Luke 4:16-30

And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,

 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,

because he has anointed me

to proclaim good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives

and recovering of sight to the blind,

to set at liberty those who are oppressed,

to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.  And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”  And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth. And they said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” And he said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Physician, heal yourself.’ What we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.” And he said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown. But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were shut up three years and six months, and a great famine came over all the land, and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff.But passing through their midst, he went away.

 We cannot help someone who does not wish to receive it.  He did not do the miracles and healing work He did elsewhere in his hometown; there was no belief, no faith, no wish to receive His message.  What He found here in His hometown was a desire for a show.  We find that today in many places.  People do not want real, do not want anything that will require a change, giving up a selfish lifestyle.  They want a show, a feel-good experience with no commitment.  Jesus requires commitment and promises a share in His suffering.  Not what many want to hear.  With it comes the adventure of a lifetime; satisfaction that comes from being reunited with the one who loves us, died for us, and works alongside us.  With it comes meaning in life. 

 Take away – We should not be surprised if rejection comes from those closest to us.  Jesus experienced it and gave examples of others who did as well.  Like Jesus moving through the crowd and going on his way, we can move through the rejection and go on our way continuing to spread the Word of God. …he has anointed me  to proclaim good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives  and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”  Jesus had a mission, we join in that mission; as He did not allow anything to deter His completion of that mission we also can continue in what He has given us to do not allowing anything to deter our completion of that work.

Led by the Spirit…

Luke 4: 1-13

And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness  for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry.  The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.”  And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.’”  And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written,

“‘You shall worship the Lord your God,

and him only shall you serve.’”

And he took him to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here,  for it is written,

“‘He will command his angels concerning you,

to guard you,’ and

“‘On their hands they will bear you up,

lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”

 And Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”  And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time.

 He went full of the Holy Spirit and the key piece of knowledge that can help us understand is, Jesus did not go alone, in the flesh.  Neither do we live this life alone, in the flesh.  Jesus was attacked at weak points of the human  nature, as are we.  He was attacked in his physical weakness of hunger, the human nature weakness of desire for selfish gain and power, and finally human nature’s desire for invincibility.  He fought these attacks with scripture, as can we.  He was attacked with scripture and the wisdom of the Holy Spirit  showed him the lie; we can ask for that.  He fought back again with scripture, as can we.  Knowledge of the Word of God and the nature of God is crucial here.  Words can be twisted and the father of lies is master of that skill.  God’s Word can be twisted as Eve found out:  Did God say….?  She fell and Adam followed.  That gave the reason for Jesus, often called the second Adam, to face the same tactics and not fall victim, but demonstrate for us the ability we also have in Christ, to defeat the attacks of the enemy. 

 A sure knowledge of the Words of God is necessary!  Without that we are vulnerable.  Do we see the reason it is vital for our spiritual and physical health and well-being to be in God’s Word, committing it to memory, reflecting on it and allowing the Holy Spirit to bring understanding and remembrance?  Are we His people, called by His name?  Then do we follow the command to humility; humble themselves and pray, the command to live life as he directs; turn from their wicked ways, selfish driven ways.  Are we listening?  Do we hear the call of the Spirit today? Are we following the Spirit’s lead?   His promise is true; he will hear and heal.

Humility comes first…

Luke 3:21-38

 Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”  Jesus, when he began his ministry, was about thirty years of age, being the son (as was supposed) of Joseph, …David…Noah…Seth…Adam, son of God.

 Jesus modeled humility.  He was baptized by John, prayed, the  Holy Spirit came upon him, he was spoken of by God as His Son.  We are given a picture of the spiritual, God-oriented nature of Jesus.  This is followed by a lineage tracing his human orientation back through Joseph to Adam and again called the son of God.  In 2 Chronicles 7:14 we are to humble ourselves and pray – Jesus models it here.  His ministry began at this point with his anointing by the Holy Spirit and confirmation given by God.

 We can do likewise, humble ourselves, put self aside; pray, seek God’s face and will; receive, His forgiveness and anointing of the Holy Spirit who dwells in us.  Then we too can begin our part in His work, our part in the work of the kingdom, our part in sharing the gospel.  We can do our part in the healing of the land by modeling – living the life he commands and lived before us.

2 Chronicles 7:14 – if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

Labor in vain…

The child shapes the adult.  Where should our focus be?  Do you want fruit-bearing adults?  Train up the child…Proverbs 22:6  states Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it, the adult is the result of all that has passed before.  How strong is the bond between the child and the Savior?  How supportive is the life surrounding the child?  Without God’s love manifest in our actions and words we labor in vain. 

 I am not the person I was ten years ago, five years ago, one year ago…but I continue to carry characteristics formed during childhood.  I was loved, in that love was a sense of security so deep I never developed the fears many around me deal with.  That love gave me confidence even when unsure!  My mission, therefore, is to be sure other children receive that same sense of security from being loved, knowing they are worthy of love.  God created us with that need, desire and capacity.  Our sin-filled, sinful nature would distort it.

 We must be a beacon of light in a world seeking love, having lost the capacity to love as was originally intended.  Having lost the capacity to love genuinely, without distortion, or perversion.  Children exposed to distortion or perversion become adults without the ability to love, adults who do not contain a sense of security and confidence that can withstand personal attacks.  They become individuals who easily take offense and retaliate. 

Fill our hearts with compassion.  Stir the hearts of our people with a desire to seek what is genuine not distorted.  With the ability to love genuinely once again will come the healing of our land and people, a healing we seek that can only come from changed hearts.  This is my prayer.  2 Chronicles 7:14 –  “if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.  Let the healing begin within our hearts, is my prayer.

Psalm 127:1  –Unless the LORD builds the house, They labor in vain who build it; Unless the LORD guards the city, The watchman stays awake in vain.  Without the desire to worship and fellowship, nothing will last.  The desire comes from the Lord.  Do we labor in vain, do we stay awake in vain?

What shall we do…

Luke 3:12-22

Tax collectors also came to be baptized and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?”  And he said to them, “Collect no more than you are authorized to do.” Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.”

 As the people were in expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Christ, John answered them all, saying, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

So with many other exhortations he preached good news to the people. But Herod the tetrarch, who had been reproved by him for Herodias, his brother’s wife, and for all the evil things that Herod had done, added this to them all, that he locked up John in prison.

 This has been a brief synopsis of John’s ministry from its beginning to its end.  Jesus’ baptism is treated separately by Luke when he begins to tell of Jesus’ ministry from beginning to end.  We return in this passage to a continuation of how John answers the question, How then shall we live?  The emphasis is on shall.  He answers two groups of people, those entrusted with a degree of power and therefore having the ability to abuse that power for personal gain.  His answer to them is one that highlights treating others fairly and holding the questioners to a high standard of conduct. 

That message is one we can heed today.  We too are advised to treat others fairly, not looking for ways to increase our personal gain.  We too are held to higher standards in fulfilling our duties as given; not giving in to the temptation to extort, falsely accuse for personal gain.  Our trust is in the Lord to provide what we need, not to trust in our own schemes to increase our potential gain.  We too are told to be content with our wages, be content with what he has provided.  The attitude is one of love and concern for others, one of contentment with where God has placed us, one that has an outward focus rather than an inward focus. 

This is where we come into conflict with the world around us.  We hear from our childhood to adulthood to attempt to improve our status with the emphasis on us.  The difference between those who came to John and those who did not was the difference in their focus and the inward drive.  One is to please the Lord, the other is to please self.  How then shall we live becomes more like how then shall we please the Lord.  God gives an answer in 2 Chronicles 7:14 – if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. Add this to what John answered, we have a beginning for experiencing change in our lives, in the present world situation.  What shall we do…

Repent and then…

Luke 3:1-11

 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness. And he went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.  As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet,

“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:

‘Prepare the way of the Lord,

make his paths straight.

Every valley shall be filled,

and every mountain and hill shall be made low,

and the crooked shall become straight,

and the rough places shall become level ways,

and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’”

He said therefore to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”

And the crowds asked him, “What then shall we do?” And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.”

“…repentance for the forgiveness of sins…. ” This must come first.  We see our condition without God, we are made aware of our sin-nature.  Those receptive to the Holy Spirit’s prompting respond with repentance, a demonstration of sorrow for the sinful condition and a desire to change.  Words given to us from God through John and later Jesus.  Words prophesied by prophets such as Isaiah.  The Word of God is powerful and will not return to Him empty.  Those coming out to John were relying on their heritage of descendancy from Abraham to keep them right with God.  But they were not living the commands they had been given.  They were shown the condition of their hearts, which drives their words and actions.  They asked the question, What then shall we do?; How then shall we live?  His answer is echoed later by Jesus:  Share what you have with those who have not. 

 This is true today as well.  When we realized our sin condition, we repent, we receive forgiveness, and we then ask the question, How then shall we live?  The answer is still the same.  Share what you have.  This applies to knowledge as well as physical goods.  The focus is outward not inward.  The mind-set is toward others not toward self.  A major shift that takes place when a heart is changed by God.  Are we sharing what we have?  Material possessions as well as scripture?  Our heritage and traditions are worthless if we haven’t received the heart change that comes with repentance, forgiveness and commitment to the Word of God.  When we do the Word of God becomes alive and active within us.

Drawn by the Word…

Luke 2:41-52

 Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom. And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, but supposing him to be in the group they went a day’s journey, but then they began to search for him among their relatives and acquaintances, and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, searching for him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. And when his parents saw him, they were astonished. And his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them. And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart.  And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.

“…all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers….” Who is he?  What does he do? “…Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” …”  Even after all the unusual circumstances surrounding his birth”…they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them. …”  He understood who he was and what he needed.  The Word of God was in the temple, being spoken and taught by teachers of the law. We have the Word of God, the scriptures in many forms from print, spoken to electronic.  He is saying “…I must be…,” it was necessary.  It still is.  We find ourselves in the Word, speaking it, discussing it, asking the Holy Spirit for understanding, applying it and living it.  The Word of God is active and alive within us.  We are following the model set before us.

Who is He? Who are we?

Luke 2:21-41

 And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

 And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtle-dove, or two young pigeons.” Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.  And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,

“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,

according to your word;

for my eyes have seen your salvation

 that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,

a light for revelation to the Gentiles,

and for glory to your people Israel.”

And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed  (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”

 And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four.  She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.

And when they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him.

 Who is God; what does He do?  He declared to Mary she would have a son, she did.  He had people in place to give witness by the Holy Spirit  to who Jesus was. He fulfilled His promise to Abraham and David, and his people, Israel.  He does what He says He will do.  Jesus has become a sign spoken against.  Christians today still face opposition for the standards He taught.  His Word is still able to reveal the thoughts of the heart.  Sharing His Word still brings transformation to those who receive it and begin to live by it.

 Let us not fail to share, let us not be hindered by the opposition we are told to expect.  Let us put our energy into living as He taught, teaching the young, and sharing the Word.

Peace, not fear…

Luke 2:8-20

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear.  And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest,

and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

 “…they were filled with fear. …” an event outside their normal everyday experience produces fear.  …“Fear not,”… a saying told to Zechariah, Mary and now these.  When we face unusual situations we are not to allow fear to rule.  “…peace among those with whom he is pleased!…”  This passage begins with a fearful event ends with a blessing of peace, a peace that is qualified by a standard, “among those  with whom he is pleased.” We can take note of this and apply it to our everyday life.  When events come our way that have the initial response of causing fear we can hear the Word of God saying “Fear not.”  We can speak that to the fear and expect it to leave for we strive to be among those with whom He is pleased, and we can have His peace within the stressful situation.

 The shepherds shared the message received, the experience.  Mary listened, received, hid in her heart and pondered/reflected.  We can follow the pattern we see here.  We can read God’s Word, listen to His voice, receive the message, hide it in our heart, put it to memory, and ponder/reflect upon what we have received.  Just as the message impacted the shepherds and all they told, we can share what we receive and the Word of God will continue to impact others.  We can put into action 2 Chronicles 7:14  -“if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land,” and remove fear from the present day events, receive the promise in the scripture, His peace, reflect upon it and share it with others.  Our prayers will impact our world.

Humility comes first…

Luke 2:1-7

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria.  And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

 What do we learn of the nature of God?  What do we find in the coming of Jesus?  He does what He says He will do.  David prophesied the coming of Jesus, from his lineage.  Prophecy is fulfilled.  Jesus comes in humility, with humble beginnings, born in a place where animals are kept and fed.  We would expect a Son of God to be born in a palace, a future king, better beginnings.  The first lesson taught is one of humility.  Regardless of position, whether one of authority or not, a humble attitude is desired.  Included in that introduction to Jesus is a lesson of dependability.  God does what He says He will, His word does not return empty.  He is faithful.

 Let us keep a humble attitude regardless of where we are positioned.  Even while in a place of authority, let us keep an attitude of humility.  Let us be found faithful.  Let our word be good. Let us be found dependable.  All characteristics of the people of God.  2 Chronicles 7:14  states we will humble ourselves.  We will not be guilty of elevating our selves over others.  The first lesson was humility.  The first requirement in coming to the Lord is humility. … if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.