Thursday, September 26, 2013

if they don't listen Luke 16:19-31?

Jesus told a powerful story of rich man who went into eternal torment. Meanwhile the poor man he'd stepped over week after week suffering next to his front door went into the arms of Abraham Luke 16:19-23. The rich man called ought across a chasm from his suffering for help him--but no one could reach across the divide Luke 16:24-26. He called for Abraham to send him back to at least tell his brothers. But Abraham replied that people have already been sent and even if someone rose from the dead they wouldn't listen (Luke 16:27-31).
Not listening to God isn't a new problem--but what's the root of the problem: is it our ears or our hearts?
Adam and Eve had this problem (Genesis 2:16-17, Genesis 3:1-24). The first sons, Cain and Able, had this problem (Genesis 4).
The issue isn't a hearing problem rather it's a heart problem. Moses tried to convince the hard hearted Pharaoh that God wanted the children of Israel to leave Egypt (Exodus 4:21, Exodus 7-14). People in Jesus day heard but didn't listen either. In our day we have hard hearts and a God who sent the law, prophets and His own Son that we might have faith and live. So what will it take to set us back to right with God when we become so hardened to the truth of God's love and mercy.
What will it take to reach the hard hearted who no longer believes in his own need of repentance:

  • argument
  • prayer
  • a miracle
  • a combination of all three?
What do you think? What will God do to reach the hard hearted? Peace, John

Monday, September 16, 2013

Did Jesus justify mismanagement in Luke 16:1-13?

Any who think Jesus gives clear simple step-by-step guidance for Christians living ought to read this parable in Luke 16:1-13. This is no 5 step Christian living plan; it's a parable inviting deep reflection about money, values, and relationships.
Jesus' story sounds realistic--a money manager mismanaged the bosses affairs (Luke 16:1). As soon as the books are opened by the boss the fiscal dysfunction will be clear (Luke 16:2). In a moment of panic the mismanaging manager hatched a plan: use the remaining time with access to the books to make friends fast (Luke 16:3). If the plan worked begging and ditch digging wouldn't be needed to keep body and soul together (Luke 16:4). The mismanager cut a debt to the boss of 100 jugs of oil down to 50. 100 barrels of wheat becomes 80 (Luke 16:5-7). With the old bosses debtors now in his debt the mismanager quickly crafted a silver parachute.

So what's the point. On the outside this seems like a terrible story to teach repenting sinners to live as children of the light. But Jesus wants his followers to key in on a what this man did. He used what he had to make friends fast (Luke 16:8-9). Even the boss who was coming to fire acknowledged how this shrewd dealing spared trouble for the mismanager.
The mismanager might argue there was no malicious intent in the mismanagement--but that's not the point and wouldn't satisfy any bosses demands to fairly reconcile accounts. Likewise we might argue to God that we didn't intend to hurt anyone by our actions--rather Jesus encourages us to think again about how we act in this broken world (Luke 163:8-9). How do we use the gifts God's given? Are we faithful or dishonest? What will we do as the wiggle room disappears (Luke 16:10) all around us?
Honest to God Jesus talks about money as a way post to something bigger--to the true riches (Luke 16:11). He invites us to be faithful to heaven first in what we use and in how we serve (Luke 16:12) because only in heaven do we actually possess anything--only in heaven do we have our true master who deserves our true and complete devotion.
Let me know what you think, Did Jesus justify mismanagment?
Peace to you, and thanks for reading, John

Monday, September 9, 2013

God's heart revealed in parables Luke 15:1-10

Jesus demonstrated God's audacious love for the lost when ate with sinners Luke 15:1-2. His actions goaded self-righteous Pharisees. Jesus responded to their grumbling with 3 parables (now heard in Luke 15:3-32) each revealing God's heartfelt love for the lost.

  • a shepherd went after 1 lost sheep leaving 99 behind (Luke 15:3-7)
  • a widow searched for a missing coin and rejoiced after finding it (Luke 15:8-10)
  • a father stood by waiting for his son to come home and held a feast when he came home(Luke 15:11-32)
Jesus' parables reveal God's heart for those lost in this world. In all 3 stories there is rejoicing in Heaven as the lost are restored back to God.

Who am I in these stories? I see myself in two places this year--
1) I am a sinner saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). I am one of the lost God has saved by grace. It doesn't matter if I am one who God searched out (Luke 15:1-10) or if I am one who came home to God's open arms (Luke 15:11-32). What matters is the joy in heaven at the restoration of the lost.

As a member of the church--as a pastor called to share the good news--I read these words thinking of the times I've judged someone to lost for even God's love. Reading these stories reminds me of God's will to both search out the lost and welcome back those who return in repentance.

2) I am a Pharisee annoyed by Jesus fellowship with sinners. Jesus love for the broken extend the Kingdom way beyond the self-righteous. In all my attempts at piety I find this story challenging--I have no special place with God or in God's heart. No God's heart is so great that it encompasses the lost and forsaken as well as the proud. I need no special place--God's heart already includes a space for me claimed not by my works but by my faith.

A wise teacher gave salient advice for reading the gospels. Whenever Jesus was in conflict with the Pharisees substitute the name Lutheran in their place (it works whatever your denomination or group might be) just substitute your beloved factions name in their place. It's easy to cheer when Jesus digs hard into somebody else--but the moment when he's really giving it to you is often the moment when you are exposed again to God's grace in your life.

Peace, and thanks for reading, John

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

following Jesus = cross carrying Luke 14:25-33

Following Jesus leads inevitably cross carrying--maybe that's why Jesus offers no promise of easy street or pain free living. Instead Jesus says whoever won't carry the cross isn't fit to be his follower (Luke 14:27). We don't like these kinds of words and often ignore them even when the come from God. We want God to embrace us as we are--but Jesus wants us to pick up our crosses and follow him (Luke 9:23) Jesus didn't have a theology of glory or a gospel of prosperity. He promised a cross for his friends and knew one was coming for himself. Jesus made no bait and switch sales pitch to entice the huge crowd who came to hear him (Luke 14:25). Instead our Lord spoke the plain truth--there will be costs paid and sacrifices made for the sake of the kingdom of God (Luke 14:26). Jesus invites us to follow with eyes wide open to the very real cross carrying that comes included when we walk with him as his friend and followers.

So what will you do about with the cross as Jesus follower?
In one sense Jesus disciples can do nothing about the cross--it's just an inevitable outcome of walking with Jesus. But how we act, knowing that the cross is coming and especially when we are carrying its weight in our lives, is our choice, as Jesus' followers. Jesus embraced the cross on which he would be lifted up for the sake of the whole world. He embraced it as the father's will (Luke 22:42). Embracing your own cross as part of the Fathers will is part of following Jesus. Jesus told two mini parables to illustrate the point, one of building without thinking through the cost (Luke 14:28-30) and one of going to war without considering the opponent who comes to fight(Luke 14:31-33). These stories intensified his point: his followers will make sacrifices and they have advance warning.

Many of heroes in the faith--who serve as models of how to carry the cross--stand out because of the joy they shared with the people around them as they gave up everything for the sake of the kingdom. Corrie ten Boom and Dietrich Bonheoffer are two in the last 100 years who literally gave up everything--even family--for the sake of God's kingdom and his righteousness. In our age when family and children become idols Jesus' radical message of surrender sounds even more shocking--but the truth is plain to see. Following Christ means cross carrying and through the cross comes rising in Jesus to new life.
Peace and thanks for reading, John