Monday, October 28, 2013

A Sinner's Salvation Luke 19:1-10

Zacchaeus is well known among Sunday School Kids; but his story is for grown ups too.
Kids often sing of Zacchaeus as a wee little man. Small children relate to him easily. He heard Jesus was coming through Jericho. Unable to see over the crowd he ran ahead climbing a tree to catch a glimpse of the Rabbi (Luke 19:1-4). My youngest, now 4, often needs a lift up to see. Sometimes its riding up high on shoulders that she can catch what's happening around her.
Kid's can relate to Zacchaeus every time they step on stool to reach the sink or help stir in the kitchen. Every person who can remember being little and riding high on mom or dad's shoulders can connect back with this short man who just wanted to see Jesus when all he could see was the backs of the crowd in front of him.
Jesus called out to Zacchaeus perched in a tree. "Come down because I am coming to your house." Luke 19:5 Jesus kept his word. And the kingdom of God came close to Zacchaeus that day. This is where the story stops for most Sunday School Kids; and for many grown ups too. Man know sanitized versions of scripture. They know God loves and has compassion searching for the lost. This is all true. But the Bible's complicated stories of the lost who are brought back are often overlooked. Maybe the details are too dark or hit too close to home for us to face.
How do you imagine Zacchaeus About 13 years ago I read the Zacchaeus story with middle school kids. They all knew the song about the wee little man; but they didn't know the back story about his defrauding and extortion. In conversation they imagined making a movie about Zacchaeus. Who would they cast in the lead roll. One of the boys suggested Joe Pesci, a short actor famous for playing violent volatile characters who wielded baseball bats and guns. Now that's a hard edged Zacchaeus.
What matters for us today is knowing what Zacchaeus did in that day when he met Jesus. The day Jesus came to Zacchaeus' home was the day he let go of his past. It was in that day when he promised to make matters right with those he defrauded Luke 19:6-8. It was in that day that he both repented and believed. Salvation came for him that day, just as it still does for those who repent and believe Luke 19:9-10.
At All Saints this year imagine Zacchaeus as a saint in God's kingdom. A man guilty of crimes against his own people brought back into the fold. His story focusses us back on Jesus and the gift of new life that comes close to each one who believes. There's not need to climb up in the tree--just leave the old behind and come to Jesus, the miracle working God/man who came searching out those someone lost like Zacchaeus.
For all the saints redeemed by faith in the God of grace and mercy we give thanks. AMEN
Peace and thanks for reading, John.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

God heard his prayer Luke 18:9-14?

Jesus valued humility.
-not false humility-but honest to God humility. Jesus told a parable of two men going to pray Luke 18:9-10. One man prayed thanking God he wasn't like that other man. After all that other man was a known sinner Luke 19:11-12. And this known sinner couldn't even hold his eyes up to heaven as he cried out for mercy Luke 19:13-14.
So which prayer was heard?
The prayer of the sinner who called out to God for mercy. Jesus reveals God's heart for the whole world. The prayer God hears comes from the one who calls out in faith for mercy. This man had no works and no pride to bring--he only had faith in God and he counted only on God's mercy.
I don't consider myself good or holy on my own. I believe God alone is holy (Revelation 15:4) and good (Luke 18:19). I believe Heaven has no regard for fake humility or pious seeming actions done just for show--Jesus is clear those who for the sake of appearances
give alms Matthew 6:1-4
pray Matthew 6:5-8
fast Matthew 6:16-18
have already gotten their rewards in the attention they were seeking. Jesus is after something different than just the apprearance of holiness. Jesus tells his followers not to be concerned with what others see but to worry only and solely about what God sees--the heart. Jesus is incredibly consistent here. This is the same God/Man who tells us to store up for ourselves treasures in heaven that can never be stolen away or destroyed Matthew 6:19-21.
So what prayers will God hear from you?
Peace to you and thanks for reading, John

Monday, October 14, 2013

Prayers of Hope Luke 18:1-8?

Jesus taught his friends to pray through example and parable.
One prayer parable stands out: the story of a praying widow who needed an unjust judge to hear her case (Luke 18:1-3). Jesus wove a great story. A tenacious woman kept coming back to an unjust judge. She needed justice and wouldn't stop asking for it. The judge didn't care and ignored her time and again. And she kept coming back for justice. Finally, because she had not given up, the judge relented and heard her case (Luke 18:4-5). A hurting widow who wouldn't stop fighting for justice--Jesus presents her as our model for prayer and faithfulness (Luke 18.6-8).

Jesus understands a hurting person's need: Much like a desperate widow, praying people have only one place to turn. The living God is the final judge and in all cases is the only one who matters. After every other avenue has been exhausted there's hope for those who pray for justice. This woman was asking for the right thing to happen. She wasn't asking for evil to be done to her opponent. She was seeking justice. Likewise in our prayer we must only seek God's will. We must only seek what is just in the sight of God.
We as people choose many avenues as try on our own to make thing right ranging from medicine to law, counseling to silence. And after everything else has been exhausted prayer is the hope that remains. Some might wonder why we don't pray first in all situations. Jesus says we should call to God day and night Luke 18:6-7. There's something about human nature that comes out here. We don't always turn to God first; but there's a promise here too that God is faithful ready to hear our cries for His will to be done. There is a promise that God is searching to find those who are full of faith seeking for His will to be done.
What do you think?
Thanks for reading, John

Monday, October 7, 2013

who do you turn to in trouble Luke 17:11-19?

Reading Luke 17 this fall focusses me in on a simple truth: faith in Jesus saves.
Luke tells how Jesus spoke of a seed of faith being more than enough (Luke 17:5-6). Next Luke told of ten men with leprosy who saw Jesus and believed he could help. They called from a distance Luke 17:11-12--Ἰησου̂ ἐπιστάτα ἐλέησον ἡμα̂ς Jesus master, be merciful to us Luke 17:13. Jesus sent them on to a priest and the sores dissipated on the way Luke 17:14. One man recognized the cure and came back falling at Jesus feet in thanks Luke 17:15-16. Jesus asked about the other 9 (Luke 17:17) and turned to the man who came back--a Samaritain--saying, Your faith has made you well (Luke 17:18-19).

10 hurting men called to Jesus in faith. They believed he could help and he made them whole. Jesus was their savior. He was the one they called on for help. Human actions in times of trouble demonstrate who and what people cling to as their saviors. In short who people call to for help reveals their faith. The center of the Christian faith is confidence in God as savior in all situations.
Turning towards other saviors One podcasting pastor, Mark Driscoll, points out the functional saviors people turn to in troubled times. Driscoll points to many--ranging from money and food to substances and relationships. Others point to politics and power and wealth as functional saviors. These are all lesser gods people turn to when trouble hits.
Functional saviors are often short cuts and diversions that deliver for a time--trouble comes when either the functional savior hurts or fails to save. That's when the truth of faith is revealed. Faith isn't to be placed in anything or anybody less than God. Faith only holds when the one trusted is worthy of trust. Faith in God alone is what saves because God alone is worthy of trust.
Thanks for reading, John

Thursday, October 3, 2013

a little seed Luke 17:5-10?

Jesus friends asked him to, "Increase our faith."
Jesus said faith big as a mustard seed was all they needed (Luke 17:5). An observant Bible student noted the story behind Jesus' mustard seed promise. Jesus' friends were struggling. He asked them to forgive someone 8 times in 1 day. This was too hard (Luke 17:4). Anyone who's ever been betrayed knows the struggle to forgive. Jesus friends felt a need to grumble--this call to forgive is hard; it's truly impossible without God. Forgiveness means surrendering your anger and whatever you hold over another. Still their Lord spoke boldly--all they needed was the faith of a little seed.
A tiny seed, that's enough; that's it. A mustard seed is enough to forgive, to go to heaven, to live in this broken world. Still for 2000 years Christians want to be more faithful. Many have a felt need to do more to trust God. Scripture is clear saving faith is trusting in Christ--the living Son of God: it was the same 500, 1000, 1500, and 2000 years ago.
A great story of saving faith comes from the cross. 3 men were crucified. Jesus was in the middle. One harassed Jesus (Luke 23:39-41). But the other was saved by faith. His trust in Jesus opened the way to paradise (Luke 23:42-43). Trust in God is enough.(John 20:30-31). Like the ancient prophet said to the nation of Israel,

Look at the proud!
Their spirit is not right in them,
but the righteous live by their faith (Habakkuk 2:4 NRSV)
We strive for ways to be more righteous and honorable. We strive to be all the more deserving of God's grace and love. And all Jesus asks of us is the faith of a little seed--God will provide the rest.
Peace and thank for reading, John