Today’s reading is Acts 4.
“There was not a needy person among them…”
If we read this too quickly, we may pass right through this profound statement and miss what is really going on. To us today, this can be a quaint picture of togetherness in the first congregation: “Oh, how sweet! They loved each other and cared for each other.” That, however, is only the surface of what is happening. Luke is calling to mind a passage from the Old Testament. In Deuteronomy 15:4, God, describing how He would care for the kingdom of Israel, explained, “But there will be no poor among you.” Then the chapter goes on to explain that the reason there wouldn’t be any poor was not because everyone would own their own home, have their own very productive farm, enjoy lucrative businesses or employment. No, rather, some would be financially blessed and others would not be. However, those who were blessed would share with those who weren’t. In that way, everyone in God’s kingdom would be taken care of, and there would be no needy among them. Regrettably, Israel failed horribly. They were judged not only because they didn’t love God, but because they didn’t love one another. With that in the background, Luke paints the picture of the first congregation. Where the kingdom of Israel failed, Christ’s kingdom succeeded. Those who had the blessings did not horde them as their own, but sold and shared. And among them, the needs of the needy were provided. There were no needy among them. Amazing. How is that working for us today?
Next weeks’s reading is Acts 5.
Continue reading “No Needy Among Them”
Today’s reading is Luke 17.
If your brother sins, rebuke him. The command is not to hate him, yell at him, hold a grudge against him, be mean to him, hurt him, get in his face, be angry with him, badmouth him, slander him, ignore him, give him the cold shoulder. The command is to rebuke him. As Jesus rebuked the wind and the storm charging them to stop and rebuked demons charging them to leave people, when we rebuke someone we are charging them to change their behavior. Rebuking someone is not venting my hurt feelings, expressing my anger, blowing my stack. Rebuking someone is not yelling at them, hitting them, or even punishing them. Rebuking someone is instructing them to change their behavior, that is, to repent. Why would we do that? Because we love them. Because we know their sins separate them from God and from us. Because we don’t want them to perish in sin anymore than God wants that (see Ezekiel 18:20, 32). Most people don’t rebuke. They either vent their feelings or ignore the situation not wanting to rock the boat. It takes someone who truly loves to offer a sincere, true rebuke intended to bring someone to soul-saving repentance. Will you love those who sin that much?
Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 17.
Continue reading “If Your Brother Sins, Rebuke Him”
Today’s reading is Luke 16.
Earlier in the week we saw Jesus’s three point sermon on stewardship. Now we see a case study of stewardship. Jesus’s earlier parable encouraged the sons of light to be as shrewd in their preparations for the future as the sons of this world are. Now we see an example of a son of light who was not shrewd enough. The rich man was shrewd enough to think and act like a son of the world. He had used his finances shrewdly enough to be prepared to live in this world. However, he had not behaved as a son of light should. He had not made friends by means of his unrighteous wealth so that he could be welcomed into eternal dwellings. He had left Lazarus on his very own doorstep, poor, destitute, hungry. In eternity, he begged for mercy from Lazarus, but he had been unwilling to give any mercy to Lazarus while on this earth. The rich man was not welcomed by Lazarus into eternal dwellings, but even worse, he wasn’t even able to receive the least service of hospitality from Lazarus. In life, there was nothing but a gateway between the rich man and Lazarus. In eternity, there was a gulf too wide to cross. The rich man wouldn’t be bothered to help Lazarus in life. In eternity, even if Lazarus wanted to bestow mercy on the rich man, he couldn’t. I know we are wont to make this story of Lazarus and the rich man about a response to Jesus and being baptized. However, whether this story is a parable or an account of real events (as some suggest), it was about people before turning to Jesus was even a possibility. This is about being a shrewd, faithful, loyal steward. The rich man was not. Jesus is placing an exclamation point on His sermon about stewardship. We need to see it. Israel didn’t listen when Moses and the Prophets said to love God and love your neighbor. Will we listen when the one who rose from the dead said so?
Monday’s reading is Luke 17.
Continue reading “A Case Study in Stewardship”
Today’s reading is Luke 12.
I’ll be honest with you. I try not to be an alarmist Chicken Little, but I am presently convinced that a new persecution against Christians is starting and will only increase over the next two decades. So, I needed the reminder that the worst anyone can do to me is cause me physical pain and death. They cannot take my salvation and eternal hope away. Therefore, ultimately I have nothing to fear from the world. However, God can take it away. Therefore, my respect, my awe, my reverence, my fear needs to be directed toward Him. (This is why I need to abandon the hypocrisy Jesus talked about in the previous paragraph.) Then Jesus seems to switch topics, but what a comforting modification to His teaching about fear. Yes, I need to fear God who can kill my body and cast my soul into hell. However, the one who can do that values me more than the sparrows whom He never forgets. He has numbered the very hairs of my head. That is, He knows me. He cares for me. He loves me. The very last thing He wants to do is kill me and cast me into hell. The pagan gods might punish a person for no reason other than the god woke up on the wrong side of the bed. Our God is not that fickle. He doesn’t forget His own. Certainly, I need to fear God if I’m being a hypocrite. Certainly, I need to fear God if I decide to turn my back on Him. Certainly, I need to fear God if I am really reinterpreting His will based on my own. However, I don’t need to tiptoe in terror as if I might accidentally misspeak or mistakenly misstep and get tossed into hell. It is awesome to know that the One Power in the universe that does have that power, doesn’t want to exercise it. Thus, while I fear God, I have no fear of God. Praise the Lord!
Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 12.
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Today’s reading is Luke 11.
Has this ever happened to you? Grab a coffee cup out of the dishwasher indicating “clean,” flip it over without really looking at it, get your coffee carafe, and start to pour. Then you notice. There is junk all inside the cup. What seemed pristine and sparkling on the outside is full of disgusting filth and grime on the inside. YUCK! Jesus said that was the Pharisees. However, Jesus doesn’t simply say, “Clean the inside.” He oddly says, “But give as alms those things that are within, and behold, everything is clean for you.” The word translated “alms” is used nine other times in Luke/Acts. Every time it refers to merciful giving to those in need. In Acts 10, Cornelius’s alms were a memorial before God causing him to receive favor. In Acts 9, the term described Tabitha’s work among the widows of her congregation. In Acts 3, the lame man was asking for alms, but Peter and John healed him instead. With that in mind, Jesus doesn’t simply say, “Clean up your mind, purify your heart, and your behaviors will become clean.” He says, “Give as alms those things that are within, and behold, everything is clean for you.” The Pharisees were full of greed on the inside. Even if they gave alms externally, they did so with ulterior motives of greed and self-promotion. By contrast, Jesus says our internal things should be given away as alms. That is, if we give our very selves away in the service of others, then not only will we be clean, but everything will be clean for us. Jesus takes us a step beyond merely trying really hard to purify our thinking. We must direct our thinking, praying, mindset, attitude, outlook toward service of others. When we do, we and all we do will become clean.
Next week’s reading is Luke 12.
Continue reading “Give Yourself as Alms”
Today’s reading is Luke 10.
In order to save face, the Lawyer asked, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus didn’t answer the question; He told a story. Then Jesus asked His own question: “Who proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” The Lawyer asked the wrong question. The Lawyer asked, “Who is my neighbor?” What he should have asked is, “How can I be neighborly?” That is the same question each of us needs to ask. But Jesus really takes it a step farther. Whenever people read stories or hear stories, we naturally place ourselves in the shoes of someone in the story. Whose shoes was the Lawyer wearing? Clearly, he was not the Samaritan. He would never rob anyone. As a lawyer, he would align with the Pharisees and would not see himself as either the Priest or Levite, whom the Lawyer would naturally assume were Sadducees. Who does that leave? The most likely person the lawyer would relate to is the robbed and beaten man. Recognizing this, we discover the very genius of Jesus and this story. The Lawyer asks, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus tells a story that essentially says to the Lawyer, “I don’t know, Lawyer. Who would you want to be your neighbor if roles were reversed?”
Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 10.
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Today’s reading is Luke 9.
The kingdom of Jesus is upside down. The competition is not for who is the greatest, but who is the least. And Jesus set the bar high. Or maybe I should say low. He is the greatest. He is the King. Not of a country, not of the world, not even of the universe. He is the king of all things in heaven and on earth, of the earthly realm and the heavenly places, of the present age and the age to come. He is the sovereign ruler. However, He stepped off His throne and into the world. He didn’t come as a king or ruler. Rather, he came as the seemingly illegitimate son of a backwoods carpenter of an oppressed people. He grew up in the most backwater of their towns. However, that wasn’t low enough. Though He was beloved by many, He was ultimately arrested as an insurrectionist and died the death of a criminal. He stooped that low to save you and me. Jesus is no leader who says, “Do as I say, not as I do.” He stepped up (or I should say down). He showed the way. He walked the path. We do not impress Him with our greatness. Let’s quit trying to. Rather, let us be impressed by Him, by His way of life, by His stooping service. Let us be so impressed we let Him imprint His manner of living on us. “Make me a servant, just like Your Son,” we sing. Today, let’s live it.
Next week’s reading is Luke 10.
Continue reading “Who’s the Greatest?”