I exalt me

Luke 14:11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Push, shove, bite, kick, scratch.  Whatever it takes, make your way to the top.  If there is someone who tries to get in your way, take them out.  You come first.  You are the most important.  Is someone else trying to get the same job you are?  Attack their character; exploit their poor choices.  Win at all costs.  Because you must look out for number one.  Don’t you want praise and accolades?  Don’t you want people to look at you and envy you?  Then you must be confident and exalt yourself above the rest.  Sing it with me, “I exalt me, I exalt me…”

Okay, now that we’ve completely covered the world’s way, let’s get Jesus to weigh in on this.  He said that everyone who exalts himself will be humbled and he who humbles himself will be exalted.  He is clearly speaking of eternity.  He is speaking of the day that we stand before the judgement seat of Christ.  Yes, truly what we do in this life will have an impact on eternity.  But did you know that eternity isn’t just something that happens after you die?  Eternity starts now.  Think of it  less in terms of time going on forever and more in terms of the absence of time at all.  So eternity is in the future and also in the present.

This principle that Jesus so pointedly articulates is not just an outcome that will happen someday.  It is a principle that applies to our life now.  You see, God will truly lift up the humble.  He says that he opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble.  (James 4:6, 1 Peter 5:5, Proverbs 3:34)  Do you get that self promoters?  God opposes you.  He opposes the way you are going about things and there will certainly be no peace or blessing in it for you.  But to the humble, he gives it all.  He pours out blessing and favor and honor to you.  Why does God do this?  It’s the whole less of me and more of Him thing.  He desires that we would give Him the glory in our lives.  A humble person can do that.  So pursue humility – not weakness, just confident humility.  God will lift you up and you will be exalted in His ways and in His time.

Is your donkey thirsty?

Luke 13:14-17   14 Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue ruler said to the people, “There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.” 15 The Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? 16 Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?” 17 When he said this, all his opponents were humiliated, but the people were delighted with all the wonderful things he was doing.

Traditiooooooooon.  Tradition.  Ah, Fiddler on the Roof.  Tradition.  Religion.  Rules.  This is what Jesus was up against.  Well, not the fiddler on the roof but the other stuff.  Somewhere in the midst of serving God, the synagogue rulers got lost in their tradition.  They elevated the letter of the law above the spirit of the law.  The celebrated tradition more than they pursued the power of God.  

Jesus wasn’t having any of it.  He was going to heal people regardless of the day.  He wasn’t a doctor performing a surgery; He was the great physician setting people free.  So when the ruler got mad at him for “healing” this lady, Jesus asked him if his donkey was thirsty.  Because if his donkey was thirsty he would untie him and give him a drink.  Jesus untied this woman spiritually and gave her a drink of living water.  What’s the difference, Jesus wanted to know.

We can get stuck in that whole tradition trap, too.  What would happen if someone got healed during a time of extended worship and ministry?  Would you be frustrated that they were cutting into the sermon?  Are we really pursuing tradition over the power of God?  Before you jump to conclusions, there’s nothing bad about a sermon.  In fact, there’s lots of good… I deliver one every Sunday.  But as a pastor, I must pursue ministry the way Jesus did.  I must look for the Father’s heart and go after it, regardless of what that might look like.  We should do the same in our personal lives.  We should be pursuing His agenda over our routines.  Try it today and see what happens.

Happy National Materialism Day! (aka. Black Friday)

Luke 12:31 But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.

I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving.  We do a weird thing here in the U.S. after Thanksgiving.  It’s something called Black Friday.  You’ve probably heard of it unless you live in an underground bunker.  Here’s how it works.  We spend a day with family and friends being ever so grateful for all that we have.  We sit around a table and share a grand meal, thanking God for His provision on our lives.  Our hearts and stomachs are full.  We are content; all that we have is enough.

Then we wake up early the next morning (this year it actually starting Thanksgiving evening) and set out to buy as much stuff as possible at amazing prices.  Somehow we have stuffed not only a Turkey, but contentedness and acquisition of mass quantities of electronics and other stuff all in one amazing weekend.  This is irony at it’s finest.  And yes… I am still proud to be an American.  But we are missing something, don’t you think?  We determine our peace of mind by our stuff and the security of our stuff.   We worry about having enough stuff and wonder if the stuff we have is as good as other people’s stuff.  It’s all about the stuff to us.  

Jesus said it should all be about the kingdom of God. We should seek that first.  If we would just get our eyes on that, he would give us all the stuff we need.  If he would truly become our peace and our security, he would make sure that we would be provided for.  We’ve got it backwards.  We tell him that once we have ourselves in a good secure place, we will give to him.  He said pursue His kingdom and he’ll give to you.  He didn’t say that you have to give it all up so you can suffer.  He just wants your focus right so it can all be added to you.  Priorities, my friends, priorities.  Enjoy your Black Friday shopping; don’t feel guilty.  Just make sure that your heart is where it should be – seeking FIRST His kingdom.  He’ll take care of the rest.

Knock. Knock.

Luke 11:9-10  “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.”  

Knock, knock jokes are pretty lame if you ask me.  Although when I was a kid I thought they were amazing.  Remember that annoying kid who would never stop doing the whole knock, knock thing?  At some point, I would stop asking who was there because I didn’t want to hear another lame joke.  But I have to give him credit for knocking.  At least he was persistent.

Jesus told us to be persistent, too.  He even told us to knock.  Because he isn’t going to open the door if you won’t put forth the effort to knock.  That’s how many people treat God, isn’t it?  They just hang out on His front porch expecting Him to do something.  They look in the windows, take a nap on the porch swing, and hope He will show up at some point.  But He wants us to knock.

Jesus said that if we would just ask, it would be given.  If we would just seek, we would find.  If we would just knock, He would open the door.  But we don’t.  We hope God will show up and fix our lives.  We expect Him to speak to us even when we don’t take the time to listen.  Then we get frustrated when he doesn’t.  He would say to us, “Pursue me.  Look for me.  Wait on me. Ask me.”  Will you?  Get specific with God about your need.  Tell Him what it is you need.  Pound on His door and you will find that He will answers.  

Mister Big Stuff

Luke 10:17-20  17 The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.” 18 He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. 20 However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.

Perspective.  That’s what Jesus gives the 72 when they return from their first mission trip.  They came back pumped up about all that happened while they were out.  Sick people were healed and even demons came out of people by the name of Jesus.  They thought that was pretty cool.  “No one can stop me now!”  But Jesus gave them perspective.  Of course the demons submitted to His name; Jesus was there when Satan was kicked out of heaven.  This shouldn’t really surprise you, Jesus was telling them.   And even though it’s true, don’t let it become what you get excited about.  Get excited about the fact that you get to spend eternity in heaven.

It’s good perspective, really.  I hear Christians talk about all the spiritual gifts they have.  I hear them talk about how effective they are at praying for people.  I hear them get all excited about casting out demons.  Don’t get me wrong, that’s all exciting stuff.  But what should be more exciting is our salvation and the salvation of others.  We get so caught up on what we have to offer and forget to rejoice in the one who offered it.  We think we are Mr. Big Stuff because of all our talents, but never mention who gave us those talents.

The focus should be on Him, not us.  When we focus on what we have and not on who He is, people will start turning to us and not Him.  Maybe that’s what you want, but it’s not what they need.   You shouldn’t have to talk about all your gifts, you should just give them back to the Lord by serving Him in them.  Talking about them usually comes from one of two places: insecurity and pride.  Sometimes it’s both.  It’s not about us, people!  It’s not about the gift; it’s about the giver of the gift.  So don’t rejoice in the fact that you’re all that, rejoice in the fact that your name is written in heaven.

You’re going down!

Luke 9:51-55  51 As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. 52 And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; 53 but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. 54When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” 55 But Jesus turned and rebuked them, 56 and they went to another village.

This is one of the funniest passages of scripture I have come by in some time.  The poor disciples must have been confused a lot, trying to figure out how to be a good follower of Jesus.  They tried so hard to have faith, but it just never seemed to come out right.  Just a few verses earlier, we learned that they tried to cast out a demon and couldn’t do it.  Now they think they can call fire down from heaven.  Slow down there, cowboy.

Why fire from heaven anyway?  What gave them this crazy idea in the first place?  Whatever the reason, they felt it would be a good idea to get offended on behalf of Jesus and make those Samaritans pay for it.  I wish he would have said yes, actually.  Maybe we would have a good narrative of how the disciples started making huge gestures and commanded fire from heaven only to have nothing happen.  I can only wish.  “You’re going down, Samaritans!”

Had they not figured out that this was never Jesus response to opposition?  He had no need to be defended. He didn’t need them to destroy someone for his sake. But the disciples didn’t get it.  Unfortunately there are many Christians who still don’t get it either.  They destroy others for the sake of Christ.  They pour judgement out of their mouths like fire… only it’s not from heaven.  Because it’s not God’s heart.  He has not asked us to defend Him; He has asked us to show His love to the world.  There is a big difference, really.  One brings death and the other brings life.  You don’t have to try so hard to defend Jesus – just live like Him and He will do the defending on His own.

Who touched me?

Luke 8:25a “Who touched me?” Jesus asked.

This is one of my favorite verses in the Bible.  Now I realize that Jesus said lots of crazy things.  Most recently in my reading of Luke 8, he is sleeping in a boat that is sinking.  He wakes up, calms the storm and asks, “where is your faith?”  That’s not even a fair question.  I mean, the boat was sinking after all and He was sleeping.  I digress.  Jesus asks the question of who touched him and I can almost see the look on the disciples’ faces.  “You’re kidding, right Jesus?”  It says in verse 42 that there were so many people around, that the crowds almost crushed him.  The disciples told him so, too.  “Jesus, EVERYONE is touching you!”   I love it and I must admit I probably would have told him the same thing.  It’s like when a pastor says during a sermon, “if you’re here today and …”  Uh, we are all here today.  Did you forget we were sitting here listening to you?  That’s just the thing; everyone was touching Jesus.  Yet He wanted to know who touched him.

There must be a difference between touching Him and touching Him.  At least that is what He was saying.  Many bumped up against him that day; many were even pressed against him.  But only one person truly touched him.  She connected.  She experienced the fullness of his person and his power.  Yes, many people watched his miracles that day and many heard his teaching.  Hundreds and hundreds of people were inspired by him enough to follow him.  One was changed by the power of His touch.

Who are you in this scene?  Do you desire inspiration or touch?  So many Christians have been bumping up against God for years and yet have never truly experienced the power of his touch.  His touch brings life and healing.  But you have to want it and you have to pursue it.  I don’t want to live my life only being inspired by God, I want to live my life being touched by His presence and His power.  If you have been a member of the crowed, bumping up against God in your life every now and then, I challenge you to reach for his touch today.  Reach for his love and his healing.  If you will just make that connection, you will never be the same.

Use the door

Luke 7:29-30  All the people, even the tax collectors, when they heard Jesus’ words, acknowledged that God’s way was right, because they had been baptized by John.  But the Pharisees and experts in the law rejected God’s purpose for themselves, because they had not been baptized by John. 

Picture yourself standing at the front door of the house.  You can hear people having fun inside and would like to go in too.  But you don’t really believe in using doors.  Unfortunately all the windows are locked and you haven’t mastered the skill of making your body go through a wall yet.  So you are stuck on the outside, because you wouldn’t use the door.  It’s your loss, really.  There is much fun to be had inside.  Not only that, but if it starts raining, you are going to be miserable.  And if you live in Washington, it is inevitable that it will happen soon.

Do you know what happened to the Pharisees?  They couldn’t enter the house that was the truth about Jesus Christ because they wouldn’t use the door.  The door was repentance that came through baptism.  People that came to John came to repent.  But not the Pharisees; they were too religious to repent.  They couldn’t see the error of their ways.  If you refuse to see the error of your ways, you will not likely receive the truth that Jesus has to bring.  You see, repentance comes before freedom.  Repentance is the door for grace.

So many people want the grace without the repentance.  They want to enter the house without using the door, but it just doesn’t work that way.  Jesus came to make a way.  He said that he was THE way, THE truth, and THE life.  Do you get that?  There are not many roads to grace.  There are not many roads to heaven.  No, there is just one: repentance, forgiveness, and justification through Christ Jesus.  Have you tried to shortcut your way into grace?  Have you been too stubborn or too prideful to admit where you are wrong?  Use the door today, my friend.  Use the door.

Good fruit, bad fruit

Luke 6:43-45  43 “No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. 44 Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. 45 The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.

Holy smokes!  Luke is applying it’s foot with force to my hindquarters.  I can’t seem to get past Luke 6 today.  I had like 5 things to write about Luke 5 and there are probably 6 I want to write about Luke 6.  In this chapter, Jesus talks about loving my enemies, calling Him Lord and not meaning it, and judging others.  How do you just pick one thing that stood out?  I think if I ever decide to preach through the book of Luke, it would probably take at least a year.

So to verse 43 – no good tree grows bad fruit and no bad tree grows good fruit.  It’s an interesting picture, really.  Jesus was taking a picture out of every day life to make His point.  A tree isn’t just about fruit.  The internal health of the tree is critical.  It needs a good root system.  It needs water, food, and sun.  If  it is dead inside, it will not produce good fruit.  But you can’t see the inside; so fruit becomes an indicator of the actual health of the tree.

A bad tree can’t fake it and neither can a good one.  It simply produces fruit based on the its health.  Such is the case for the believer, Jesus says.  It is the internal state that affects the external production.  What’s inside comes out.  So what’s coming out of my life?  If I am an angry person, where inside is that coming from?  If I talk harshly to others rather than building them up, what does my heart look like?  We get so hung up on fruit, but Jesus pointed us to the health of the tree.  If you’ve got some rotten fruit coming out of your life, you can’t just fix the fruit.  You need to get the tree healthy.

Where’s the party?

Luke 6:10-11   10 He looked around at them all, and then said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He did so, and his hand was completely restored. 11 But they were furious and began to discuss with one another what they might do to Jesus.

What in the world is going on here?!  There is a man with a shriveled hand who comes to Jesus on the Sabbath.  Jesus talks to him for a minute and his hand is miraculously healed.  We have no indication that Jesus touched him, told him to be healed, or anything of the sort.  Regardless, the hand was healed!  There should be whooping and hollering.  There should be a huge celebration!  People should be asking, “Where’s the party?”  Instead, the Pharisees got angry.  What kind of a response is that?  They were not at all happy for the guy who received the miracle; they were overtaken by their own issues.  

I wonder if we ever have the same problem.  Someone gets blessed and we get jealous.  Someone gets healed and we get resentful.  Someone succeeds and we get mad.  What is it, friends, that causes us to respond in such a way?  Because the one who suffers most from this response is ourselves.  Responding negatively to another’s success is a sign that we have some areas in our life to look at.  Have you been caught up in this trap?  Are you unable to rejoice with others? If so, ask God to examine your heart today and reveal the places where you need healing.  Let’s not be like the Pharisees; let’s strive to celebrate the successes of those around us.