Fire and peace; strange bedfellows…

Luke 12:49-53

 “I have come to set the world on fire, and I wish it were already burning! I have a terrible baptism of suffering ahead of me, and I am under a heavy burden until it is accomplished.  Do you think I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I have come to divide people against each other!  From now on families will be split apart, three in favor of me, and two against—or two in favor and three against.

‘Father will be divided against son

and son against father;

mother against daughter

and daughter against mother;

and mother-in-law against daughter-in-law

and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.’ ”

 Jesus quotes from Micah 7:6 as a description of the division between world-held beliefs and Biblically based beliefs.  With His coming the division between the creation and the Creator deepens and widens.  Jesus provides a way back to unity and peace with God; a way that is despised by the enemy of creation. 

 Fire spreads and fire consumes.  Fire gives light and warmth and fire destroys.  Opposites? Yet the same agent.  Peace on earth? Or division?  Peace comes with unity in Christ and reuniting with the Creator.  That peace brings division between those who accept, believe and follow and those who choose not to.  Opposites? And yet same agent.  The suffering to be endured to enable the peace and fire was looked forward to because it was driven by love for the creation; mankind.  The result of that suffering, unites giving peace and ignites a fire that gives light and warmth; yet also a fire that consumes and destroys the self within us that would divide and destroy the creation.

 I pray for you constantly, asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God.  I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called — his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance.  I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him.  This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the  heavenly realms.

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It isn’t when…it’s what

Luke 12:35-48

“Be dressed for service and keep your lamps burning, as though you were waiting for your master to return from the wedding feast. Then you will be ready to open the door and let him in the moment he arrives and knocks. The servants who are ready and waiting for his return will be rewarded. I tell you the truth, he himself will seat them, put on an apron, and serve them as they sit and eat! He may come in the middle of the night or just before dawn. But whenever he comes, he will reward the servants who are ready.

 “Understand this: If a homeowner knew exactly when a burglar was coming, he would not permit his house to be broken into. You also must be ready all the time, for the Son of Man will come when least expected.”

 Peter asked, “Lord, is that illustration just for us or for everyone?”

 And the Lord replied, “A faithful, sensible servant is one to whom the master can give the responsibility of managing his other household servants and feeding them. If the master returns and finds that the servant has done a good job, there will be a reward. I tell you the truth, the master will put that servant in charge of all he owns. But what if the servant thinks, ‘My master won’t be back for a while,’ and he begins beating the other servants, partying, and getting drunk? The master will return unannounced and unexpected, and he will cut the servant in pieces and banish him with the unfaithful.

“And a servant who knows what the master wants, but isn’t prepared and doesn’t carry out those instructions, will be severely punished. But someone who does not know, and then does something wrong, will be punished only lightly. When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required.

A warning of consequences not for what we do but for what we don’t do. Keeping busy with the assignment given by the Lord prevents us from being guilty of doing what we shouldn’t be doing.  Be ready…be watching…be doing.  Jesus went to great lengths and detail to convey the importance of faithfulness to service, obedience to God’s will and direction, active service to others.  We know; we are held accountable for what we know.  His words are strong words for the consequences; He is loving, yes, He provides , yes.  We cannot forget that He is master and in that place demands much.  We cannot paint Him with one color, the scripture doesn’t and we do disservice to those we share with when we present a lopsided picture of the one who does love them and created them for so much more than most realize.  We will be found faithful, to the truth.  How many times did Jesus use the phrase, I tell you the truth…?  When He comes is not important.  What we are doing when He comes is.

Worried? Where is our faith?…

Luke 12:22-34

 Then, turning to his disciples, Jesus said, “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food to eat or enough clothes to wear. For life is more than food, and your body more than clothing. Look at the ravens. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for God feeds them. And you are far more valuable to him than any birds!  Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? And if worry can’t accomplish a little thing like that, what’s the use of worrying over bigger things?

 “Look at the lilies and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are.  And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

 “And don’t be concerned about what to eat and what to drink. Don’t worry about such things. These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers all over the world, but your Father already knows your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need.

 “So don’t be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom.

 “Sell your possessions and give to those in need. This will store up treasure for you in heaven! And the purses of heaven never get old or develop holes. Your treasure will be safe; no thief can steal it and no moth can destroy it.  Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be. 

…I tell you not to worry …Can all your worries add …if worry can’t accomplish…what’s the use of worrying …Why do you have so little faith?…Don’t worry about such things…don’t be afraid, …Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.

 How often in how many ways must we be told?  Life is more…the body is more… who gave the life and the body?  The Creator loves, cares and provides for His creation.  What is needed is here…Set our hearts on the Father, seek after what He wants not what we want, then the promise is given, all these ‘things’ will be added or provided.  Rather than accumulate for ourselves we are told to reach out to those in need…an outward focus.  Seek God and His kingdom for it is eternal…an upward, outward focus, always avoiding an inward focus.  Self is taken care of when we serve others and the Creator.  Why do we have so little faith?  Where is our heart set?  With faith there is no room for, no need for, no reason for worry.  Lord increase our faith!  Can we hear you, see the source of all things provided for us? Thank you for the love You extend to us…

Guard against every kind of greed…

Luke 12:13-21

Then someone called from the crowd, “Teacher, please tell my brother to divide our father’s estate with me.”

Jesus replied, “Friend, who made me a judge over you to decide such things as that?”  Then he said, “Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own.”

Then he told them a story: “A rich man had a fertile farm that produced fine crops. He said to himself, ‘What should I do? I don’t have room for all my crops.’  Then he said, ‘I know! I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll have room enough to store all my wheat and other goods.  And I’ll sit back and say to myself, “My friend, you have enough stored away for years to come. Now take it easy! Eat, drink, and be merry!”’

“But God said to him, ‘You fool! You will die this very night. Then who will get everything you worked for?’

“Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.”

 Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own.  The questions Jesus was asked seem innocent enough until He reaches down into the root of the question.  What harm is there in asking for an inheritance to be divided fairly, or storing a bumper crop of grain?  We are told to consider the ant and how industrious they are in their preparations for the winter.  But at the root of these questions lies another issue.  An issue with greed, a desire that stems from self, self-provision, self-desire.  A desire that does not consider the Creator, love for Him and obedience to His commands.  It is the mind-set turned inward, the focus not outward on what God desires and requires. God would be the center of our being.  “This is how it will be with anyone who stores up for himself, but is not rich toward God,” as another translation puts it.

Be real, stay connected…

Luke 12:1-12

Meanwhile, the crowds grew until thousands were milling about and stepping on each other. Jesus turned first to his disciples and warned them, “Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees—their hypocrisy. The time is coming when everything that is covered up will be revealed, and all that is secret will be made known to all. Whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered behind closed doors will be shouted from the housetops for all to hear!

 “Dear friends, don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot do any more to you after that. But I’ll tell you whom to fear. Fear God, who has the power to kill you and then throw you into hell. Yes, he’s the one to fear.

“What is the price of five sparrows—two copper coins ? Yet God does not forget a single one of them. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.

“I tell you the truth, everyone who acknowledges me publicly here on earth, the Son of Man will also acknowledge in the presence of God’s angels. But anyone who denies me here on earth will be denied before God’s angels.  Anyone who speaks against the Son of Man can be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.

 “And when you are brought to trial in the synagogues and before rulers and authorities, don’t worry about how to defend yourself or what to say,  for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what needs to be said.” 

Beware of the yeast of the Pharisee, the appointed guide to scripture who doesn’t keep it himself.  Yeast grows and multiplies, slowly, often unnoticed until the size has doubles.  All will be made known, nothing is hidden.  Do not fear the enemy who can kill the body, the physical, fear the one who can destroy the soul, our eternity.  That one cares for us and knows us.  Therefore, we have nothing to fear.  We will rise above what comes against us here.

Connection to Christ provides a path to the understanding the Holy Spirit gives.  This connection supersedes any power on earth.  When all is said and done, our eternal place is sure.  This passage is a good reminder of how temporary our physical existence is.  It reminds us also, who our supply is for what we need to live a life of love and obedience to the one who created and loves us.

Religious demands…or the voice of God?

Luke 11:45-54

 “Teacher,” said an expert in religious law, “you have insulted us, too, in what you just said.” 

“Yes,” said Jesus, “what sorrow also awaits you experts in religious law! For you crush people with unbearable religious demands, and you never lift a finger to ease the burden. What sorrow awaits you! For you build monuments for the prophets your own ancestors killed long ago. But in fact, you stand as witnesses who agree with what your ancestors did. They killed the prophets, and you join in their crime by building the monuments!  This is what God in his wisdom said about you: ‘I will send prophets and apostles to them, but they will kill some and persecute the others.’

“As a result, this generation will be held responsible for the murder of all God’s prophets from the creation of the world— from the murder of Abel to the murder of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, it will certainly be charged against this generation.

 “What sorrow awaits you experts in religious law! For you remove the key to knowledge from the people. You don’t enter the Kingdom yourselves, and you prevent others from entering.”

As Jesus was leaving, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees became hostile and tried to provoke him with many questions. They wanted to trap him into saying something they could use against him. 

 …you crush people with unbearable religious demands, … you never lift a finger to ease the burden…   from the murder of Abel… you remove the key to knowledge from the people… 

 Not much has changed.  People leave ‘religion’ because they tire of trying to ‘be good.’  They are not taught the living principles of the Word, rather the rules and obligations.  Those who teach, require only more and more of the people and do not offer assistance.  The mind-set is one of the oppressor rather than teacher and savior.  Abel, one who loved God and obeyed, is typical of all those killed or persecuted for following God’s Word rather than man’s word. 

 Unlike the dinners with tax collectors and sinners, Jesus was not asked for direction to the path to salvation, he was criticized for breaking a minor law of man’s making.  This gave the opportunity to expose the distance from God the leaders had come with their reliance on laws and rules to provide salvation.  A salvation that can only come from God.

 Live right, do good to others, not judging others, only doing what the Spirit of God has placed in the hearts of His people.  All who taught or shared the Word of God were despised or killed in favor of the keeping of man’s laws.  What is our mind-set?  Humanity-based or Bible-based?  Do we seek our own agenda or God’s?  Do we know what God’s is for us?  Do we know where to find it?  Spend time in His Word, learn His ways, listen for His voice rather than the voices of man.  We do not want to be guilty of removing the key to knowledge from the people, being a hindrance that prevents others from entering the kingdom of God and keeps us out as well.  Lift a finger to assist those who need the help, share only the Word of God, not the voice of man, listen for the voice of God…

Clean the inside…

Luke 11:37-44

As Jesus was speaking, one of the Pharisees invited him home for a meal. So he went in and took his place at the table.  His host was amazed to see that he sat down to eat without first performing the hand-washing ceremony required by Jewish custom. Then the Lord said to him, “You Pharisees are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and wickedness!  Fools! Didn’t God make the inside as well as the outside? So clean the inside by giving gifts to the poor, and you will be clean all over.

 “What sorrow awaits you Pharisees! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens,  but you ignore justice and the love of God. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things.

 “What sorrow awaits you Pharisees! For you love to sit in the seats of honor in the synagogues and receive respectful greetings as you walk in the marketplaces. Yes, what sorrow awaits you! For you are like hidden graves in a field. People walk over them without knowing the corruption they are stepping on.”

 Greed and wickedness — self-driven. … clean the inside by giving gifts to the poor, and you will be clean all over…The focus shifts from self and personal outward to others.  This creates a shift in mind-set, takes on transformation through the renewing of the mind.  The outward shift is a move toward what God created and intended in the beginning.  …you ignore justice and the love of God….a caution to them and us.  Are we guilty of ignoring justice and the love of God and what that involves in our pursuit for personal gain and obligation?  The corruption on the inside is hidden to those around us.  It takes the Word of God to reveal it to us.  This is a view of the service, i.e. serving others in those ways they have need of, portion of ministry that we all are called to.  Serving others had given way and still does give way to accountability, i.e. making sure all are doing what they are supposed to do, a responsibility better left to the Holy Spirit.  They became, and so do we become, so full of self-importance before God that those in need are neglected.  How cleverly, slowly self rises and fills our lives.  The caution is to always keep our focus first on the Lord, second on others with that focus being oriented toward service not judgment.  What can I do for you? Is a question that helps to bring us to that focus; a question that quickly comes to our lips.  What can I do for you?