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First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @ firstpresjoliet.org

Month

March 2014

Luke 12:35-48 – Always Ready

Luke 12:35-48

Jesus is full of illustrations in the passage this morning.  Christ wants to make one thing exceptionally clear: be ready.  Don’t get distracted or be caught unaware.  In the first illustration Jesus tells the disciples to “stay dressed for action”.  The garments of the day weren’t particularly suited to work.  If one wanted to do some running or manual labor, you had to tuck the robes into the belt.  Jesus wants his hearers to be ready for work. He then describes a master who is out late at a wedding.  The servants of the house need to be ready to let him in, not asleep inside the house leaving the master out in the cold.  Just like the servants need to be ready for the master, we need to be ready for the return of Christ.

What I find really interesting about the passage is the end.  Jesus describes an actively disobedient servant who is harshly punished.  Then He describes a servant who wasn’t necessarily actively disobedient, just ignorant of the gravity of the situation.  What’s interesting to me is that even the ignorant servant is held responsible for his actions.  Whether ignorant or actively disobedient, God expects his servants to be ready.  Are you ready for work?  Are you ready for the return of Christ?

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Luke 12:22-34 – Please stop talking Jesus.

Luke 12:22-34

The Gospels are pretty sweet ride, we get to see it all.  We see Jesus spend three years telling everyone what’s up.  Is he gentle?  Sure.. but not if you’re cheating people in the temple and there’s a whip around. He’s vocal, gentle, brash and loving.  He can’t be bought and he won’t stop speaking the truth.  Then there are passages like this one.  These ones make me wince because Jesus turns His indomitable truth machine in my direction.

Jesus starts with “do not be anxious about your life…”  because God can and will take care of you. Verse 28 is where it starts to get sticky.  Jesus compares worry with “little faith…”  Essentially He’s saying, your worrying shows you don’t trust me. Ouch.  I don’t think Jesus is against stewardship, I mean, Jesus isn’t saying, “don’t worry about your health… cancel the gym membership and quadruple your bacon intake.”  That’s a completely different sense of the word worry. Instead, He’s making it clear that I’m not supposed to live in fear; He can take care of me.  Are you willing to give God your health?  How about your children? Their education?  Your marriage?  Our church?  Your 401k?  What if it doesn’t work out the way you think it should? Will God still be enough or will your worry turn to resentment? Oddly enough, God has always expected this kind of trust.  Whether its the disciples heading out without food or Paul singing songs in prison, we don’t see a whole lot of worrying out of God’s people.

Now that I’m reeling from conviction, it gets worse.  So what response does Jesus command?   Sell your possessions. Give them to those in need.  You don’t need to have a full checking account or a lot of stuff, God can take care of your needs. Trade your worthless gold for heavenly gold.  After all, our treasure can only be one place; its here or its in heaven. Passages like this make me wonder if I’m really conforming to Christ or if I’m just justifying my conformation to culture.

 

 

 

 

The Story of the Greedy Farmer

 

Luke 12:13-21

13 Someone out of the crowd said, “Teacher, order my brother to give me a fair share of the family inheritance.”

How many times do you feel dragged in the same situation that Jesus finds himself in? Someone out of nowhere will ask a question that puts you in the middle of a conflict or situation that either seems impossible or is a lose – lose situation. That’s the best way I can describe today’s reading.

Jesus speaks to the heart of the issue: greed. Greed that separates brother from brother, greed that destroys every once of humanity.

Life is not about that, life is about understanding who you are in the light of God and reaching out.

15 Speaking to the people, he went on, “Take care! Protect yourself against the least bit of greed. Life is not defined by what you have, even when you have a lot.”

Life, lived under this understanding goes to brings people together, it’s about self-sacrifice, giving of yourself and filling your life with things that are a reflection of heaven.

Be blessed,

Bo M.

“Shout from the rooftops…”

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Today’s Passage:  Luke 12:1-12 (ESV)

Yesterday, the Pharisees were hostile – trying to trap Jesus.  And, today, we hear, “beware of the yeast of the Pharisees” – hypocrisy that has blinded them to the reality of God’s presence among his people and, like yeast, it is spreading.  Now it is easy to stop and focus only on this but don’t miss the large crowd present – 10,000 actually translated from Greek.

Jesus, on his way to Jerusalem, is teaching his disciples to be leery of the Pharisees’ yeast but there is something else very special in Luke’s words.  The very large crowd present…Jesus’ words are not secret words.  Amidst the hostility of the Pharisees, Jesus is teaching, as we have heard before, for those “with ears to hear”.  Jesus is seeking those with ears that are not “blinded” by the Pharisees yeast.  Discipleship is open to all…or, in today’s words, Jesus is trying to reach those that are yet to know him – the unchurched.

Jesus is teaching that even though there may be tough times – even though what you say won’t be liked by all…the truth of the gospel is not a secret or just for a select few.  The truth of the gospel is to be shouted from the rooftops for all with ears to hear.  Jesus is teaching that the truth of the gospel will cast its light on false teaching.  The irony here is that the Pharisees appear to want allegiance to their religion but Jesus is saying that “true religion” is not just about avoiding the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, rather, it is all about loving him already in their midst.

Today…by the Spirit of God the church lives…it worships…and it witnesses and seeks the unchurched.  Jesus, I believe, had no desire for people to fall in love with the church and its activities…he did desire, and always taught, for people to fall in love with him…to surrender their lives to him and then to be the church.

Lord Jesus…I pray our ears would hear…let us not just listen but shout from the rooftops…because there are thousands out there.

Luke 11:14-54; “Opposition And Woe”

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+11%3A14-54&version=NIV

Now Jesus encounters severe opposition.  Those who are against him begin to oppose him by slander.  They are so bold as to tell people that Jesus’ power over demons comes from his alliance with the prince of demons, the devil (Beelzebul).  But Jesus raises serious objections. There were other exorcists in Palestine in that day and time, “your sons.”  Therefore Jesus asks by what power do they cast out demons?  Are they in alliance with the prince of devils?  If  they are not then Jesus is not.  If Jesus is condemned then they must condemn their own sons.  Furthermore, no kingdom divided against itself or in civil war with itself can stand.  But in fact, Jesus casts out demons, heals, and teaches because the Kingdom of God is in their midst.  God is acting for good in and through Jesus, but there are those who call what God is doing, evil, of the devil.  It’s a serious thing to slander the work of God.  We do well not to pass hasty judgment on the ministry and mission of Jesus Christ in the world through his people.   Sometimes, it is very easy for us to pass judgement upon other churches and Christians who launch out into ministry that is much different from what we might have envisioned.  May we ask God to give us eyes of faith to truly see what God is doing in the world.

William Barclay calls verses 24-28 “The Peril of the Empty Soul.”  He cautions that we cannot leave a person’s soul empty and expect good things.  It’s is not enough to banish evil thoughts or impure spirits.  We cannot build a life of faith on negatives.  Christianity is not a catalog of what not to do.  The best way to avoid evil is to do good, to love, and to live the life of faith in Christ Jesus.  What will we do today to move life toward the kingdom of God, to move closer to the will and way of Jesus?

Foreign people, in fact the enemies of Israel, heard the message of Jonah and repented.  In Jonah, the people of Nineveh heard and recognized the voice and will of God and responded in faith.  The Queen of Sheba recognized the wisdom of Solomon.  Now someone greater than Jonah or Solomon is in their midst.  The greatest sign God could send is Jesus, his only Son.  The people wanted Jesus to do something sensational to prove that he was from God.  Just as Jonah himself was a sign to Nineveh so Jesus himself, in his person, was the sign from God.  He would not do sensational signs to satisfy their curiosity or demands.  The privilege of seeing Jesus was so great and such a privilege that the generation  who saw Jesus would be severely condemned for failing to recognize him.  Refusing to acknowledge Jesus as Lord and Savior, when life is all spent and done, is to condemn oneself.

No one hides the light; lights a lamp and then places it underneath a bowl to be hidden.  We are to see that the light of Christ shines in and through our lives.  Hiding the light is rebellious and next we read of those who hide and extinguish the light.

The Pharisees gave their deepest allegiance to minute details of the law; outward details and external matters that in the final analysis were not what was most important.   They ignored love, mercy, justice, and generosity that made a difference in peoples lives.  Over and over again Jesus says woe.  Woe to that kind of existence; woe to that type of life, and woe to everything that is against the life and light and love of God.  May we know what matters to Jesus and be about those things.

This is certainly a challenging passage.

 

Luke 11:1-13: Ask and you shall recieve

I can remember back to when I was but a young lad, and as kids tend to do, I would nag my parents about getting something that I really, really wanted.  It may have been something as silly as a candy bar or ice cream, or it may have been something that was important at the time, like a new skateboard or whatever the case may have been.  I was good at the craft of persuasion.  I was good at working the crowd, my parents as it were, knowing how to pin one against the other until I was able to get something I so desired. Sometimes it would be an epic fail, being reminded of how many things I already had, or how another round of ice cream was unhealthy.  Sometimes, I would have to wait until dad got home from work, or we would have to “wait and see”, which usually was another way of saying no.  But often, because my parents didn’t want to disappoint, I would ultimately prevail.  What probably made it worse for my parents is that my two brothers and I would gang up on them and make it nearly impossible to deny us.

In this passage, we hear about a man who goes to a neighbor asking for bread to feed another friend of his who dropped on his doorstep.  But he isn’t making this request for bread at 9 a.m., noon, or dinner time.  He is making the request at MIDNIGHT!  I’m sorry, but I would be a little annoyed with my neighbor if he came over at midnight, ringing the doorbell, waking the dog and the baby, just to ask for bread, not because he was hungry, but because a friend of his who stopped by was hungry.  But the man is insistent and won’t leave his buddy alone.  Finally, his persistence pays off, and he prevails.

Jesus relates this to how we should pray to our Father.  Ask and it will be given to you.  Seek, and ye shall find.  Knock and the door will be opened.  But don’t do it just once in a while, only on Sundays, or on Christmas and Easter.  Persistently ask God for what you NEED.  So there are a couple of important things here in my mind.  We need to pray often, and not feel rejected if our prayers aren’t answered immediately, or as quickly as we would like.  We should continue to pray.  If our buddy next door would finally give us a loaf of bread at midnight just to shut us up, how much more would God, who loves us more than we will ever understand, give us.  But these prayers should be filled with our needs, and not our wants.  I don’t think God is going to be in a big hurry to grant us a fancy sports car, winning the lottery or a close parking spot at the mall on a cold day.  But He will listen to us and grant us what He feels we need.  Remember what we have heard on this blog and in recent sermons; not our will, but His.

Can we be patient enough to wait for Him to give us what we need?  Can we be honest enough to ask for only what we need and not what we want?  It is my prayer that the answer to both of these questions is YES.

Matt Blaser

 

Luke10:25-42: My worthless neighbor

Luke 10:25-42

I love the guy questioning Jesus in the passage this morning. This guy already has in mind what he wants Jesus to say. Much like I do at times, he goes to God looking to justify his behavior rather than conform himself to God’s will.  Jesus says “love your neighbor.” The expert says, “not a problem.. who’s my neighbor?” He’s fishing for something like: “all the other Jews of course” or “the guys who lives on your street, obviously.” Jesus answers the question with a story.

Jesus tells the story of a man on a journey. The guy gets mugged, which would have been every travelers worst fear back then.  They rob him and leave him for dead.  A priest and one of his countrymen walks by but they’re to self-absorbed to help. Then walks by a Samaritan, a mortal enemy of the Jews. This Samaritan treats the man’s wounds and pays for his room and board at a local bed and breakfast.  Jesus ends the story by asking, okay.. who is the travelers neighbor? Under any other circumstance the answer would have been “the priest” or “the Levite.” In this case though, the answer is obvious.. and it stings; the Samaritan was the travelers neighbor.

The obvious truth here is that we are commanded to love EVERYONE, not just those who are culturally similar. You don’t like the Tea Party? Mmm.. bummer, you need to love them. How about our president? Yep, him too.  Vladimir Putin? Yup. Growing up I lived next door to a drug dealer; absolutely him as well. That jerk at work; of course.  Don’t get me wrong, loving someone doesn’t mean we pretend everything is okay, in fact, love often demands the opposite. The truth is however, we need to be just as concerned with those around us as we are ourselves, whoever they might be.  Who do you need to love today?

Go and tell

Luke 10:1-24

Yes, I know you have heard that simple message over and over again. And let’s be honest, as simple as the message is, those simple words scare most of us. But really, i do not want to talk about the who, hows and when one should speak about Jesus’s message.

I would rather speak about the second part of the story. The part where the disciples come back and share the stories of faith with each other. They speak about how the kingdom has come, about how they are received and all the things God has done. That is something i miss hearing in so many of our conversations. The times when we share our own life stories, those stories where God has done amazing things.

Sometimes that what we need, someone sharing their own stories. We seek to be superheroes of faith, but sometimes we lack the inspiration, the heroes, we miss seeing those that walked before us or along us and made a difference.

Maybe today you can share a little of your faith story something that will encourage someone. Maybe you can talk about that prayer that was answered, about being at the right place at the right time. What’s your story.

Be Blessed,

Bo M

“Jesus, Did I Hear You Right?”

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Today’s Passage:  Luke 9:51-62 (NRSV)

Today’s passage begins Luke’s travel narrative and there is a great deal contained in these 12 verses including rich OT allusions and references that I won’t touch on today for the sake of space.  Jesus sets his face on Jerusalem…he is now on the way to his exodus, the cross and resurrection.  Throughout the travel narrative (through 19:27), we will see how Jesus views people and their religious assumptions…beginning with today.

Just like the start of his ministry in Galilee, Jesus meets opposition – opposition that is telling of the rejection that lies ahead.  Rejection…of Jesus who was planning to bring his ministry to the Samaritans.  The Sons of Thunder want to strike them down just like Elijah but pay attention to Jesus’ response.  Jesus does not seek vengeance – he’s on his way  to show that dying and forgiving is more important that killing and vengeance.  The message is to look at the temptation to use violence to achieve right.

And this is our segue to teaching on discipleship.  Did you read those responses of Jesus?  For many, if this is the requirement for following Jesus, it seems he is turning away more than gaining.  Jesus, did I hear you right?  I may be physically or culturally homeless?  Loyalty to you demands priority over family?  Did I hear you right?

Faith can be expressed and experienced in a variety of ways but there comes a time when each one of us must be able to state our depth of commitment.  Where Jesus is in our lives can’t just be one of convenience or worse, taken for granted. When choosing to set our face on Jesus, being a committed follower, we must know in our hearts that it is not a part-time or ‘just when we feel like it’ way of life.  Most Christians would probably agree that following Jesus is primary to their basic faith and beliefs.  The big question is, ‘What does this mean?’

Is it a matter of simply listening and learning or is there a deeper commitment involved?  The Christian journey does not demand that we reject our responsibilities to family and vocation.  It does create a tension within us though that challenges us to see these needs in the light of our faith and through a lens of our commitment to Christ.  This tension is what Jesus is teaching on…that if things in our life mean too much to a person, then discipleship will be too demanding and costly.

I think the following quote from John Ortberg helps understand resolving the tension of deeper commitment…

Ortberg quote

Or, click on this (I really like “Coffee with Jesus” – very humbling)…

coffeewithjesus424

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