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Category: Luke (page 1 of 2)

Where is Your Faith?

While reading the story in Luke 8:22-25 about Jesus calming the storm it can be difficult to not react to Jesus’ chastisement of His disciples. After all, don’t we see them setting an example to be followed?

They set sail for the other side of the lake with Jesus and while He caught some shut eye, a terrible storm broke out and the boat was filling with water. The Bible even tells us they “were in danger”. And so, in response to their clear and present danger, the disciples woke Jesus saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!”

If we freeze frame right there, we might think we have a good Sunday school lesson plan. Sometimes we find ourselves in stormy situations in life and when we do, we should cry out to Jesus to help us and He is faithful to do so. And while this may be true, Jesus says something that gives us pause. Maybe our Sunday school lesson is not ready for primetime just yet. Because as we continue reading we see Jesus rebuke the wind and the raging waves, the storm ceases, and He asks the disciples, “Where is your faith?”.

Where is your faith? What a question for us to consider. Is your faith in Jesus? Or, is your faith in the activity of Jesus? Are you at peace in the presence of Jesus? Or, are you only at peace when Jesus is doing what you think He should be doing? Read more

A Prescription for Anxiety

After sharing ‘The Parable of the Rich Fool’ with His disciples which was a warning against trusting in an abundance of earthly posessions, Jesus continues with a warning to those who have a different type of problem. They aren’t wrapped up in trusting in their abundance but rather they are worried and anxious about their lack. They are worried about where their next meal will come from or what they have to wear or whether or not they will have shelter. To them, Jesus said,

do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you. 

“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.

Luke 12:22–32

I don’t know if you caught this or not but this is an imperative; a command from Jesus. “Do not be anxious” about these things. Maybe you’re thinking, “that’s easy for Him to say” but these things are worth worrying about. Let’s break this down and see what Jesus’ rationale is for giving this command.

  • Life is about so much more – not only does Jesus remind us that life is about much more than just what we will eat or wear, He also points out that God cares for us very much. If He takes care of the ravens (a dirty, ugly, scavenging bird) how much more will He take care of us?
  • Worry is futile – Jesus says our worry is not helpful and doesn’t produce fruit in our lives. All of our time and energy spent worrying can’t even add a single hour to our life span (in fact, it’s probably taking time away). By referencing the way that God so ornately clothes the lillies of the field (which will be in the compost heap tomorrow) how much more will He care for those whom He has claimed as His own?
  • Worry demonstrates a lack of faith and a worldly perspective – if we have faith (and Lord, help us in our unbelief) that God loves us, cares for us, and has adopted us as sons & daughters, there is no need to worry. We have been set apart so why would we behave similar to those who do not know the Father? 

Unfortunately, my experience as a follower of Christ has revealed that there is no magic antidote to worry and anxiety. It is not something that instantaneously went away the minute I was born again. It is something that has been part of my own personal process of “working out my salvation”. It is one of the areas that is continually being sanctified. But my experience has revealed there are specific things that have helped me worry less and to be less anxious. 

What follows should not be received as a guaranteed “3-step formula to worry less”. This is simply how I have attempted to respond to worry and anxiety in my own life. I don’t believe that any “successes” are due to my process or any efforts of my own. It is all by the grace of God. However, following are the things that I have been compelled to do out of obedience and a desire to draw nearer to the Lord.

  • Daily time in God’s word – spending regular time in the word of God gives me opportunity to be reminded of the truths of God’s character and His promises. It allows me to be encouraged by reading the accounts of how He has so faithfully provided for His people throughout the years. It transforms and aligns my thoughts and renews my mind in Christ Jesus.
  • Journaling – while reading the Bible allows me to bear witness to God’s faithfulness to His people through the ages, journaling allows me to consider and document how God has extended His grace and has revealed His faithfulness to me in particular. I have been blessed over the years to review old journals and reflect on how God has provided for me and continued to grow me in my faith.
  • Prayer – spending time before the Lord in prayer is another key element in the sanctification process that has caused me to grow in faith and worry less. There is something about humbling myself under God’s mighty hand and casting my cares upon Him that really allows me to then focus more clearly on the truth of His attributes; who He is, what He has promised, and how He is working in and through my life. Paul was on to something when he said, “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)

By God’s grace may we not worry about anything other than Him receiving the glory and praise that is due His name.

Acknowledging the Son of Man

And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God, but the one who denies me before men will be denied before the angels of God.
Luke 12:8–9

As I hit the verses reference above during my time in God’s word this morning I found the following thoughts rattling around in my head.

Although it seems like a simple and straightforward idea, acknowledging Christ does not come as easy as it should to most of us. Sure, we can acknowledge Christ within the four walls of the church, in our small groups or while hanging out with other believers. But once we find ourselves outside of those contexts, it becomes much more of a challenge. And yet, that is what Jesus is talking about here; acknowledging Him before men.

Oftentimes we fail to acknowledge Jesus because we are too busy trying to calculate how it will influence the social dynamic or the situation in which we find ourselves. Sometimes we fear ridicule or worry about impacting how others perceive us. In some parts of the world we have to worry about being persecuted beyond just idealogical opposition or mockery. In some parts of the world our very life could be at stake if we acknowledge Christ.

Really, it was probably no different for the disciples who were hearing this first-hand from Christ. They too would have faced political, religious and cultural opposition. They too would have been at risk of being mocked. They too would have been put in physical danger; even to the point of losing their lives.

The other thought I had was on this idea of denying Christ and how most of the time it’s not about outright denying Him as much as it is simply the failure to acknowledge Him. It is denial by ommission. Our denial is silent. We don’t say anything because we are afraid. We shrink back in fear because we lack boldness. We don’t say anything because we lack faith. And yes, sometimes we even outright deny Him before men. Even Peter experienced this, didn’t he?

So, what can we do? How are we to gain the courage and boldness to acknowledge and proclaim Jesus before men?

And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.
Luke 12:11–12

Let us not forget that we have a Helper. We have a Counselor. We have the power of the Holy Spirit upon which we can rely and depend. We have a loving Father in heaven who desires to give the Holy Spirit to those who ask. He will lead us and guide us into all truth. He will teach us what to say in those moments when we have opportunity to proclaim Christ. The question isn’t whether He will help us. The question is whether we will obey.

I find encouragement as I consider Peter this morning. At one point, he denied Jesus before men three separate times (all before the rooster crowed). But later, after Jesus ascended to the right hand of the Father and sent the Holy Spirit, Peter found himself filled with wisdom and power as he stood before the leaders and authorities of the day and boldly proclaimed Christ without shame or fear.

May we all avail ourselves of the power of the Holy Spirit and never fail to acknowledge Jesus; both in word and deed. For His glory and our joy.

Hindering Children

children

But Jesus called them to him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Luke 18:16

This morning as I read the verse referenced above I couldn’t help but think about all the ways that I (individually) and we (collectively) hinder our children from coming to Jesus. I couldn’t help but try to identify the things we do (or don’t do) that hinder our children from coming to Jesus. In fact, I’m willing to bet that there are some things we do that we perceive to be “good” but in fact, they hinder our children from coming to Jesus.

Although I’m sure that if given the time I could come up with a much more exhaustive list, following are just a few of the more “obvious” ones that came to my mind:

  • We lead them to morality (instead of Jesus) – we are more concerned with good behavior instead of a heart that is conformed to God’s heart and a life that’s transformed by the Holy Spirit.
  • We don’t lead them at all – we are apathetic and lazy and don’t exert any spiritual leadership in the lives of our children.
  • We expect too little from them – we make them feel and think as though Jesus and discipleship is for the grownups while we relegate them to the playroom and teach them watered down Bible stories appropriate for kids that make heroes out of Noah, Jonah and David instead of Jesus.
  • We don’t lead with grace – and consequently, they are left with a pattern of failure and condemnation as they try (in their own strength) to be good instead of realizing that they (in their own strength) can’t be good and that they are in desperate need of God’s grace.
  • We don’t provide an example worthy of following – because we are lacking in our own relationship with Jesus, we are not comfortable telling them to “imitate me as I imitate Christ”. And to be clear, our example is not about perfection. Sanctification can be a messy business. Let’s not hide this from our kids.

My motivation in identifying things we do to hinder our children is not to highlight all the areas where I (and we) are failing. Rather, my desire is to increase my awareness of these things that I might be better equipped to avoid doing these things and to come up with solutions. To that end, if you have other ideas for how we hinder our children from coming to Jesus, please note them in the comments below.

Listen to Him

Today I read through the account of Jesus’ transfiguration and how Peter and those who were with him witnessed the transfigured Christ meeting with Moses and Elijah. What was interesting to me this morning was how at the end of the account, God the Father entered into the scene and had but one thing to say.

And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!” – Luke 9:35

When God said this, He was actually interrupting Peter who was busy telling Jesus that he wanted to set up three tents; one each for Jesus, Moses and Elijah. But God cuts Peter off to say, “listen to my Son”. Yes, Moses (the one who mediated My law) is there but listen to my Son. Yes, Elijah (My prophet who delivered My word and performed miracles like raising a boy from the dead) is there but listen to my Son.

Seems pretty simple, doesn’t it? God doesn’t give a laundry list of of things to do or requirements to fulfill. He doesn’t leave much to interpretation. He simply says, “listen to my Son”.

After Peter and those who were with him had just enjoyed the most amazing spiritual experience of their life, there was one takeaway; listen to Jesus.

Are you listening?

Letting down the nets

letting down your netsJust imagine with me for a moment. You are an expert fisherman. In fact, your entire existence is focused on fishing. Where to fish, when to fish, how to fish. What time of day to fish and how deep to fish. Fishing is your livelihood. If you don’t catch fish, you don’t eat. If you don’t catch fish, you can’t pay the bills.

Now imagine you have just returned from a long, frustrating night of fishing. Nothing went your way and you have returned to shore with empty nets. Now, despite the fact that your time and energy yielded no return, you still have to clean your nets. You’re tired, hungry and stressed out about how much money you lost today. And here comes Jesus.

Jesus has attracted quite a crowd and there are so many people pressing in around Him as He walks by the lake, He’s looking for a little breathing room. He steps in to your boat and asks you to put out a little from land. As you oblige, He sits down and proceeds to teach the crowd that has assembled on the shore. And then, He has the audacity to do this:

And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” Luke 5:4-5

Put out into the deep and let down my nets for a catch? Your blood starts to boil a little bit. After the night you just had, the last thing you want to do is head back out and do it all over again. Especially after you just finished cleaning your nets.

Sometimes the Lord asks us to do things that simply don’t make sense. When we evaluate His commands using our own logic and reason, it just doesn’t add up. When we consider the potential outcomes of obedience to His commands, sometimes we just don’t think it’s worth it.

But then we see the example of Simon. Now sure, he makes it a point to tell Jesus that he toiled all night and took nothing. In other words, “this will be a waste of our time”. But still, he obeys. He says, “at your word I will let down the nets”. At your word. Sometimes the important thing is not what’s being asked as much as Who is asking.

I pray that I would have that attitude. That even though I may confess my doubts and even though things might not make sense to me, I would obey His word. Not because I understand it. Not because it makes sense to me. But simply because it’s His word.

I pray that His word is always enough for me. That I might not need, depend or rely on anything more than His word. That I walk by faith in response to His word and not by sight. After all, His word is living and active. His word is useful for teaching, correcting, rebuking and training in righteousness. His word created the heavens and the earth. His word called a dead man out of a grave.

Lord, at your word, I will.

Gracious words

And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth. Luke 4:22

Just a thought; wouldn’t it be nice if this was the response of all people with whom you came in contact? What a testimony if this was the impression that non-believers had after interacting with those who proclaim Christ as Savior and Lord.

For full context, see Luke 4:16-30.

An opportune time

wildernessAfter Jesus was baptized by John, the Bible tells us that Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness where He ended up being tempted by the devil for 40-days. Notice that the devil didn’t lead Jesus into the wilderness. The Spirit lead Him into the wilderness to be tempted. This isn’t the main thought for me this morning but it’s important to remember that God, in His sovereignty, sometimes leads us into the wilderness to accomplish His purposes.

Of course Jesus, in His perfection, resists the devil and all of his temptations and does not sin against God the Father. Jesus didn’t resist by engaging in debate with the devil. He simply quoted scripture. Jesus responded to every temptation by speaking the truth of God’s word. What an encouragement and example of why we should saturate ourselves in the word of God.

And then, after 40-days in the wilderness of being tempted by the devil we see the following:

And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time. Luke 4:13

The devil was stonewalled. The devil was shutdown. It became obvious that he was getting nowhere. And so, he quit. He quit because Jesus persevered in resisting him. Just like we’re told in the book of James: “resist the devil and he will flee from you.”

But notice something else. The devil may have given up on that war but he didn’t necessarily give up on the battle. It says that the devil departed from Jesus until an opportune time. Now I’m not going to speculate about what an opportune time may have been for the devil to resume his attacks on Jesus (the garden of Gethsemane, perhaps?) because that’s not really the point. The point is that the devil is always looking for an opportune time to attack. We’re told that he prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. We should be aware of this fact.

That awareness should not cause us to fear though. It should instead cause us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. It should give us a desire to be filled with the Spirit and to be filled with the Word that we might be equipped to adequately resist the devil when he does attack. It should encourage us to put on the whole armor of God that we might stand against the schemes of the devil.

Be filled with the Spirit. Be filled with the word of God. Resist the devil. Stand firm. Fight the good fight of faith. By His power. For His glory.

That you may have certainty

written downIt can be normal for people to experience doubt. Doubt that God really exists. Doubt that God is who He says He is. Doubt over whether God really loves us. Doubt about our salvation. The list goes on.

While it might be normal for us to experience doubt at times, it is important to remember the best antidote to doubt. You see, many people try to address their doubts by applying their own rationale, logic, or reason in an effort to increase their confidence in the things they profess or desire to believe. Some people rely on extra-Biblical literature and other people’s opinions logic and rationale to address their doubts.

Reading in Luke this morning, I’m reminded that there is a better way to help address areas of unbelief and to bolster confidence in the things of God.

“it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.”
Luke 1:3-4

Luke acknowledges his motivation and reason for writing his book is that Theophilus might have certainty concerning the things he had been taught about the good news of Jesus Christ. Could it be that, like Theophilus, we might also look into this book in an effort to increase in our own certainty?

If you are struggling with doubt, I encourage you to:

  • Acknowledge and confess your unbelief to God.
  • Ask God to help you with your unbelief.
  • Read, study, and meditate on God’s word.
  • Pray that the Holy Spirit leads and guides you into all truth.

My prayer for this year is that I will increase in my certainty concerning the things I have been taught and that, in response to those things, I order my life in such a way that my Father in heaven receives all the glory, honor and praise that He deserves.

Complaints and moans

“But I call to God,
and the LORD will save me.
Evening and morning and at noon
I utter my complaint and moan,
and he hears my voice.”
Psalm 55:16-17

Nobody likes whiners and complainers. And usually, when we are the ones doing the whining and complaining, we feel justified in our whining and complaining. More often than not, we are not even really aware that it might be perceived as whining and complaining. I have a few people in my life where whenever I talk with them, it always involves them complaining and moaning about things. Nothing is ever positive. The glass is always half empty. They are your typical Eeyore. I always feel tired and rundown after interacting with them. I try to be patient. I want to feel compassion and sympathy. I work hard to be a good listener. But for the most part I spend my time trying to come up with a good excuse to end the interaction. Good thing I’m not God.

In my reading today I came across Psalm 55 and the verses referenced above jumped out at me. Basically what the psalmist is saying is that all day long – morning, noon, and night – he complains and moans and God hears his voice.

God is very long-suffering. God is very compassionate. God is a very good listener. God doesn’t look for easy outs. Rather, He longs to hear our voice. He longs to hear us cry out in dependence on Him and to acknowledge that He is where our help comes from.

And then, later in my reading, I came across the following verse in Luke 18:

“And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily.
Luke 18:7-8

This is a snippet from the Parable of the Persistent Widow. Crying out to God day and night does not elicit the type of reaction that I experience when listening to people complain and moan all the time. God hears. He desires to give justice without delay.

These verses say a lot about us learning to cry out to God. But they say even more about the character of the God who hears our voice.

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