Thursday, April 29, 2010

Day 19: Increase our faith!

The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith!" - Luke 17:5
What an honest plea here! Jesus had just given a difficult teaching. He challenged them to live a strict regimen that included a clean public testimony and forgiving people who repeatedly sin against you. The life that Jesus demanded was impossible within one's own efforts alone. It's as if the disciples were saying, "That kind of life takes supernatural power to live out, Jesus. Help us!" I've always considered faith to be one of self-determination. In other words, my faith is my capacity to trust and believe this Jesus and His teachings. The disciples' plea here is an appeal for Jesus to give them more faith as if it were something He personally could deliver- faith as an entity. To me, this is good news. If that is the case, then I want more faith, too. I want the ability to trust and obey Jesus. Jesus, help me not to depend so much on my ability and what I can do...but to ultimately have confidence in what You have done on my behalf. Increase my faith so I can be bold for you. Increase my faith so that fear doesn't determine whether or not I move forward. Give me more!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Day 11: How Not to Pray for Your Enemies

We had a good time unpacking Luke 6 at Coffee House on Wednesday night. I don't know about you, but I felt really challenged about how I should treat my enemies. Jesus' words really struck a chord with many of you. Loving our enemies...bless those who curse you...pray for those who mistreat you. The Holtzclaw's told me about this song after our study and I couldn't resist posting it for your enjoyment. Remember, this is NOT how to pray for your enemies!!!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Day 9: The Plain Truth

This passage, often referred to as the Sermon on the Plain, sounds very similar to Jesus' Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7. The glaring differences are three-fold to me:

#1) It was delievered from the flat ground, and not on a hill.
#2) This is much shorter...more simple...more direct...more "plain" :)

#3) Jesus not only gives the "Blessed" statements, but He also gives "Woes" to their counterparts. Check out the woes and really take some personal inventory today.

Take a really close look at the "plain truth" (sorry...2 plain jokes in 1 blog) in verse 35.

But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. - Luke 6:35

The life of the Christ follower is one of self-examination and discipline...2 words that turn most people away. In this verse Jesus probes deep into the heart level of why you do what you do. If I want to be like Christ, then I have to treat people the way Jesus treated people...even His enemies. Who are your enemies? You might say, "Well, I don't hate anyone." But down deep somewhere there is someone, or a group of "someones" you don't like...or you don't gee-hah with...or who has hurt you. That person is your enemy. You don't like them. They are not like you.

Jesus is a radical. He tells you to do the thing that is opposite of how you probably would act on your own. He says to respond to them with goodness. Why should you do this? Because your Jesus showed His enemies great goodness. Have you ever considered that before you gave your life to Christ that you were an enemy of God? Check out Romans 5:9-11 for further explanation. We were reconciled to God through Jesus. Only enemies need reconciliation. At one time I stood as an enemy of God by my rebellion. I chose to spit in God's face and do things my way, denying the sovereignty of the Master of the Universe. So, if God can love His enemies, shouldn't we?! Decide today to love them for Christ's sake.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Day 7: Calling the Disciples

When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, "Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch." Simon answered, "Master, we've worked hard all night and haven't caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets." When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. - Luke 5:4-6

Peter and his professional fishing partners had been fishing all night with no luck. Honestly, I've been fishing quite a few times and I've never experienced the exhileration of when "they're really bitin'" I know how they feel. Unlike me, these guys knew what they were doing. This was their job. They knew this sea like the backs of their hands. They knew the hot spots and the honey holes. They did everything right that night. The fish "just weren't bitin'."

So along comes Jesus, the carpenter/traveling rabbi, who pops in and takes command of operations. If I was Peter, I would have been thinking, "Who does this carpenter think he is?! I've been out here all night long and, from what I can tell, it's just a bad fishing day." The other funny part is that Jesus told them to throw their nets in the deep water. Real fishermen knew that you only throw your nets into the shallow waters. What was this guy thinking?! Despite their reservations they obey what the carpenter says to do and they get overwhelmed with the results. Lesson learned. I can do things my own way, from my own limited (albeit knowledgable) perspective. But if I'm not being obedient to the Carpenter, it is utterly futile. How many times have I pridefully continued to do it my way, ignoring Jesus' advice, and totally missed the big catch He had waiting for me?! But I know what I'm doing, right!?

Friday, April 16, 2010

Day 5: A Hero's Welcome

"All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him down the cliff. But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way." - Luke 4:28-30

Nazareth was a really, really small town...maybe a few hundred people. Many of you are from small towns. Living in a small town is definitely interesting because everybody knows everybody's business. We know family histories, triumphs, and troubles. Rumors fly and whispers get passed around. Jesus was already the talk of know...Mary's son, the one who claimed that God impregnated her and who married the carpenter Joseph (v.22). That guy. And now he has the audacity to walk into their synagogue and basically claim that he is the fulfillment of the messanic prophecies (v.21).
Most communities are supportive of their bright, up-and-coming youth. I love to see it when a small town prodigy emerges and everyone rallies around that person. It's what endeared me to the show American Idol when it was first broadcast back in 2002. When Kelly Clarkson won, her entire town showed up for a huge parade with great fanfare. She was the champion of Burleson, TX who made it big. Compare that reception to Jesus' neighbors! We all love to see someone rise from humble beginnings to make it big.
I wonder sometimes how I would have reacted to what Jesus said and did if I was an average Joe living in and around Nazareth or Jerusalem. Would I have been so quick to believe that this guy who I watched grow up in my town be who he claimed to be? Surely, God wouldn't use somebody from pittely ol' Nazareth to do something that great. (Read John 1:45-46!) Aren't you glad that God uses small town, out-of-the-way people and no-name regular Joe's to do His work!? Let's not discount where we are from, or who we are, as being useless to the Lord. And let's not be so blinded by our prejudices and sensibilities that we miss Jesus completely when He shows up at our church!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Day 4: The Woman at the Well

The Samaritan woman said to him, "You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?" (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.) -John 4:9

I'm preaching from this passage on Sunday...and can't wait! This is definitely on my short list of favorite all-time stories. Just a thought about this verse. The racial divide in Jesus' time was much like the racial landscape of the segregated South, if not worse. Jews and Samaritans did not associate with one another. In fact, Samaritans were considered second class people. The very fact that Jesus was willing to talk to this lady in public startled her. Aren't you glad Jesus is willing to associate with people who don't deserve it?! (like me and you) Come to think of it, there is not one reason why Jesus should have anything to do with me. My ways, my heart, my intentions are so awry many times. And yet He chose to stop, consider me, and value my life. I'm glad He took the time to reach down and give me a sip of living water.
Just like Jesus, we have to be willing to cross man-made barriers that keep us sequestered from people not like us. Who are your Samaritans? Who are the people who are scary, or dirty, or different that make you uncomfortable? These might be the very people to whom Christ sends you. And you would miss out on the blessings if you don't do it. Jesus' compassion rocked this lady's world. I pray our compassion does, too.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Day 2: Matthew 4:1-17

Matthew 4
• It is comforting to me that our Lord had to withstand temptation as well. He did walk a mile in my shoes…and He kicked Satan right in the teeth through it.
• (v.1) “The Spirit led Jesus into the desert”…God uses temptation to make us stronger. God doesn’t tempt us, but He can use Satan’s schemes to toughen us and taunt the Evil One.
• Jesus endured the common temptations we all face: lust of the flesh, lust of pride, and lust of power.
• (v.11) I love how simply it reads. When you resist Satan he has to flee. When you resist Satan angels are there to attend to you and restore your strength.
• Jesus’ first recorded sermon: “REPENT!” (v. 17) Why? Because the Kingdom is near: Sounds like immediacy and urgency, for all who heard the sermon from Sunday.

Monday, April 12, 2010

40 Days Reflections- Matthew 3

As we do the 40 Days of Jesus readings together, I just thought I’d put down some bullet points about some of the passages each week. I’d love to hear what you are learning as well! Please fill me in on the Comments section below!

Matthew 3
• Throughout this passage, I am reminded of what truly following Jesus is about. Take a look at the verbs used in this passage that described the new disciple’s actions and John the Baptist’s message to the Pharisees: Repent (v. 2), make straight paths (live righteously) (v. 3), confessing their sins (v.6), being baptized (v.6), produce fruit (good deeds) (v. 8), being filled with the Spirit (v.11).
• Sounds like our message today, eh?
• Repent and obey…sounds so simple, yet so hard to follow through.
• Jesus talks about “fulfilling all righteousness” by being baptized (v.15): public profession of your faith is extremely important! If Jesus thought it was a big deal, maybe we should too!!!
• Jesus didn’t have to repent, He was sinless…and yet He considered it important to submit Himself to someone else. Humility always characterizes a good leader.
• The end of Chapter 3 is one of the few times that we have all 3 members of the Trinity represented at the same time….so cool.