The law has not lost its force…

Luke 16:16-18

 “Until John the Baptist, the law of Moses and the messages of the prophets were your guides. But now the Good News of the Kingdom of God is preached, and everyone is eager to get in.  But that doesn’t mean that the law has lost its force. It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the smallest point of God’s law to be overturned.

 “For example, a man who divorces his wife and marries someone else commits adultery. And anyone who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.”

 “… that doesn’t mean that the law has lost its force. It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the smallest point of God’s law to be overturned….” 

“Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.  Thy kingdom come thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. ” We recognize His authority and the authority of the law that was given by Him.  We also recognize the forgiveness from sin given through the sacrifice of His son.  How then shall we live?  His Son, Jesus, clearly lays it out for us.  The law was not done away with, it was fulfilled.  Are we following the commands of Christ? If not, we need the law for we are lawless in that place.  Forgiveness remains, done once and offered for all time.  The consequences of breaking the law, the need for a constant shedding of blood is covered in Christ’s death and resurrection.  But the law hasn’t lost its force.  Following the teachings of Christ places us in compliance with the law.   The question that arises for each of us to answer, truthfully, honestly between ourselves and God is this; are we following the teachings of Christ? 

 The answer to that question shows in our daily walk through life.  How then shall we live?  The answers are seen by all in our conversation, our actions which give proof to our thoughts.  How are we known?  Can others see Christ in us?  Are we His hands reaching, His voice teaching, His feet going, His body of believers doing?  Or do we look more like the Pharisee;”…You like to appear righteous in public, but God knows your hearts. What this world honors is detestable in the sight of God…?   …the Good News of the Kingdom of God is preached, and everyone is eager to get in…”  We are the Good News, do those who cross our paths hear and see it?

Financial gain; for me or others?

Luke 16:1-18

Jesus told this story to his disciples: “There was a certain rich man who had a manager handling his affairs. One day a report came that the manager was wasting his employer’s money. So the employer called him in and said, ‘What’s this I hear about you? Get your report in order, because you are going to be fired.’

 “The manager thought to himself, ‘Now what? My boss has fired me. I don’t have the strength to dig ditches, and I’m too proud to beg. Ah, I know how to ensure that I’ll have plenty of friends who will give me a home when I am fired.’

“So he invited each person who owed money to his employer to come and discuss the situation. He asked the first one, ‘How much do you owe him?’ The man replied, ‘I owe him 800 gallons of olive oil.’ So the manager told him, ‘Take the bill and quickly change it to 400 gallons. ’

“‘And how much do you owe my employer?’ he asked the next man. ‘I owe him 1,000 bushels of wheat,’ was the reply. ‘Here,’ the manager said, ‘take the bill and change it to 800 bushels. ’

 “The rich man had to admire the dishonest rascal for being so shrewd. And it is true that the children of this world are more shrewd in dealing with the world around them than are the children of the light.  Here’s the lesson: Use your worldly resources to benefit others and make friends. Then, when your earthly possessions are gone, they will welcome you to an eternal home.

 “If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities. And if you are untrustworthy about worldly wealth, who will trust you with the true riches of heaven? And if you are not faithful with other people’s things, why should you be trusted with things of your own?

 “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”

 The Pharisees, who dearly loved their money, heard all this and scoffed at him.  Then he said to them, “You like to appear righteous in public, but God knows your hearts. What this world honors is detestable in the sight of God. 

Two views on money: one uses it for personal gain, the other to assist others in need.  Love of money indicates being self-driven.  Self becomes more important than others and greed and pride are close behind.  These are attitudes we know do not please God.  The dishonesty of the manager was a result of looking out for self at the expense of another.  Wealth was used to further self not another.  World-based thinking has no problem with this approach for it is the way of mankind everywhere.  Whereas, children of light use the world’s wealth to be a help to others.  This is Biblically based thinking and is in opposition to the common thinking of mankind.  Christ says to use the world’s wealth to assist others; make friends, and so “when your earthly possessions are gone, they will welcome you to an eternal home.”

Using the world’s wealth to assist others, especially when it opens the door to share the message of the kingdom of God, is using the world’s wealth to lay up treasure in heaven.  Each lost soul regained for the kingdom brings rejoicing  and opens the door to a place that is eternal not temporary. Children of light have a focus that is kingdom-driven, rather than self-driven.  They act in obedience to God’s will; “thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  They act to please Him, not themselves.  They are found faithful.

“son of yours…brother of yours”

Luke 15:11-32

 To illustrate the point further, Jesus told them this story: “A man had two sons. The younger son told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now before you die.’ So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons.

 “A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and moved to a distant land, and there he wasted all his money in wild living. About the time his money ran out, a great famine swept over the land, and he began to starve.  He persuaded a local farmer to hire him, and the man sent him into his fields to feed the pigs. The young man became so hungry that even the pods he was feeding the pigs looked good to him. But no one gave him anything.

 “When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, ‘At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger! I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you,  and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.”’

“So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. ’

“But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began.

 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the fields working. When he returned home, he heard music and dancing in the house,  and he asked one of the servants what was going on.  ‘Your brother is back,’ he was told, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf. We are celebrating because of his safe return.’

“The older brother was angry and wouldn’t go in. His father came out and begged him,  but he replied, ‘All these years I’ve slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends. Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf!’

 “His father said to him, ‘Look, dear son, you have always stayed by me, and everything I have is yours.  We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!’”

 This passage continues a response to the complaint:

 Tax collectors and other notorious sinners often came to listen to Jesus teach. This made the Pharisees and teachers of religious law complain that he was associating with such sinful people—even eating with them!

“Son of yours…brother of yours”

Disobedience has consequences.  We can take the warning that is implied against looking at the grass on the other side of the fence as the younger son did. This involves taking our eyes off the Lord and the expectations He has of and for us.  It involves looking elsewhere for satisfaction for ourselves.  And the almighty self has arisen!  Looking elsewhere led to disobedience and unfaithfulness.  For these, God has said from the beginning we will be punished.  There will be consequences.  However, there is forgiveness for the repentant and that includes reinstatement into a relationship with the Father.  It does not restore what was spent; it does restore what was lost.

 And if the Father can forgive so should we.  We do not suffer the consequences of disobedience if we are faithful and able to forgive.  An unforgiving attitude is disobedience.  Each of us has our own relationship with the Lord.  We will reap a harvest in kind with what we sow, if we sow that which is good, we reap good and in that place will be able to forgive those repenting of sowing the seed that brought them suffering rather than standing in judgment of them for what they did.  The Father has the right to judge, not us.  Let us keep our relationship right with the Father.

 The older brother said:…”son of yours”; the father replied:…”brother of yours.”

Finding what is lost…

Luke 15: 8-10

“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins  and loses one. Won’t she light a lamp and sweep the entire house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she will call in her friends and neighbors and say, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost coin.’  In the same way, there is joy in the presence of God’s angels when even one sinner repents.”

 Look how diligently she searches for what is lost!  When we lose something of value, we search and search everywhere until we find it.  Look at the energy involved!  Now compare that with the energy we spend on ‘finding’ lost souls for the kingdom of God… When we lose something and begin our search for it there is an urgency, especially if it is a wallet or a set of keys!  How much more valuable is someone who is lost for eternity!  What kind of effort do we put into reaching others with the Word of God and sharing what it can do in their life; now and forever?

 Make heaven rejoice as we take on the seriousness of the search for what is lost and its reclamation.  Make the heart of God sing as we catch the flame of urgency to be faithful in our sharing; daily, by the minute.  We have contact with others all day long – how are we treating them? What does our speech reflect?  Are we  keeping our thoughts clean and clear since we know our actions and words are an outward expression of the inner person?

 We can only impact the lost if we are found; found to have the presence of God in and with us, found to have the same sense of urgency to seek, and share.  Be the cause of rejoicing in heaven.

The lost among us…

Luke 15:1-7

Tax collectors and other notorious sinners often came to listen to Jesus teach. This made the Pharisees and teachers of religious law complain that he was associating with such sinful people—even eating with them!

So Jesus told them this story: “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders. When he arrives, he will call together his friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away!

 Sinner:  one who has strayed away, one who  is not righteous.  The commonly held belief here is needing to get cleaned up and ‘righteous’ prior to coming to the Lord.  Jesus often pointed out the misconception that the perceived ‘righteous’ were in need of cleansing as well.  Today we still hear the statements like this; when I quit…. (fill in the blank) or when I have more time, or when I’m older.  All of these imply a need to ‘clean up’ before beginning a relationship with the Lord.  These do not lack in knowledge of the Word, they suffer from ‘lostness’  brought on by misconceptions, poor teaching, skewed perceptions, or more.   This one who is found was already part of the flock.  The Pharisee and many of us like the Pharisee, was unwilling to associate with the ‘sinner’ because they weren’t ‘clean.’ 

 This is the image of exclusivity the world often places upon Christian groups.  Are we guilty of the same distaste the Pharisees are exhibiting?  Are we willing to reach out and ‘touch’ someone perceived as ‘unclean’ with the Word of God, or do we stay within the comfort of our common groups of believers? 

 How do we treat the lost among us?

Crucify self…

Luke 14: 25-35

 A large crowd was following Jesus. He turned around and said to them,  “If you want to be my disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers 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 don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it?  Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you. They would say, ‘There’s the person who started that building and couldn’t afford to finish it!’

 “Or what king would go to war against another king without first sitting down with his counselors to discuss whether his army of 10,000 could defeat the 20,000 soldiers marching against him?  And if he can’t, he will send a delegation to discuss terms of peace while the enemy is still far away. So you cannot become my disciple without giving up everything you own.

 “Salt is good for seasoning. But if it loses its flavor, how do you make it salty again?  Flavorless salt is good neither for the soil nor for the manure pile. It is thrown away. Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand!”

 Hate here is similar in meaning to ‘turn from.’  Self rules when we consider what we do for  those close to us more important than what we do for the Lord.  Self rules when we plow ahead with plans before considering the cost and find we can’t complete what we started.  Self must be crucified on a cross before we can be useful.  The totally self-absorbed person says their family means much to them and that is true, seen through the filter of self.  The totally self-absorbed person lacks greatly in awareness of the needs of others, or even what others are doing.  The blinders are on and their vision is only inward.  They often are not even aware of their self-absorption.  Jesus likens them to salt with no flavor, worthless, even to themselves!  There is the dilemma.

 When we lose self and having to have things our way, we are free to truly love those we say we love, free to truly serve others without always needing to serve self, do it our way.  We can begin to hear what is said, we can begin to understand the living of the life of service Christ calls us to.  Do we have the ears to hear?  Or do we have earplugs of self in, sunglasses of self that don’t allow us to see?  Crucify self.  There’s the cross we carry; constantly ridding ourselves of having it our way. “Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand!”  Lord increase our awareness of when self tries to get down off the cross.  Increase our awareness of putting the filter of self back in place. Keep us only to Yourself.

Too busy?

Luke 14:15-24

Hearing this, a man sitting at the table with Jesus exclaimed, “What a blessing it will be to attend a banquet in the Kingdom of God!”

Jesus replied with this story: “A man prepared a great feast and sent out many invitations.  When the banquet was ready, he sent his servant to tell the guests, ‘Come, the banquet is ready.’ But they all began making excuses. One said, ‘I have just bought a field and must inspect it. Please excuse me.’ Another said, ‘I have just bought five pairs of oxen, and I want to try them out. Please excuse me.’  Another said, ‘I now have a wife, so I can’t come.’

 “The servant returned and told his master what they had said. His master was furious and said, ‘Go quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and invite the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.’ After the servant had done this, he reported, ‘There is still room for more.’ So his master said, ‘Go out into the country lanes and behind the hedges and urge anyone you find to come, so that the house will be full. For none of those I first invited will get even the smallest taste of my banquet.’”

 Too busy with the cares and responsibilities of this life, too busy with what I want to do, too busy to spend time with one another, with the Creator, too busy to enjoy life.  So the invitation was given to those who were not too busy, they had nothing to be busy about; the poor, the homeless, the ill.  The question that comes to mind is; are we too busy to live and enjoy life, are we too busy to share what we have, are we too busy to come into a full knowledge of who God is and what He asks of us. 

 The Word of God and His promise to mankind came first to Abraham’s seed, through them.  They became too busy, relied on ritual and law to keep the relationship alive.  Therefore, the master opened up the invitation to any who would respond.  The path to God, to a relationship with Him is made available to all who will receive through Jesus His son.  There are no restrictions placed upon who may come other than to accept the invitation. 

 To those of us who have accepted the invitation let us be found faithful to share what we have with any others who will receive.  Let us not be found guilty of placing restrictions on who we are willing to share with when the God of heaven has not.

Motivation…

Luke 14: 1-14

  One Sabbath day Jesus went to eat dinner in the home of a leader of the Pharisees, and the people were watching him closely. There was a man there whose arms and legs were swollen. Jesus asked the Pharisees and experts in religious law, “Is it permitted in the law to heal people on the Sabbath day, or not?” When they refused to answer, Jesus touched the sick man and healed him and sent him away. Then he turned to them and said, “Which of you doesn’t work on the Sabbath? If your son  or your cow falls into a pit, don’t you rush to get him out?”  Again they could not answer.

When Jesus noticed that all who had come to the dinner were trying to sit in the seats of honor near the head of the table, he gave them this advice:  “When you are invited to a wedding feast, don’t sit in the seat of honor. What if someone who is more distinguished than you has also been invited? The host will come and say, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then you will be embarrassed, and you will have to take whatever seat is left at the foot of the table!

“Instead, take the lowest place at the foot of the table. Then when your host sees you, he will come and say, ‘Friend, we have a better place for you!’ Then you will be honored in front of all the other guests.  For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Then he turned to his host. “When you put on a luncheon or a banquet,” he said, “don’t invite your friends, brothers, relatives, and rich neighbors. For they will invite you back, and that will be your only reward. Instead, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. Then at the resurrection of the righteous, God will reward you for inviting those who could not repay you.”

 What is our motivation, what drives our actions?  Is it  a desire to please God?  Is it a desire to demonstrate a love for Him and obedience to His commands?  Or is there an internal desire to be seen and recognized for ourselves, who we are and what we are doing? Is there a desire to be affirmed as someone of importance, someone looked up to?

 We are given some suggestions to live by that include taking the lesser place and giving without expecting a return on our effort.  The first is an action taken out of true humility.  It is an expression of courtesy, consideration, preferring others above self.  It demonstrates an outward focus rather than an inward focus of self-absorption.  The second action is motivated by a genuine love for those who have less than we, those who can benefit from our actions.  This example of the luncheon and who to invite is driven by a desire to bless others without expecting a return on the investment of time and effort.  True giving expects no gain on our part, is done from a heart of compassion and concern for the other without obligation on the part of the recipient.

 Jesus states we will be blessed; by God and not immediately, at the resurrection of the righteous.  These are character attributes of an individual whose sole purpose in life is to please God and obey His commands.  They are not the attributes of a self-absorbed individual looking for personal gain.  Where is our focus?  What is our desire?  What drives our actions?  Is it love for our Creator, a love that gives and desires to please through obedience?

Rejection results in desolation

Luke 13:31-35

 At that time some Pharisees said to him, “Get away from here if you want to live! Herod Antipas wants to kill you!”

 Jesus replied, “Go tell that fox that I will keep on casting out demons and healing people today and tomorrow; and the third day I will accomplish my purpose. Yes, today, tomorrow, and the next day I must proceed on my way. For it wouldn’t do for a prophet of God to be killed except in Jerusalem!

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones God’s messengers! How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me. And now, look, your house is abandoned. And you will never see me again until you say, ‘Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the LORD!’

 Desolation for those who reject the one who loves them, created them, longs to hold them close.  So many times we hear the heart of God cry for His people who will not have Him.  He offers, they refuse.  The Creator shunned by the creation and therefore the creation is left desolate.  We ask why? when we look at the pain, suffering and oppression in our world and here is an example of why…by choice, a choice made that affects not only the ones making the choice.

 Jesus continued his ministry to those who would receive and would not be hindered from that task by threats.  We too can follow the example set by him to be faithful to hear his voice, to share, so  that those who will respond may do so.  Let us make the heart of God sing!

Does He know us?

Luke 13:22-30

Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he went, always pressing on toward Jerusalem.  Someone asked him, “Lord, will only a few be saved?”

He replied, “Work hard to enter the narrow door to God’s Kingdom, for many will try to enter but will fail. When the master of the house has locked the door, it will be too late. You will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Lord, open the door for us!’ But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’ Then you will say, ‘But we ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’ And he will reply, ‘I tell you, I don’t know you or where you come from. Get away from me, all you who do evil.’

“There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, for you will see Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all the prophets in the Kingdom of God, but you will be thrown out. And people will come from all over the world—from east and west, north and south—to take their places in the Kingdom of God. And note this: Some who seem least important now will be the greatest then, and some who are the greatest now will be least important then.  ”

 Many say we cannot work to enter the kingdom of God and yet here Jesus says work hard to enter.  Can that be unpacked for us to understand what he means for it is also said salvation is not of works, but the gift of God?  Also, he does not answer directly the question will few  be saved leading to the implication not many.  That would indicate some do not.  There are those who want to say all will make it to the kingdom of God and yet here Jesus states many will try to enter but will fail. 

 Many will try to enter…work hard to enter;  does this ‘work’ begin with simple acceptance of the offered salvation that is then followed by the joy of working the assignment received from God?  Jesus repeatedly tells us to share the Gospel, the message we find in the Word of God.  Are we obedient?  God from the beginning of creation tells us he wants a people who love Him and obey Him.  Do we love Him and then obey Him?  Is it genuine, seen in our actions , thoughts and words toward others?  Is this the ‘work’ he mentions in this passage?

 The question that begins this passage is: “Are only a few going to be saved?”  The answer given first is “work hard to enter through the narrow door, or as another version puts it, make every effort to enter through the narrow door.”  The implication is it will take effort and that will cut down on the number who enter.  Jesus says once the door is closed we are not getting in.  And he follows with a statement he makes over and over again, the first will be last and the last will be first; put another way the greatest here will be least there and the least here will be great there.  Adding insult to injury those who do not get to enter will see those who did and those who did will be from all over.

 After all that is said, we are left with the statement to make every effort to enter.  Take nothing for granted and rather than worry about it; make sure we are doing what we have been given to do for the Lord, making sure He knows us, not just as someone who sat at a table with him, walked a street with him, but someone who really, genuinely knows him.  When we want to get to know someone, we spend time with them, do things with them, talk with them, intimately.  It takes an effort.  This relationship is more than a passing acquaintance, someone we occasionally eat lunch with or see on the streets or even stand and listen to as they talk.  This relationship is intimate with focused attention and desire.  Do we know him?  Are we faithful and obedient?  Do others see the love that comes from Him?  Do we know him?  Does He know us?