The Other Side of Jesus

Today’s reading is Luke 19.

When the wicked servant expresses his fear of the nobleman’s severity, the nobleman doesn’t respond, “Come now. Why do you think that? I am gracious and loving. I would never take what I didn’t deposit and reap what I didn’t sow. Here, try again. This time, let me be of more help.” Instead, the nobleman condemns the wicked slave, removes his mina, gives it to another servant. Then, he goes and slaughters all the people who didn’t want him to be their king. Here is the big question. Whom does the nobleman represent in this story? Have you thought about it? Are you ready to say it? The nobleman is Jesus. Never believe that the gracious love of the Lord and King Jesus Christ means He is someone to be trifled with, taken for granted, or taken advantage of. We cannot dismiss Him, ignore Him, or defy Him and then when He comes in judgment protest, “But I thought you were loving and gracious.” For those who put their faith in Him, He is a gracious and victorious strength for deliverance, rescue, and salvation. For those who refuse to surrender to Him, He is a severe and dominating judge for punishment and condemnation. Jesus is not a two-dimensional character in a poorly developed book. He is a multi-faceted complex being who was God in the flesh. Because of His gracious love, we do not have to live in terror of His severe judgment, but we must not forget it either.

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 19.

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Counting the Cost

Today’s reading is Luke 14.

If we want to be Jesus’s disciple, we must count the cost. We don’t want to be like the fellow who starts to build a house, couldn’t actually afford it, and leaves a half finished monument to his poor planning. The cost? Renouncing everything. Isn’t it interesting that the cost is not paying everything? Even when the fellow we often call the rich, young ruler came to Jesus, Jesus didn’t say, “Sell all you have and give it to Judas my treasurer.” Jesus was no cult leader trying to get rich off the backs of gullible followers. However, this isn’t just about money. This whole teaching was actually based on Jesus’s claim that before we come to Him, we must hate our father, mother, wife, children, siblings, and even our own life. We are giving our allegiance to Jesus. We must be ready to renounce everything, including our family, our livelihood, anything we believe makes up our life right now in our service to Him. In other words, Jesus is to become our life. Renouncing doesn’t mean getting rid of everything. It means renouncing our claim on everything and everything’s claim on us. What is ours becomes His to be disposed of, dispersed, distributed, deposited, destroyed, defended as Jesus sees fit. Am I really willing to hand everything over to Jesus? Is there something in my life that if Jesus asked me to give it up, I’d say, “No.” If so, I need to keep counting. Don’t answer that question thinking, “Well, yes, there are some things I’d never give up, but Jesus would never ask me to give those up.” He may not. But He may. Is Jesus more important to you than anything else? Your reputation, your mother, your house, your spouse, your car, your business, your father, your acclaim, your children, your job, your pleasures, your pursuits, your goals, your desires, your identity, your money, your sexuality, your savings, your trophies, your retirement. We live in a culture that says no one has the right to ask this of us. In fact, no one does…except one. Our Creator, our Savior, our King. The good news is knowing that Jesus only asks of us what is best for us eternally. Understand, this is not really a question of whether you will renounce everything. You will. You already do. There is something in your life that holds sway over everything that might be considered important to you. There is something for which you will sacrifice everything no matter how painful or traumatic. It is different for each of us. Jesus says make it Him. Have you counted the cost?

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Does Jesus Know You?

Today’s reading is Luke 13.

We often ask, “Do you know Jesus?” That is obviously an important question. However, today’s reading asks, “Does Jesus know you?” Jesus explains that a day is coming when the Master will shut the gate. Some will beg at that time, “Lord, open to us.” The Master will proclaim, “I don’t know you.” “Sure you do,” they will say. “We’ve eaten together. You taught outside my house. We’ve talked and visited and fellowshipped.” But the Master will repeat, “I don’t know you. You may have heard me teach, but you didn’t listen.” I’m paraphrasing of course. Obviously, in one sense, Jesus knows everybody. In the sense He is teaching about in today’s reading, He knows only a few. In the sense of actually having a true relationship with Jesus, only few enter His door. This is sad. There are many who would say, “Of course, I know Jesus. I’ve talked and even eaten with Him.” But Jesus says, “That doesn’t mean you know Me.” Knowing Jesus means hearing Jesus and heeding Him. It doesn’t mean simply knowing about Jesus or mimicking some aspects of Jesus. Knowing and being known by Jesus means surrendering to Him in every way. Not many will want to do that. Be one of those who do.

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 13.

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Peace and Division

Today’s reading is Luke 12.

You can’t put Jesus in a box. Do you think Jesus came to give peace on earth? Of course He did. That was the statement of the angels in Luke 2:14. But Jesus says, “Nope. I came to bring division.” What is that about? Do I put Him in the “peace” box or the “strife” box? Peace is the purpose for Jesus’s coming. Division is how people actually respond. That is, Jesus did come to bring peace. His sacrifice restores peace between the lost and God. As that peace is restored, reconciliation will occur between those who find peace with God. Not everyone, however, accepts God’s terms of peace. Further, those who don’t, no matter how many “coexist” bumper stickers they have, are not satisfied simply allowing us to have peace. They will wage war. The war is not what is shocking. The Jews expected the Messiah to bring war before peace. However, they expected the war to be with the Romans. Jesus says the war will be in our own homes. Not only is that shocking, it is painful. That is why Jesus is preparing us. When even our own family and friends take up the fight against us, that will hurt tremendously. We may be tempted to believe we have somehow done something wrong. Those who attack us will certainly blame us. We will be tempted to believe it is our stand for God’s peace terms that are actually causing the war. However, we must not cave under the mounting pressure of their attacks. Rather, we must continue to pursue peace God’s way, through the gospel and His kingdom, calling people to God’s terms of surrender. Paul’s words still ring true. As much as it depends on us, there is to be peace. But peace will not simply depend on us. If there is division, war, and sword, let it come from those who cannot abide peace on God’s terms, not from us. May we never be bated by the worldly to fight on their terms. However, may we never abandon God’s terms of peace because the worldly attack. Hang on to Jesus no matter what.

Next week’s reading is Luke 13.

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Replace the Spirits

Today’s reading is Luke 11.

While we are certainly supposed to put our sins to death, being a disciple is not about stopping behaviors. It is actually about replacing behaviors. If all we do is cast out the evil spirit, we can do our dead level best to sweep up the house and keep it in order, but that spirit will simply bring seven more. Nature abhors a vacuum. So does our very being. If all we strive to do is get rid of bad stuff in our lives, we will only ever find the bad stuff taking over. It’s like trying to make yourself not think about pink hippopotamuses. Jesus doesn’t verbalize the actual instruction when He offers the warning. But can there be any doubt what the instruction is? When the evil spirit is cast out, it needs to be replaced by the Holy Spirit. I can try with all my might to keep out the evil spirit, but if I don’t invite God in, allowing Him to take up residence, rearranging the furniture as He sees fit, controlling the remote, calling the shots, and filling the space with His presence, then all my attempts at control are nothing more than vacuuming the carpet as the tornado targets my house. Don’t evict the spirits, replace them. That is discipleship.

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 11.

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Who Am I?

Today’s reading is Luke 9.

Don’t miss this. Peter’s good confession in Luke 9:20 is significant. We have heard it our whole lives and might be tempted to rush through it, thinking, “Oh yeah! I know this part.” But this is what the entire book of Luke is about. This is what all four of the gospels are about. We tend to read these gospels like modern biographies. We want to hear about the birth, what was going on in the world, a chronology of events, a precise accounting of conversations and actions, leading to the subjects death. We get confused when each of the gospels gives a differing presentation of some of those facts. They change the order of events. They don’t give exact records of the conversations. They don’t give all the details of everyone who was involved. And they even do that in some pretty significant places and events. Ancient biographers were not interested in that kind of presentation. I don’t just mean the Bible authors, I mean ancient biographers in general. The gospel authors were writing biography the same way the ancients did. Don’t misunderstand. They didn’t make stuff up. They didn’t lie. They didn’t invent the stories. But they were not interested in giving a detailed chronology of events, actions, and conversations. Their goal was not to explain what the subject of the biography did or what people did around him. Their goal was to explain who the subject of the biography is. Therefore, they crafted the events, actions, and conversations together to make that point. That is what these gospels are about. Each is written from a different perspective, with a different audience in mind, driving home a slightly different nuance of meaning. But each one is designed to prompt this one conclusion: Jesus is the Christ of God. He is the anointed Lord, Savior, King, Priest. Follow Him. Become like Him. Keep reading Luke and see how every event, every action, every conversations points to this one fact: Jesus is the Christ of God. Then believe it and have life in His name.

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 9.

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An Upside-Down Kingdom

Today’s reading is Luke 7.

I caught something today I’ve never thought about before. When Jesus is describing John, He says, “Those who are dressed in splendid clothing and live in luxury are in kings’ courts.” The thing is–John is part of a King’s court. He is the herald of the greatest King ever. Yet, he still lived in the wilderness, ate locusts and wild honey, and was rough as a cob. What’s up with that? Jesus’s kingdom is upside-down. It isn’t about advancing to luxury and leisure. It is about advancing to the role of servant. The greatest servant in the whole kingdom is the King Himself, who stepped off His heavenly throne, lived as a poor man on earth, and suffered as if He were a criminal all to save us. Is it any surprise His great herald is a man like John? The good news for us is to become a citizen of the Kingdom, we don’t have to climb the ladder of corporate success. We do not have to be financial tycoons. We do not have to be counted great in the eyes of the world. We do not need to advance up the ranks to hit the top. In fact, that is not advancing in the kingdom at all. We must grow to be the least, the smallest, the servant, and we will be great in Christ’s kingdom. In fact, we will become greater than the King’s herald. What is your advancement strategy today?

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 7.

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