Posts Tagged ‘Gospel of Luke’
Sharing a couple pages from my journal after reading the selections from the Daily Office Year Two (Book of Common Prayer). I started the book of the Prophet Joel and continue reading from the Gospel of Luke. My reflections follow:
“Cleansing the Temple”
A terrible thing has happened… the people of God have failed to live in right relationship with him. We know this because Joel calls the people to repentance; “Turn back to God…” (see Joel 2:12-14). What I read that is most tragic to me is the curse and devastation is so massive and far-reaching that it completely prevents the people from worshiping God in the way they have previously known and the way worship has been prescribed for centuries. There was a certain protocol for worship; there were certain sacrificial offerings for the remittance of sin requiring grain, oil, wine, and specific animals. Because of the devastation that had befallen the people, this form of worship and sin offering was not an option.
8 Weep like a bride dressed in black, mourning the death of her husband. 9 For there is no grain or wine to offer at the Temple of the LORD… 10 The fields are ruined, the land is stripped bare. The grain is destroyed, the grapes have shriveled, and the olive oil is gone. 13 …For there is no grain or wine to offer at the Temple of your God. (Joel 1:8-10, 13)
I am familiar with the Book of Joel, so I know the people are called to repent and turn back to God…and the LORD makes provision to do this despite the people’s inability to follow Temple protocol. The heart-breaking observation here is the realization of how disorienting and disheartening this loss of identity…this stripping away of self must be to the Hebrew people. Not only are their lives disrupted to the point of famine and ruin, but the thing they “know” to do (go to the Temple and offer sacrifices in a show of repentance), they cannot do.
I wonder if this is an example of and call to “die to self?” Is this God helping his people to strip away and remove a false identity? I think it is possible.
The people of God had relied upon their Temple worship as a means of supporting their relationship with God for generations. It seems the relationship that came with sharing the Dwelling Place of God had been taken for granted and was being used as a means to an end. When the people were backed into a corner or they felt “God was angry,” the thing to do was find a priest, offer sacrifices, appease the “angry god,” and move on. It is true that God had been the originator of the rules for Temple worship, but it was the people who had subverted what God had intended for good. In the process of subversion, the people had lost the thing that set them apart from the surrounding nations; they had lost their relationship with God.
I wonder if this might be a foreshadowing of Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple.
…For there is no grain or wine to offer at the Temple of your God.
“Give us this day our daily bread.”
“Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” Exclaims a man who is listening to the teaching of Jesus (Luke 14:15).
Jesus taught his disciples to pray; “Lord give us this day our daily bread…” It seems to me, that one of God’s greatest delights is the communion of fellowship. The unity and fellowship of the Trinity, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit is (I think) the greatest example of this perfect unity and communion, but God also reveals His passion for relationship and desire for communion with humanity in number of ways. The Bible teaches us about the joy God derives from walking with man as His friend (think Enoch, Abraham, and Moses as a few examples). We are taught about God “dwelling” in the tents of men (Moses and the Tabernacle in the wilderness). God enjoying sharing meals (with Abraham, providing manna for the Israelites for 40 years, Jesus’ delight in sharing food and wine…). Clearly, ours is a God of relationship, One who enjoys creating memories, traditions, a living history and shared heritage—feasts, festivals, dancing and singing with His cherished Creation. There really seems nothing that gives God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit greater joy than to “hang out” with His children… and it seems He also likes to provide “fresh bread” for the most of these gatherings.
“Give us this day our daily bread, we pray”
In the reading of Luke 14:15-24, I see a tragic parallel to our contemporary world. I hear a man exclaim how great it is to “eat and fellowship with God.” This doesn’t seem too far removed from conversations and the words of Christians in our world today. We might find ourselves in a Christian gathering or a church potluck and proclaim how wonderful it is to be in the presence of God, eating and sharing our blessings together, but Jesus offers a raw look into what is all-too-often our real world.
Jesus tells the people at his table about a man (God) who has prepared an elaborate banquet—a great feast—for which he has sent out many invitations. When the time draws near for the date of the banquet, many RSVPs are returned with excuses and reasons for people unable to attend; “They all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’” (Luke 14:18-20).
This parable is some two-thousand years old, but it seems that not much has changed. When I have the opportunity to spend devoted time with God, how often have sent him my RSVP with words like, “I’d love to go to church or read my Bible, but I have to work; I have chores at home; it’s my only day off; I have family obligations…”?
“Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!”
God has provided us with a banquet of fellowship fit for a king and unrivaled by anything imagined in the history of humankind. We have unparalleled access to God through the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit and His written Word to us. How can we justify not taking the time or making the time to fellowship with the Creator of All Things?
I think an even greater tragedy is how easy it becomes for us to take for granted this access to God and the “daily bread” He has prepared for us. As the people in the time of Joel took for granted their access to, and relationship with, God, He took that access away from them.
“…For there is no grain or wine to worship in the Temple of God.” Joel 1:13
In Jesus’ parable, so it happens also. If we fail to enter his fellowship… our fellowship, our access to the banquet and Bread of God may result with us being denied entry.
“For none of these I first invited will get even the smallest taste of my banquet.” Luke 14:24
May we never take for granted the gift of daily bread from our Heavenly Father. Blessed are those who eat bread in the Kingdom of God. Amen.
[26APRIL2012] Eastertide Devotional Series
I will be posting this devotional series as part of my Eastertide reflections for the next three weeks (see this link for other installments in the series). Each week of this devotional series focuses on a specific theme (week one: brokenness, week two: repentance, and week three: renewal). I hope you’ll enjoy the series and I invite you to comment here on the blog or email me direct; I would love to hear your thoughts.
“If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. I will be found by you,” says the Lord. “I will end your captivity…”
I’ve known about Jesus all my life, at least for as long as I can remember. My religious life and my ability to “walk with Jesus” for much of the first thirty-seven years of that time (I am now forty-eight) was start and stop, filled with highs and lows, and more often than not—filled with deception, incongruity, and frustration. And then, all that changed; instead of knowing about Jesus, I actually got to know him.
There is something about the dynamic with which God desires his people to relate with him. Early in the unfolding revelation of the God and man relationship, one of the most important instructions is received with the following words; “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” (Deut. 6:5). Our falling short of this mandate has proved to be the weak link in our ability to walk in fullness of experiencing and reflecting God’s kingdom on earth. I know it was the reason for my thirty-seven years of weak representation of Christian living. What changed for me was the sum of what many of these collective devotional writings of the past couple weeks represent—total devotion and desire to seek God wholeheartedly with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. I don’t profess to have the Christian walk mastered, not by a long shot, but mastering the Christian walk is not the command…seeking God and loving God wholeheartedly, whole-mindedly, whole-strengthedly, and whole-souled is. True spiritual renewal requires wholehearted participation, surrender and obedience.
Jesus speaks some very challenging and difficult words to his disciples when they ask him about why he speaks in parables. In Luke’s Gospel account, Jesus tells the Parable of the Sower. After sharing the Parable, Jesus tells them the following:
His disciples asked him what this parable meant, he said, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God, but for others they are in parables, so that ‘seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.’” (Luke 8:9-10 – compare Matthew 13:13-15)
Jesus actually says he uses parables so that those who aren’t really searching won’t find him. He makes it more clear following his explanation of the parable when he very specifically warns his disciples; “So pay attention to how you hear. To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given. But for those who are not listening, even what they think they understand will be taken away from them” (Luke 8:18). Making our search for God and relationship with God a part-time affair or compartmentalized hobby is simply unacceptable to God. He tells us his very Name is Jealous (Exodus 34:14). Halfhearted searching for God usually results in a god of our own making; however, seeking wholeheartedly will be met with fulfillment of God’s promise to find him and finding the one True God makes all the difference in the world in the life of a Christian…I know it has for me.
Our Prayer: O Gracious and Mighty God, help us to desire you more than anything else. We are so easily distracted, but you call us to seek you and love you wholeheartedly. You tell us this is the only acceptable way to find you and love you. Our spirit wants you, but our flesh is often weak, so we pray for strength to follow our spirit as we strive to crucify our flesh daily in our effort to seek and follow you.
We praise and glorify our Lord Jesus Christ, whom the Father has raised from the dead and mad the heir of all peoples. Let us cry out with one voice: Amen, alleluia!
“Open our minds, O LORD.”
Suddenly, Jesus himself was standing among them. “Peace be with you,” he said. But the whole group was startled and frightened… “Why are you frightened?” he asked them. “Why are your hearts filled with doubt?” Still, they stood there in disbelief, filled with joy and wonder… Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. (Luke 24:36-45)
These questions are the plague that echoes in the hearts of so many who believe even today. The Risen One, Jesus Christ, stands among us now, and we live as people who are startled and frightened…with hearts “filled with doubt.” We draw near to him (“come near, touch me…” - Luke 24:39) and still we stand in “disbelief” although we are filled with joy and wonder. Why the dichotomy?
I do not know that I can answer that question for everyone; we each have our unique twists to the reasons for our doubts and disbeliefs. As for me, I wrestled with trust. I was fearful I would lose my identity if I were to follow Jesus wholeheartedly. I feared He might choose a path for me that I would not want to travel. I feared He might want to provide for me in a fashion that was less than my standard. I feared He might want me to confess things I did not want to confess. I feared He might want me to present myself vulnerable…revealing my weaknesses and shortcomings to people I wanted to appear superior to. I wasn’t sure I could trust Him with these elements of my life, fearful of what He might do with them…I doubted Him. Then, “He opened my mind to understand the Scriptures…”
My mind is still being opened to understand Scripture; this is to be sure. But it was a revelation and Divine encounter with the resurrected Christ that changed my distrust into trust, my disbelief to belief, and my doubts to unshakeable trust. The course of my personal encounter involved Jesus revealing to me an understanding of what it truly meant to be crucified with Christ…losing my life in order to find it. All the things I had been fearful of losing I lost. I did lose my identity… actually identities—many false identities I have lost. God has slowly uncovered layers of “false selves” I confused with my True Identity. As I have trusted Him with losing myself, I have found more and more of the True Me that God has always intended for me to be…choosing not to live a facsimile of the image of God, but a true representation of a man created to reflect the image of God. I rejoice with delight in the ever-unfolding revelation of who I am in Christ as God continues His restoring work in my life showing me more and more who I am as He strips away my façades to expose our True self.
He also chose a path I would not have selected for myself…at least I would not have chosen it for one of my “false selfs.” Interestingly enough, as God has revealed Himself in me, I have found the path He chose for me uniquely suited for my gifts, experiences, and desires. I also found that God did have a different standard of living planned for me. While I wanted to pursue many material things and comforts for myself, I did not recognize the cost of them (long hours of work, sacrifice of family, sacrifice of relationships, compromise of ideals and principles). God’s lowering my perceived standards opened up time, space, and margin in my life to understand and enjoy the gifts He had already prepared for and given to me. Losing “my” standard allowed me to find a better and more life-giving standard.
Christ also showed (and continues to) me the way of humility and ongoing discipline of “emptying self” (Philippians 2:5-9). The kenotic life is the way of Messiah Jesus. The presentation of my own vulnerabilities helps me to love my neighbor as myself. The destruction of my pride bows me before the Cross of Christ and seats me with Him in the Courts of Heaven. And to think, I came desperately close to missing out on this gift because I did not trust Him…doubted His intentions of goodness for me…disbelieved that “dying to self” was birth canal of resurrection immortality.
Why are you frightened?
I am no more. I am in Him and He is in me.
Lord Jesus Christ, glorious Risen On, you are great and worthy to be praised All creation worships you, for you give life to all living things. In the name of every creature under heaven, we raise our voice to you and say: We bless your holy Name!
O God, whose blessed Son did manifest himself to his disciples in the breaking of bread: Open, we pray thee, the eyes of our faith, that we may behold him in all his redeeming work; through the same Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen
1 Answer me when I call to you, O God who declares me innocent. 3 You can be sure of this: The LORD set apart the godly for himself. The LORD will answer when I call to him. 5 Offer sacrifices in the right spirit, and trust the LORD. 7 You have given me greater joy than those who have abundant harvests of grain and new wine. 8 In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, O LORD, will keep me safe.
Open our minds, O Lord.
[26MAR2012] Lent 2012: Day 34—Reflection and Meditation
O God, who wonderfully created, and yet more wonderfully restored, the dignity of human nature: Grant that we may share the divine life of him who humbled himself to share our humanity, your Son Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
♦ Psalms 118
“On this day the LORD has acted; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24
My soul glorifies the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God, my Savior.
He looks on his servant in her lowliness; henceforth all ages will call me blessed.
The Almighty works marvels for me. Holy his name!
His mercy is from age to age, on those who fear him.
He puts forth his arm in strength and scatters the proud-hearted.
He casts the mighty from their thrones and raises the lowly.
He fills the starving with good things, sends the rich away empty.
He protects Israel, his servant, remembering his mercy,
the mercy promised to our fathers, to Abraham and his sons for ever.
[24FEB2012] Lent 2012: Day 3-Reflection and Meditation
♦ Psalm 138
“In the cross of the Lord, the tree of life has been revealed.”
Following Jesus is more than mental affirmation; following the Messiah who is depicted in the Scriptures is so much more than most people would be willing to “sign on for” or endure. Reading through some passages from Luke’s Gospel today got me to thinking about the cost of following Christ and wondering how many of us take Jesus’ words to heart. I wonder how many of us believe the points he was making… Hear his words as he speaks to his disciples in the writing of Luke chapter nine:
“If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.” (Luke 9:23-24)
These are strong words and not easily argued, but Jesus does not end his discussion with them. A few chapters later in Luke’s account Jesus talks about the “cost” of being his disciple and makes it very clear who can and who cannot be a legitimate follower. Hear again the words of Christ:
“If you want to be my disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison—your father and your mother, wife and children, brother and sisters—yes even your own life. Otherwise you cannot be my disciple. And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple. But do not begin until you count the cost…” (Luke 14:26-28)
I wonder how many of us really ponder the implications of these words. Yesterday I was considering the teachings of Jesus from his Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) and his teaching from the Sermon on the Plain (Luke 6:17-49). The way of life Jesus illustrates is utterly and completely selfless. It is a lifestyle based on pacifism and simplicity absolutely devoted to the worship and glory of One true God. It is a life depicting the will of one thing: “the love of God Almighty with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength,” and the “complete love of every neighbor, as we would love ourselves.” It is so easy for me to say these words, but I wonder… when pressed, are they words that I really mean? I like to think so, but as I wrote some of the teachings of Jesus in yesterday’s reflection—
“But I say to you that will listen, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you. (Luke 6:27-31)
Can I really live this way? Love my enemies? Do good to those who hate me? Do I let someone hit me without defending myself? Do I give to everyone who begs from me? On a single trip downtown, I will see ten beggars; do I give to every one of them… every time I go downtown? These are just a few of the instructions Jesus gives to us. Too often, my reply is to do everything I can to qualify those instructions to the point that I explain them away and tell myself I am not bound by them—”Jesus doesn’t really mean that we do all that stuff.” Truthfully, I believe he does. He does mean that we do all that stuff. That is the reason he taught it. I will explain it away because I do not want to do it, but I still want to be part of the “Jesus In-Crowd.” I don’t think it works that way; that’s why Jesus said “don’t begin to follow me unless you have counted the cost.” And, what is the cost? Everything.
How do we follow Jesus with all of our heart? There is only one way. Our heart must be his heart and there is only one way our heart can become his heart. It is the way Jesus instructed—it is the denial of our self; the false self, the self created from the Adamic nature. This is why Jesus was so emphatic about the fact we must be willing to “lose our life in order to find it.” It (our real identity and eternal life) can only be found in Him. How do we make this step or take this “all in” step? This step occurs when we are truly—of our own God-given, free will—willing to give up our life; all that we know and all that we are. Jesus said; “if you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.” This proposition is an “all” or “nothing” deal… there is nothing lukewarm about it (Rev. 3:15-16).
Dear children, keep away from anything that might take God’s place in your hearts. (1 John 5:21)
I think failure to understand this and make this choice to “count the cost and follow Jesus” is the misfortune of many of us who would call ourselves Christian today. There really is no other explanation why so many of us fail to live with power and authority of God’s indwelling Holy Spirit… otherwise, we would be exhibiting the nature and characteristics of the people Jesus spoke of in his depiction of the Kingdom of God in his Sermon on the Mount. I think if we read anything Jesus spoke of and have to ask ourselves, “Did he really mean that?”, we have likely failed to give ourselves over totally to him.
“Since I cannot know my God as I should desire to do, I will at least endeavor to love Him with all my heart.” -Anna Pak Agi
Jesus said, Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also.
[07JAN2012] Epiphany—The Cycle of Light
Yesterday marked the official ending of Christmas and the beginning of the next celebration and observance according to the Christian calendar with the coming of Epiphany. Christians around the world celebrate this day with various traditions (you can see photos of some celebrations around the world here). The observance of Epiphany, for some believers, extends beyond the observance of a day and continues to Ash Wednesday which marks the beginning of the Lenten season leading to Easter.
“…for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” -Simeon (Luke 2:30-32)
Epiphany (Greek; phainein—to cause to appear or to bring to light); for 2012 Cycle B, Epiphany is observed from Jan. 06, 2012 to Feb. 22, 2012 Ash Wednesday. Thus begins forty-six days of focus, reflection, and practiced living and following the life of Christ. Epiphany is also marked by three primary events in the life of Christ, which are: The visitation of the Magi, the baptism of Christ by John the Baptist, and the wedding feast with miracle of Christ turning the water to wine.
Seeing the Star, the Magi said: “This is the sign of a great king. Let us search for him and lay our treasures at his feet: gold, frankincense and myrrh.” Alleluia.
Epiphany is a “season of enlightenment.” During the weeks (five to nine depending on the moveable date of Easter) of Epiphany, believers focus their attention on the life, teaching, and unfolding revelation of Messiah Jesus as the Son of God and the Savior of the World. As we invest and immerse ourselves in the life of Christ during this observance, we simultaneously realize the coming of Christ and revelation of Christ in us—and as this revelation is realized in us, it is made manifest to those who are in our immediate circles of influence. The appearance of Christ to men; the revelation of Christ in men; the manifestation of Christ in men reveals the Christ to others… and this is the Cycle of Light that is Epiphany.
We who have seen the light of Christ are obliged, by the greatness of the grace that has been given us, to make known the presence of the Savior to the ends of the earth…not only by preaching the glad tidings of His coming; but above all by revealing Him in our lives… Every day of our mortal lives must be His manifestation, His divine Epiphany, in the world which He has created and redeemed. -Thomas Merton
Observance and Practice
There as many ways to observe, experience, and practice the Life of Christ as there are people…but we can learn a lot and develop solid foundations as well as regain our spiritual footing by following traditions of the church. It will be my practice this next forty-six days to immerse myself in the life and teaching of Jesus through study and reading of the Gospel according to Luke. I mentioned in an earlier blog post that I had acquired The Kingdom New Testament: A Contemporary Translation by N. T. Wright and Luke: The Gospel of Amazement by Michael Card. I am using these books as a means of entering the story of Jesus through the Gospels. Reading, reflection, and prayer are just one component of this Season of Epiphany; the other component is practice and transformation. Acting upon the Spirit’s urging in our life is the expected participation during this Ephiphanal exercise…with the expected outcome being transformed more into the likeness and character of Jesus.
May your Epiphany be an enlightened one.
Christ is baptized, the world is made holy; he has taken away our sins. We shall be consecrated by water and the Holy Spirit. Alleluia.
O God of light, your rising reveals all things in their true proportion. Illumine our lives, that we may see rightly, love deeply, and act justly. In the example of Jesus, we pray for the advent of your reign:
Our Father who lives in heaven, holy is your Name. May your kingdom come and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread and forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For yours are the kingdom, the power, and the glory for ever and for ever.
By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace. Amen.
[20DEC2011] Advent – Week 4: Readings, Reflection, & Prayer
♦ Psalm 66, 67 ♦ 116, 117
Today’s reading from the Daily Office [Book of Common Prayer] continues our reflection on the surrender of Mary to the will of God: “may it be as you say to your servant.” As I’ve pondered the surrendered heart of Mary over the past few days I’ve thought about the incredible challenges that were presented to her and the extreme difficulty that she faced over the course of her days. We can only imagine what some of these difficulties were since our recorded account of her life is limited, but the details we are given and the culture in which she lived gives us a reasonable understanding of what her life might have been like.
Our pastor shared a message from the “other side of the Christmas story” last Sunday. In this message he reminded us of the “slaughter of the innocents” ordered by King Herod (Matthew 2:13-18). In addition to this event there are numerous others shared from Scripture that give us insight that the early life of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus was anything but easy… They lived in a village that was scorned by their kinsmen, they were ostracized by the scandal of Mary’s pregnancy, they were hunted by Herod, and they were poor laborers who lived in obscurity among their community. The point in mentioning these struggles and “darker side” of being close to Jesus is that we often play up only the water-to-wine, feasting, water-walking, dead-raising Jesus over the persecuted and hated Jesus. If you truly follow Jesus with a totally surrendered heart and mind, then on this side of eternity life will deal you both sides of being close to Jesus: the incomprehensible glory and indescribably darkest of nights. I think there’s more time and brainstorming that could be spent here, but I want to move on.
As I’ve been considering this for the last few days I’ve been observing the circumstances of life around me, looking at the timeline of life and drama that is occurring right now in the daily living of people who have surrendered their will to following the Christ who is their savior. While God the Holy Spirit is our Comforter and gives us Peace in the midst of our journey, sometimes the journey is exceedingly difficult. Jesus said this would be so; “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 NLT). Pursuing the Christ and His Cross requires grit, passion, singleness of heart, and faith in the big picture (Luke 14:25-35). There is nothing easy about being wholly committed to Jesus.
Similarly, there is nothing passive about surrendering or living wholly surrendered to the LORD, Jesus Christ. On the contrary… it requires more action, faith, will, tenacity, endurance, courage, and risk-taking than any venture or activity I have ever been part of. History and the experiences of many other countless millions of Christians will also testify to this reality. “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.” Just as this was true with Mary, Jesus promised it would be true with us; “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth… You know him because he lives with you now and later will be in you. I will not abandon you as orphans—I will come to you” (John 14:15-18).
We are not alone and there is no such thing as a weak, wall-flower Christian. The ONE who opened His mouth and the universe came out…now lives in me. Weak? Passive? I think not. This is what surrendered to Christ is. As Mary said, “I am the servant of the Lord, may it be unto me as He says.” This is not only our surrender, but it is our battle cry. We know the trials of our faith will prove our genuineness (1 Peter 1:6-9) and lead us to the eternally rich life with Christ each follower so desperately desires.
Behold, I am the servant of the Most High God. May it be done to me according to your word and your will. Amen. – Let everything within you watch and wait, for the Lord our God draws near. Alleluia.
A Prayer in Psalm—
1 Shout joyful praises to God, all the earth!
2 Sing about the glory of his name! Tell the world how glorious he is.
3 Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds! Your enemies cringe before your mighty power.
4 Everything on earth will worship you; they will sing your praises, shouting your name in glorious songs.”
5 Come and see what our God has done, what awesome miracles he performs for people!
6 He made a dry path through the Red Sea, and his people went across on foot. There we rejoiced in him.
7 For by his great power he rules forever. He watches every movement of the nations; let no rebel rise in defiance.
8 Let the whole world bless our God and loudly sing his praises.
9 Our lives are in his hands, and he keeps our feet from stumbling.
10 You have tested us, O God; you have purified us like silver.
11 You captured us in your net and laid the burden of slavery on our backs.
12 Then you put a leader over us. We went through fire and flood, but you brought us to a place of great abundance.
13 Now I come to your Temple with burnt offerings to fulfill the vows I made to you—
14 yes, the sacred vows that I made when I was in deep trouble.
15 That is why I am sacrificing burnt offerings to you—the best of my rams as a pleasing aroma, and a sacrifice of bulls and male goats.
16 Come and listen, all you who fear God, and I will tell you what he did for me.
17 For I cried out to him for help, praising him as I spoke.
18 If I had not confessed the sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.
19 But God did listen! He paid attention to my prayer.
20 Praise God, who did not ignore my prayer or withdraw his unfailing love from me.
Psalm 66 NLT
LENT—Day 9: A Radical Response to a Wrecked Life [2011MAR18]
Scripture Meditations: Luke 5:8-11, 27 Luke 8:34-37
8 When Simon Peter realized what had happened, he fell to his knees before Jesus and said, “Oh, Lord, please leave me—I’m too much of a sinner to be around you.” 9 For he was awestruck by the number of fish they had caught, as were the others with him. 10 His partners, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, were also amazed. Jesus replied to Simon, “Don’t be afraid! From now on you’ll be fishing for people!” 11 And as soon as they landed, they left everything and followed Jesus.
27 Later, as Jesus left the town, he saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at his tax collector’s booth. “Follow me and be my disciple,” Jesus said to him. 28 So Levi got up, left everything, and followed him. (Luke 5:8-11, 27)
34 When the herdsmen saw it, they fled to the nearby town and the surrounding countryside, spreading the news as they ran. 35 People rushed out to see what had happened. A crowd soon gathered around Jesus, and they saw the man who had been freed from the demons. He was sitting at Jesus’ feet, fully clothed and perfectly sane, and they were all afraid. 36 Then those who had seen what happened told the others how the demon-possessed man had been healed. 37 And all the people in the region of the Gerasenes begged Jesus to go away and leave them alone, for a great wave of fear swept over them. So Jesus returned to the boat and left, crossing back to the other side of the lake. (Luke 8:34-37)
I have been considering these passages from the Gospel of Luke for a few days now. While there might be some disagreement as to what I see in these two scenes, I think they reveal what happens when people are confronted with Jesus and the Truth he represents. I think when Jesus confronts us and reveals himself to us we only have two real choices. Choice one is to accept him on his terms. Choice two is to reject him and ask him to leave us alone. The result of either choice will leave us with wrecked lives.
Everyone Jesus calls to himself, he calls to follow him. The call to follow Jesus will always entail your leaving your life behind you. While this will always be true in a figurative way, it is often true in very real way. For most people, their identity is rooted in “who” they are. This usually means they are “who” they are by “how” they have defined themselves (career, popularity, physical features, financial status, power, etc). The ways we define ourselves are usually man-made and independent of any work God has done in us. Therefore, to follow Christ will entail losing most (if not all) of these man-made images of self. Therefore, to follow Christ will mean wrecked lives… the first disciples were no different. Each disciple had an identity, a skill, an occupation, a family, and position of sorts…each lost much, if not all they had. In the account we read from Luke, we are told Peter, James, John, and Matthew all left everything they had to follow Jesus and become his disciple. Each man had family, each man had responsibility, and each man had a form of identity they chose to leave behind… a former self completely wrecked and completely abandoned.
The second scene reveals something of a different scenario, but no less dramatic encounter and confrontation with Jesus. The end result of this account with Jesus was different from the previous encounter with the disciples. Rather than acknowledging, as Peter did, that Jesus was “Lord” and following him, these people chose to ask Jesus to leave them alone…and he did. Their lives were no less ruined than the disciples’ lives; actually, their lives were probably more ruined because they had lost much of their livelihood and they had lost Jesus, sending him away. It is clear from the narrative that Jesus could have given them peace. He showed them evidence of his peace and power having healed the demoniac, but they chose to send him away and live with their wrecked lives.
I think our choices are the same today and our responses are the same today. Each of us is confronted with the living testimony of Jesus. We have the opportunity to let him wreck our lives and then rebuild them into something wonderful, something whole, something true, and something eternal. The alternative is to let him wreck our lives and then in our frustration and fear, beg him to leave us to our own devices, loneliness, and an even more fractured false self.
The response we make to Jesus’ appearance in our lives is a radical one. It requires extreme faith and trust to leave ourselves behind, but the decision to avoid or reject Jesus is no less radical… it is only a different kind of radical… radical in fear, radically stubborn, and radical ignorance. One radical response will result in recreated perfection cloaked in the light of Christ. The second radical response results in radical brokenness, radical darkness, and radical separation from the God who created and loves you.
Sitting on the fence is not a non-response. Sitting on the fence is the refusal to follow. Lack of commitment is a refusal to follow. There is only one response to Jesus’ confrontation… “Yes” or “no.” If you examine your life, what has your radical response been? “Yes” or…
We Don’t Know What We Don’t Know… Or, What you don’t know can (and probably will) hurt you.
“…Don’t be fooled by those who try to excuse sin” (Eph. 5:6). “Live as people of light!” (Eph. 5:8). “Carefully determine what pleases the Lord” (Eph. 5:10). “Light makes everything visible…” (Eph. 5:14). “So be careful how you live. Make the most of every opportunity… Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do” (Eph. 5:15-17).
As often happens with me, several things I am reading and considering converge into a single train of thought. In this particular case it is the thought of what happens to us as we seek more of God and grow closer to Him and the antithesis of that seeking, (or perhaps even antipathy of that seeking) spiritual sloth and apathy, toward growing closer to God and becoming more like Him (Ephesians 5:1).
I mentioned a couple days ago I was reading a small, but very deep book by Thomas Merton, Spiritual Direction & Meditation. Something I ran into while reading this book has rattled me along the same lines as this meditation from Luke I penned a while back. In it (among other things) I talk about the demise of the so-called “believer” or “follower” of Jesus who ignores or refuses the commands and obedient life of truly becoming a fully mature disciple of the Most High God, Jesus Christ. Merton provided me insight that I may have been cognizant of, but his words helped to clarify the thoughts milling in my own mind in a much more cohesive manner. Thomas Merton writes the following:
“The saints are, as a matter of fact, much more keenly aware of the gulf between themselves and God than are those who live always on the periphery of sin. As we advance in the interior life it generally becomes less and less necessary for us to stir up in ourselves this feeling of exile and of spiritual need. The soul that is only dimly enlightened by God has very little conception of its own indigence. The most serious faults seem to it to be quite harmless. Habitual self-complacency is almost always a sign of spiritual stagnation. The complacent no longer feel in themselves any real indigence, any urgent need for God. Their meditations are comfortable, reassuring and inconclusive. Their mental prayer quickly degenerates into day-dreaming, distractions or plain undisguised sleep.” –Thomas Merton, Spiritual Direction & Meditation; pp. 81-82
I’m not sure of the context that Merton is describing saints, so I’m not sure I fall into his categorization or not, but there are some things I do know. I know that for forty some years I have journeyed a rocky and convoluted path on my way to following Jesus in wholeness and in truth. I know when I was not seeking Him with my whole heart and full attention I was pretty much a man following a path that “seemed” right. I found out time and time again that path would lead me to discouragement, disillusionment, and ultimately… death (Proverbs 14:12). Throughout my four decades of on-again-off-again Christianity, I always wanted to “fit” Jesus into my plans rather than allow Jesus total control of my life so He might “fit me” into His plans. With each attempt that I made and with each alteration of course on my homespun version of discipleship, God refused manipulation through my methodology. What made me think that I might be able to shoe horn a so-so moderate “dose of Jesus” into my life; enough to make “me” better, but not enough to destroy my “self-envisioned” ambitions for attaining happiness on this side of eternity? I was “dimly enlightened” as Merton states.
What I have learned over the past decade of striving for the icrucified life is this: The more I seek God in truth and in spirit, the more of Himself He reveals to me. The more of Himself He reveals, the more wretched I am aware that I am. The more wretched I am aware of myself, the more I am driven to Him (Matthew 5:3-5). This attitude about “me” seems “self-defeating” and it is, but that is not a bad thing. What is bad is the desire to “save self” (Luke 17:33).
The title of this post is “we don’t know what we don’t know, or what you don’t know can hurt you.” So many of my brothers and sisters do not know what is hurting them. Their lack of desperate hunger for their Creator is taking them down a path of deception; apathy is death and without a desire to fan into flames the gift of faith within us, we will slip further away from Him…even without realizing it.
The majority of my life can be described as the person that Merton speaks of…“little knowledge of my desperate need.” “Serious faults seemed to be quite harmless…” “I didn’t have an urgent need for God.” Let me clarify; I’m not talking about when I was openly living my life outside of the way of God, I’m referring equally to the time when I was living inside the walls of the church. My guess is that I was not alone in my half-hearted faith journey. Ask yourself if your ambition reflects the heart of the psalmist (Psalm 42); does your desire long for God as the deer pants for water? In this same spiritual song, the writer tells us deep calls to deep… meaning that God draws us (our spirit) unto Himself. Do you sense this drawing? Do you respond to it or push it aside? The psalmist recognizes how barren his soul is and turns himself back to the God who saves. I sensed this same call; I heard the same voice (going on ten years ago) when I decided to stop trying to force God to dance with me and learn to follow His lead. Since that time, my ambition has been wrecked and remade. I no longer see myself as OK and all my complacency is gone. There is one thing and one thing only that drives me… Jesus, and the process of becoming more like Him… completely and utterly His disciple. Nothing else is as important as knowing my God, my Savior, and my King. May it be so, and may I be even more consumed by Him. Amen.
Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition, when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased. –C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory
If you’ve got fifteen minutes, try this video of Francis Chan…