Today’s reading is Acts 3.
Almost every healing story in the New Testament is a salvation story. That is, the stories of healing are provided for us as metaphors for salvation. Interestingly, the word for “healed” and “made whole” is the same word as for “saved” (see Acts 4:9, 12). The healing of the lame man in Acts 3 is no different. We can learn some powerful principles about our own spiritual healing/salvation from this fellow’s story. We’ll be examining these lessons this week as we read and reread Acts 3. The first principle to grasp is the goal of the healing. Peter did not heal this man in order to get him home. Peter healed this man in order to get him walking. Don’t misunderstand. Walking people go home. But the goal was to get him walking. That is profound. In like manner, Jesus hasn’t saved us in order to get us to heaven. He has saved us to get us walking with Him. Don’t misunderstand. Walking people get to heaven. But the goal is to get us walking. Paul says in Ephesians 2:10 that we are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works that God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. God didn’t save us merely so we could go to heaven. He saved us so we can walk with Him. How are you walking today?
Tomorrow’s reading is Acts 3.
Continue reading “The Goal of Healing is to Walk”
Today’s reading is Luke 21.
I simply do not think it is a coincidence that the poor widow is exalted as an example right after Jesus belittled the scribes for devouring widows’ houses. The Law was clear; the mistreatment of widows was an abomination (see Exodus 22:22-24). Isaiah 1: 12-17 is profoundly parallel to Luke 20:45-21:4. As in Isaiah’s day, the scribes were trampling God’s courts. Their long prayers were an abomination because they did not correct oppression or plead the widow’s cause. As Isaiah went on to do in his book, Luke goes on in the rest of this chapter to describe the judgment that will now be coming upon Israel. Perhaps it is a mere coincidence, but the word translated “greater” in Luke 20:47 is from the same family as the word “abundance” in Luke 21:4. That is, those who gave out of their abundance would still receive the more abundant condemnation. Their abundant gifts will not change that one iota. God will not be bought. God will not be bartered with. God wants all of us. We can’t pick and choose the bits we want to give to Him. We can’t pay Him off to make up for it. We can’t “do church” right enough to make up for lacking love, compassion, and justice. Of course, we must also recognize it goes the other way. We can’t “do mercy” enough to make up for worshiping God falsely either. The point here is not that one is better than the other. The point is if we try to pick and choose, we’ll never be able to drop enough money in the plate to buy God’s favor. God won’t be bartered with. God won’t be bought. We must render to God all that is His, and that is all that is us.
Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 21.
Continue reading “God Won’t Be Bought”
Today’s reading is Luke 20.
The Parable of the Wicked Tenants is a bit of an outlier among the parables. Unlike most of the parables, the people hearing this one seemed to know exactly what Jesus meant by it. Well, perhaps not exactly. They didn’t know that “my beloved son” meant Jesus was in fact God’s Son. But they did know Jesus was claiming the Jews were going to be judged, destroyed, and the vineyard would be given to others. Of course, the only others were the Gentiles. The Jews simply couldn’t fathom this. It didn’t fit within their worldview that God would behave like this. After all, this is the God who loves and chose the Jewish nation to be His own special people. This is the God who lovingly cleared the vineyard, planted the vineyard, watered the vineyard of His special people (see Isaiah 27:2-11). How could this loving vineyard owner judge his vineyard and the tenants so harshly? “Surely not!” the Jews cry. If this were a modern movie, Jesus would have responded, “Yes, and don’t call me Surely.” Please, understand. There is a modern parallel to this. More and more people who even claim to be Christian just can’t wrap their mind around a loving God who will give people up to their rejection of Him. To these it is anathema and unfathomable that God would judge anyone permanently and irreversibly, casting them out of His presence into the outer darkness, away from Him, which is the torturous existence we call hell. “Surely not!” we cry. But please be aware, if we reject God’s attempts to draw us close to Him, He will give us up to our rejection. And we will discover that living in our rejection of God is more horrific than we can possibly imagine.
Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 20.
Continue reading “Surely Not!”
Today’s reading is Luke 18.
Jesus told a story about a Pharisee and a tax collector. Then He runs into a living, breathing version of one of His story characters. While it is true that a “ruler” of the Jews was not necessarily a Pharisee, that is most likely the case here. We find this term ruler used in Luke to refer to a ruler of the synagogue (Luke 8:41), a ruler of the Pharisees (Luke 14:1), then as Jewish leaders connected with the chief priests (Luke 23:13; 24:20). Since he is asking about inheriting eternal life, he is not likely one of the Sadducees, who didn’t believe in the resurrection (see Luke 20:27-40). What is the problem with the rich ruler? A lack of childlike faith and reception. He was too grown to receive the kingdom. We might find it hard to believe someone would really act like the Pharisee in Jesus’s story of the Pharisee and the tax collector in the middle of a prayer to God. That seems a bit over the top. However, we see how such an attitude of arrogance, pride, and self-deception acts out in real life. Here is a man just like the Pharisee of Jesus’s story. He has kept the law. We don’t see him bragging in prayer, but we do see him turn away in sadness at Jesus’s instruction. He is not childlike enough to simply accept what Jesus says and do it. Who knows, maybe he does later. But at this point, he leaves Jesus in sadness without the kingdom and unjustified. The message is don’t be so grown up you miss the kingdom.
Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 18.
Continue reading “Too Grown to Receive the Kingdom”
Today’s reading is Luke 16.
Perhaps one of the reasons I always struggle with the parable we discussed yesterday is because the text goes directly from giving us an unfaithful steward as an example to talking about being a faithful steward. I think we need to see this point about faithful stewardship as Point 2 in Jesus’s brief sermon about stewardship of finances. The first point: use your stewardship as a blessing to others, and blessing means helping them get to eternal dwellings. The second point: be faithful with the stewardship. That is, do what the Master wants with the things that belong to Him. Otherwise, He won’t welcome you into eternal dwellings. We have a tendency to think all the money that flows through our hands in this life is a really, really big deal. But Jesus explains our house, our car, our clothes, our finances down here on earth are actually very little. In the grand scheme of things, they aren’t really important. It is what is coming in eternity that is the big, big deal. What I find even more amazing is that little statement that is often overlooked. What we have now isn’t even our own. However, if we are faithful in the stewardship of what is God’s right now, in eternity we will be blessed with what is our own. Honestly, I don’t know exactly what that means. I just know I want it. Which gets back to Jesus’s main point. We are stewards. The #1 principle for stewardship is to do what the Master wants done with what belongs to Him. Be faithful to the Master with what belongs to Him.
Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 16.
Continue reading “Faithful Stewardship”
Today’s reading is Luke 16.
I admit the first parable in this week’s chapter is the one I have the greatest struggle with. Every time I study it, I have all kinds of questions but I always end up coming back to this: Jesus actually explains His point. He is not providing an allegory which I need to break down into the component parts and find parallels to multiple aspects in my life. I simply need to Hear His point and apply it. The point is simply this: we are stewards of resources that will ultimately fail us. Storing up money and possessions will not help us in eternity. As they say, “You can’t take it with you.” How then should we use these goods? We should use them to develop relationships with people who will welcome us into the eternal dwellings of God. We should share, we should give, we should bless others. Don’t hoard them. Don’t waste them. Use them to draw others to God. Use them to bless others. Then when this stewardship ends, as it ultimately will, we will be welcomed in eternity by the brothers and sisters whom God blessed through us. How are you administering your stewardship?
Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 16.
Continue reading “Shrewd Stewardship”
Today’s reading is Luke 15.
The older brother missed out on the celebration. Of course, he missed out on the celebration of the younger brother’s return. However, I’m actually talking about a different celebration. In his complaint against the father, he says, “I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends.” Wow! That is sad. What an awful dad. But wait, did you catch the father’s response? “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.” Not, “All that is mine will be yours.” “All that is mine IS yours.” In other words, if the older son never celebrated with his friends, it wasn’t because his mean father wouldn’t share. It was because the older son didn’t understand what a relationship with his father actually meant. The older son was so busy trying to be obedient in order to get his inheritance someday, he didn’t realize he already had the inheritance. He didn’t realize he could celebrate with his friends right now. No, having the inheritance didn’t mean the older son could abandon his father’s will, that was the mistake the younger son made. What it did mean is he should have been celebrating with his friends already. Let me make this very practical. It’s Friday when this is posted. In two days, your home congregation will be meeting, perhaps even more than once. Will you be there? Why? Will you be there because you are convinced it is commanded (or perhaps only if you are convinced it is commanded), and you want to obey exactly so that one day, way off in the future, you will get to celebrate with your friends in heaven? Or will you be there because you know heaven has come down to earth and brought salvation with Him, and why would you do anything other than celebrate with your friends who have also received heaven?
Monday’s reading is Luke 16.
Continue reading “Don’t Miss the Celebration”