people gathered around the table. The presence of Jesus ends our anxiety about what’s happened to Jesus and whether God’s plan for our salvation is still going. Well, guess what? Jesus is alive and God’s plan is on!

The disciples are almost paralyzed by the realization that Jesus really is risen from the dead. Everything written about Jesus has been fulfilled! Everything Jesus said would happen has! There’s great joy and amazement around the table because the disciples are experiencing what Scripture promised and what the angels and prophets had longed to see.

The presence of Jesus at the resurrection meal provides the proof that there’s a direct continuity between who we are today and who we’re going to be on that great day. Suffering is not an unfortunate detour, it’s the designated path. Death is not the end, it’s the transition to the new creation. Jesus is with us at the meal to prove to us that what he’s saying is right.

And his presence makes all of us first generation disciples. It places all of our meals together on the table at Emmaus. The risen Lord is with us when we eat with his disciples in his name. It’s not just the people he appeared to during those 40 days after he rose. We don’t have to keep our faith alive on a think diet of two-thousand-year old reports of the people who saw him back then. We’re not second-hand Christians removed by time and space from those powerful events in the Gospel. Jesus is with us. The risen Lord is really present.

Now, I don’t know what’s going on with you. You might be in the same spot as those two disciples on the way to Emmaus. You might be in a place of despair. You might be experiencing grief. Maybe some dreams have been dashed. Maybe you’ve been numb for so long you’re used to it. You’re living in a fog. You’re resigned to the bad news, the bad feelings, and bad circumstances. You’ve given in. You’ve almost given up.

Accept  the invitation to the Lord’s Table. Take your place and participate in the supper. Listen for his voice. Be open to his leading. Be comforted in the warmth of his presence. Experience the meal. The meal explains what it is about Christianity that grabs us and holds us in the middle of everything that’s so wrong with our world and with ourselves. Jesus is alive and I’m going to be, too! God’s promises are real and they’re coming true!



His Presence is the Proof: Part 3

I asked Valerie last night if she did anything special for her 21st birthday. She told me that she and one of her good friends, Paige, had gone to Chick-Fil-A for lunch and Valerie had a Dr Pepper for the first time in over a month. See, Valerie is trying to eat healthier, she’s trying to exercise more — just like her old man, she’s really good at it during January and February. She ordered a water with her lunch, but Paige told her, “No, you’re getting a Dr Pepper.” Valerie replied, “I want water.” Paige insisted, “No. You want a Dr Pepper.” So, she got one. And it was amazing. I told Val, “You know, a lot of dads worry about their daughter turning 21 and looking for beer. You’re just craving a Dr Pepper.” She answered, “I love the burn.” Good kid.


“He said to them, ‘How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus acted as if he were going farther. But they urged him strongly, ‘Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.’ So he went in to stay with them. When he was reclined at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it, and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him.” ~Luke 24:25-31

Jesus calls these followers on the way to Emmaus foolish and slow of heart to believe the Scriptures. “This is God’s design,” he says. “This is how it has to be!” And when he opens the Scriptures, it’s not just a couple of isolated passages or a few random texts. He explains all of Scripture to them, it says — the whole story! He tells them that salvation can only be found when God’s anointed Son takes on our suffering, when he takes the whole world’s suffering into himself, when he dies under the crushing weight of that sin and suffering, and rises again as the beginning of God’s new creation, God’s brand new eternal people. This is what had to happen, and now it has!

At the Lord’s Meal, Friday turns into Sunday.

Their eyes are opened when Jesus breaks the bread. They recognize Jesus at the table.

Now, allow me to say this about that:

Knowing the information is one thing. Getting the correct content into our brains, understanding the logic, engaging the truth with our minds — that’s very important. We shouldn’t neglect that. But let’s also nurture the emotional experience at the table. Let’s pay more attention to the tangible, touchable, tasteable proof we experience in the Church’s Meal.

The future reality of resurrection of us is experienced in the present reality of the risen Lord around the table. He’s here! He’s with us at the table!

Some days it can feel like our sin or the devil has more power than we do. Some years it can feel that way, I know. But we have direct access to the Holy One of God who has already overcome whatever Satan throws your way. He has already defeated everything the devil might possibly use against you. And we have direct access to him! We eat and drink with him all the time!



His Presence is the Proof: Part 2

Valerie Nicole is 21 today! Happy Birthday to our Little Middle! I wish I were there in OKC with you today, Sweetie.  Hopefully Aunt Rhonda is taking you to Ted’s for dinner!

We’re so proud of you, Val, and so blessed by God by your love for others and your joy for life. Have a wonderful day, daughter. We love you!


If the story of the Prodigal Son is the greatest story Jesus ever told, the story of the two disciples on the way to Emmaus is the finest scene Luke ever penned. It’s got everything: sorrow, suspense, mystery, a little bit of humor, a gradual dawning of light, unexpected actions, and a flurry of excitement. This is such a great story. And it is so about us.

The story is found in Luke 24:13-35. And it opens with the two disciples walking and talking together on the way from Jerusalem to Emmaus. It’s Sunday, Resurrection Day. The tomb has been found empty, the women have seen some angels, but nobody has seen Jesus.

But the focus of this story, at least here in the beginning, is on these two Jesus-followers. They’re in despair. They’re experiencing grief. There’s been a death and it’s ended their dreams. They feel hopelessness. For the past three days they’ve been in this place between dashed hopes and maybe possibly daring to hope again. There’s maybe a tiny fraction of a glimmer of expectation. But mostly it’s bad. For three days it’s been terrible. And these two disciples have adjusted to the numbness. They’ve accepted the reality of the situation and now they’re moving on. They’re in a haze, but they’ve accepted it and they’ve got to live with it. They’re resigned to the bad news, the bad feelings, and the bad circumstances. They haven’t given up, but they’ve certainly given in.

And they’re talking about these things with each other. Serious things. Life things. They’re not talking about their golf game or the dry weather or if anybody can ever beat the Patriots. This is a raw human conversation about important things, things that matter. And Jesus says, “That’s a conversation I want to be a part of!”

He asked them, “What are you discussing as you walk along?”
They stood still, their faces downcast.

It was difficult to articulate everything that had happened, how horrible everything was, the despair they were feeling. They couldn’t talk about it. It’s almost like they didn’t want to talk about it.

But Jesus forces the tough conversation. And then he opens up the Scriptures to them: “Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?”

They arrive in Emmaus and the two disciples invite him into their home for dinner. And that’s where everything changes.

“When he was reclined at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it, and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him.” ~Luke 24:30-31

The story of the resurrection meal in Luke 24 perfectly mirrors our experience as Christians. We go through seasons of sad dismay at the failure of our human hopes. We endure periods of frustration and doubt, depression and despair. Let’s face it, sometimes we can get into a dark place where we question where all this is headed. We wonder if God really is in control, if Jesus really is alive and reigning at the Father’s right hand, if things really are going to work out for me at the end.

Then we take our places at the table and we realize that Christ Jesus himself is with us. He warms our hearts with his truth, he comforts us with his presence, he assures us with his peace.

The realities of the Christian experience are revealed during our meals with the risen Lord. His presence with us at the table is proof that humility leads to victory, that suffering leads to glory, and that, through God in Christ, death leads to eternal life.



His Presence is the Proof: Part 1

I’ll suggest that the Church’s weekly communion meal is shaped at least as much, if not more so, by the resurrection meals of Jesus on that first Easter Sunday than by the Last Supper in the upper room. It’s the Resurrection Day meals that most inform the Church’s Lord’s Supper and give it its meaning. One of the main reasons is that the disciples first encountered the risen and living Lord at those meals.

The very day he walked out of the grave, Jesus made it a point to be present with his followers at the main evening meal. He showed up at mealtime.

In Mark 16, we’re told “Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating.” They risen Lord is physically present with them at the table. Luke 24 says “Jesus himself stood among them.” They offered him some fish and “he ate it in their presence.” The Gospel of John is describing this same scene when it says “Jesus came and stood among them.”

Jesus is present with his followers at the Sunday meal. He is here. He is with us at the table, eating and drinking with us on the other side of the salvation work he came to do. On the other side of his death and resurrection, Jesus is present with his people at the meal.

And his physical presence provides the proof of God’s promises. It’s the proof the disciples need to know for sure that Jesus really is alive and that God is really doing everything he says he’s going to do.

In John, Jesus shows them his hands and his side. “The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.” Thomas runs his fingers along the Savior’s wounds, he touches Jesus’ scars. Jesus says, “Stop doubting and believe!” And Thomas does: “My Lord and my God!” In Mark, the disciples don’t believe the reports of Jesus’ resurrection. Twice it says they did not believe — they didn’t believe Mary and they didn’t believe the two disciples who Jesus in the country. But after the supper with the risen Lord, they do believe. The dinner provided the proof. Everything changed. “And the disciples went out and preached everywhere.”

In Luke 24, the disciples thought the resurrected Lord was a ghost or a spirit. They thought Jesus was still dead. Jesus says, “No, it’s me! Look at my hands and my feet! It is I, myself! Touch me and see! A ghost doesn’t have flesh and bones!”

“Look,” Jesus says, “I’ll prove it. Give me some of that fish.” And he ate it in their presence. And the disciples went from startled and frightened to joy and amazement. Their minds were opened, it says, and they understood everything.

It’s very easy to see why these resurrection meals carry so much weight. The risen Lord is present, he’s actually with us around the table. And it proves everything. This is not a dream or a vision, he is not a ghost or a spirit, this is not group hypnosis or wishful thinking. When Jesus appears on Sunday to eat with his followers, the realities are revealed. In Acts 10, Peter is preaching about the resurrection of Jesus. How do you know it’s real, Peter? Where’s your proof? Peter says, “We ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead!”

Yeah, the resurrection meals are loaded.

But the ultimate expression of the deep significance of these Lord’s Day suppers is found in Luke 24:13-35. This is the account of the very first of these resurrection meals, the first meal Jesus shared with his followers the day he walked out of the grave.

I’ll be breaking it down in this space over the next couple of days. In the meantime, you might read the text. You’re already familiar with this great story.



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