Who is our teacher?

THE STORY OF JESUS: Luke 20:41-47
“Beware of the teachers of the law.” (Luke 20:46)
I need to take these words to heart for myself, as ‘a teacher of the law’.
I am someone who devotes my time to studying and teaching scripture.
We speak with authority, quote Greek and Hebrew as we tell people what God is saying.
In this reading, Jesus challenges their authority and teaching.
He warns how such teachers put on a good show, but are often guilty of harming people.
We make people feel guilty, we suggest that they are going against God.
We use our knowledge to our advantage to get people to listen, to do what we think.
It is certainly not my desire to be like this, but there is always the risk.
I take from this a strong caution to be very careful how I teach, what I say.
My job is to help people find and follow Jesus themselves, He is their teacher!
Jesus sends His Spirit to be their ‘teacher’, they must discern God’s will and way.
I am not their counselor, but a fellow student; together we listen to our Teacher!
I can help them, and they can help me, and together we learn from the Master.
In the end, they must follow their conscience, and I mine, and let Jesus be the Judge!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, Your Spirit teaches me, and Your Spirit teaches us. Help me not to presume a place in others lives that only You can take. Help me be a humble and sincere student of Your teaching!

Sinners in the hands of a loving God!

“Let them sing before the Lord, for he comes to judge the earth.” (Psalm 98:9)
In my experience, talk about the coming Judge did not elicit songs of praise.
We were warned that the Judge was angry, and would only pardon the penitent.
The Judge was not our friend but a threat, and we trembled.
I am all for humility and repentance before God and Jesus when they come.
But we are not ‘sinners in the hands of an angry God’.
We are sinners in the hands of a loving God, as Jesus showed us.
God is love, God is not wrath or anger or revenge or punishment.
His love includes anger at sin and rebellion and folly, but it remains love.
We do people a disservice is we present to them an angry God.
The references to God’s wrath in scripture always build on a love foundation.
To the very end He does not want anyone to perish, but to be restored to life.
Yes, our Judge is coming, and He hates sin; but He will not give up on us.
Everything He does is designed to open our eyes, to draw us back, to restore us!
This is a Judge worth singing about, a Judge we can trust for fairness and mercy!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, I know I do things that provoke Your love to sadness and anger. But ultimately I know that Your love sent You to the cross, that I might find forgiveness and freedom. I entrust myself to You, a sinner in the hands of a loving God!

Is faith disconnected from everyday life?

In Robert Banks’s groundbreaking book, Redeeming the Routines, he identifies the enormous gap between belief and everyday life. He points out that this gap shows up in ten worrying ways:

  1. Few of us apply or know how to apply our belief to our work, or lack of work.
  2. We only make minimal connections between our faith and our spare time activities.
  3. We have little sense of a Christian approach to regular activities like domestic chores.
  4. Our everyday attitudes are partly shaped by the dominant values of our society.
  5. Many of our spiritual difficulties stem from the daily pressure we experience (lack of time, exhaustion, family pressures, etc.).
  6. Our everyday concerns receive little attention in the church.
  7. Only occasionally do professional theologians address routine activities.
  8. When addressed, everyday issues tend to be approached too theoretically.
  9. Only a minority of Christians read religious books or attend theological courses.
  10. Most churchgoers reject the idea of a gap between their beliefs and their ways of life.

Hungry to hear His Voice!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Jeremiah 14-15
“When your words came, I ate them.” (Jeremiah 15:16)
In this book, sometimes God speaks to Israel, and sometimes to Jeremiah.
In this verse Jeremiah is complaining to God about his own struggle.
He recalls how he responded when God first called him: he ate His words up.
This expression describes the hungry soul craving God’s wisdom and guidance.
The problem in Israel was that they went through the motions, but gave it no heart.
They did ‘devotions’, but they were not eagerly listening for God’s Voice.
Their hearts pursued other pleasures and desires, not God’s wisdom or God’s way.
Starving hearts won’t quit when finding food gets hard; they try harder.
Some will even eat bugs, or grass, or other stuff to satisfy their hunger.
Consider you own ‘hunger’ for God’s wisdom and God way in your bible reading?
How hungry are you, how much effort do you put into it?
When you do ‘eat’ it, do you digest it through meditation and application?
Skimming the bible will provide no lasting benefit, God wants us to want it!
If we truly live by every word from God (Matthew 4:4), how alive are we?
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, You can tell whether I am really hungry to listen and learn from You. Make me more hungry than I am, so that I may find more satisfaction in ‘eating Your words’.

God’s plan for our happiness!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Jeremiah 11-13
“Obey me… and you will be my people, and I will be your God.” (Jeremiah 11:4)
In some ways, God sounds like a bully: obey me or else!
But context matters, and the context here is a corrupt, messed up world.
Slavery, violence, injustice, perversion, murder… these were normal and common.
When God rescued Israel from slavery, He offered them a better life, a new hope.
“A land flowing with milk and honey (11:5)” was not a bribe to get them to obey.
It is what God created humans for, what God has always wanted for us.
God is not opposed to happiness or freedom; He knows the only way to have them!
But as long as we stubbornly refuse God’s way, we miss out on God’s dream.
The context of these words is God’s exasperation with their stubborn rebellion.
God sends Jesus to urge us to obey everything He commands us (Matthew 28:19).
Through the cross, He rescues and enables us to love God and others.
As we trust and follow Him, He restores us to harmony with God and each other.
Love for God and others is not just a necessary duty to appease a stern God.
It is the essence of blessing and happiness, the only way to be free!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, help me not to ignore or resist Your commands to love. Help me to see that they are the key to the hapiness and blessing I am looking for!

This is beyond me!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Luke 20:27-40
“Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Jesus with a question.” (Luke 20:36)
Death is such a ‘normal’ part of life for us, we cannot imagine no death.
We know and are learning many things about this life.
But the life that follows the final resurrection is beyond our ability to grasp.
Trying to understand life after death is like a child who just learned their numbers.
How can they explain the theory of relativity – it’s just beyond their grasp.
One day we will see it, experience it, and have a sense of it.
“For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” (1 Corinthians 13:12)
The Saduccees were thinking they understood reality from their finite vantage point.
I am no different; I am always trying to explain things from how I see them.
For example, I’ve always assumed that marriage would be a part of that next life.
Jesus shows that only God stands beyond time to know what life will one day be like.
Only God can fully know and explain the mysteries of life and eternal life.
What life will be like then is a mystery, but one thing for sure – it will be awesome!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, forgive me for trying to figure out things that are well beyond me. Help me to stay humble as I think my thoughts about You, and as I share them with others.

The best citizens of all!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Luke 20:20-26
“Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” (Luke 20:25)
Jesus did not advance the kingdom of God by advocating rebellion or revolution.
Caesars were unrighteous leaders, but they were God-appointed. (Romans 13:1-2)
Our focus should not be to displace governments, but to demonstrate goodness.
We need to do what is right and not just demand it from our leaders.
Jesus didn’t fight the Romans, but neither did He stop living for God’s kingdom.
As Jesus followers, we join with Jesus in doing what is right and good (giving to God)
This includes giving respectful submission to governing authorities (giving to Caesar).
This includes paying our taxes and submitting to their laws.
The only time we can disobey our leaders is if they compel us to do what is wrong.
Even then, not in a defiant or disrespectful way, but humble, peaceful and prayerful.
As Paul says, we are not to overcome evil with evil, but with good (Romans 12:21).
“Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” (1 Peter 2:12)
In a sense, we ought to be the best citizens of all, the kind that make leaders notice!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, make me a channel of Your peace, and not an agent of rebellion. May I not be known as a trouble-maker, but as a good-deed doer.

What kind of tenant am I?

THE STORY OF JESUS: Luke 20:9-19
“So they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard.” (Luke 20:10)
Jesus uses this parable to describe how God set up the kingdom of this world.
God is the creator, and the owner, and we are the entrusted tenants or stewards.
God wants to share the blessings with us, but we want to keep it ourselves.
Jesus is not speaking to just the religious leaders, He is speaking to us.
God wants to share in the fruit of His blessings in our lives.
He desires to see love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, etc. at work.
He wants to see His gifts being used for good, to make this world a better place.
In general this is not what we see… instead we see the human disaster.
God’s family is beaten, treated shamefully, left empty-handed, wounded and killed.
Jesus came as God’s final invitation and warning: to join Him, or to lose it all!
Jesus still comes to us through people in need, asking us to share God’s blessings.
He is looking at us through their eyes, asking me: what kind of tenant are you?
Am I being selfish or generous, serving God’s kingdom dream or my own?
If someone in need comes to me, do I shame them or send them empty-handed?
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, help me to see every opportunity to bless someone as You coming to me to ask me to share in the fruit of Your blessings. Help me to be a generous tenant, not a greedy one.

Trusting God with our questions!

“Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.” (Luke 20:8)
Why doesn’t Jesus answer their question, why is He evasive?
His response reveals something about God for us as well.
Jesus senses that they are not seeking wisdom or genuine understanding.
They are on the attack, and want to trap Him in His words.
Jesus turns their game against them, and traps them in their own words.
He does not answer them, because they do not truly want His answer.
I wonder whether we experience the same with God?
How often are our requests or concerns complaints or attacks in disguise?
Are we really seeking wisdom, or are we only concerned about our own selves?
As Jesus followers we look to Him for wisdom and understanding.
But even if He does not answer our questions, we still hang on.
We’re not looking to justify or serve ourselves, nor interrogating or attacking Jesus.
We come to Jesus with sincere, desperate faith and hope and love — we trust Him.
Do you trust Him with your questions, even if He doesn’t answer them?
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, I have many questions. I will trust You to answer if, when and how You want to. Remind me that I am not Your interrogator, but You are mine!