Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Sorrow for God's People

"At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” He said to them, “Go and tell that fox for me, ‘Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work. Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem. Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you. And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.’”  (Luke 13:31-35)

Jesus encountered some short-sighted people on this leg of his journey. First of all, there were the Pharisees. They come with a message concerning Herod Antipas, the Tetrarch of Galilee. “Leave this place, because Herod wants to kill you.” A kind of warning for this rising Jewish leader. Interesting to note, the Pharisees are the good guys in this story. In fact, the Pharisees are rarely shown in a bad light from Luke’s pen.

A Pharisee is the moderating voice of the Jewish council in Acts 5—he in a sense saves Peter! Some of the members of the church, according to Luke, were Pharisees. In fact, according to Luke, Paul himself was a Pharisee! And here, this group of Pharisees come to Jesus with a warning. But in this warning, we catch a glimpse of their short-sightedness. They didn’t understand who Jesus was. So, they come warning Him about Herod.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Not Peace, But Division

Sometimes I am amused by commercials and radio spots for religion. Especially in places like the American South—from Tennessee to Texas. Sometimes I wonder what kind of message we’re sending about Christianity. Suppose there was a person who arrived that had never heard of Christianity or Church or Jesus. If all they had as an orientation to our God were the radio spots and TV commercials that are around us, what picture would they have of God?

Friday, March 22, 2019

Do Not Worry

Why is it that we, as human beings, have a tendency to make life so difficult? I think we’ve always done this—we have a knack for making things more difficult than they ought to be. Let’s just boil things down to their lowest common denominator.

Life is really not that difficult, is it? “What is the meaning of life?” This is a question the world has been asking for millennia. But listen, we—above all people—should have the answer to that one! Life is about glorifying the God who gave us “life” in the first place.

But you say, “It’s not that easy! Life gets complicated! Life is full of tough stuff like: relationships, mortgages, family, money!"

OK, granted, life sometimes gets difficult, but just humor me for a moment. Is it possible that we allow life to get more difficult? Is it possible that maybe God intended for our existence to be much less hectic and frantic and chaotic? Is it possible that we bring much of the dysfunction to our lives upon ourselves?

Monday, March 18, 2019

The Cost of Being a Disciple

Each of the gospel writers had his own style. They all tell the same story. But they don’t tell it the same way. Each brings to light different nuances of Jesus’ life. Each was written to a different group of people in a different time. We tend to think of the 1st century as one time period. But think of our own past century. Think of the differences in our own society. The differences between the 1960’s & the 1990’s! The gospel writers framed the material to meet the needs of each new era.

Mark wrote to a group of Christians who stood at the brink of the destruction of Jerusalem. You can hear the language of war. You can feel the tension in his words.

John wrote at the turn of the century when the Christians needed hope and reassurance that Jesus really was God!

The Gospel of Luke has its own emphases. One interesting thing about Luke’s gospel is that it has a very definite and deliberate structure. In the first half of his gospel, which centers in Galilee, Jesus is the hero! He could do no wrong! He was raising little girls to life. He was healing people. A large crowd was gathering behind him—building momentum! But about half way through the gospel, a noticeable shift takes place. And I can tell you exactly where it happens.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Who Will Be the Greatest?

Once upon a time there was a king who wanted to build a church that would honor him. He would personally supervise the work and only he would provide the money for its completion. The glory was to be his.

It was intended that by this means his name would be revered and remembered by successive generations. In due course the church was finished. Upon its completion he commanded that a tablet be placed on the side of the building. On this tablet, his name would be carved. Also, they would carve the information that he was the sole builder and benefactor.

The church was opened with great pomp and ceremony. The king retired that night well pleased with himself. But that night he dreamed that an angel came down from heaven. The angel erased his name from the tablet and instead put in its place the name of a poor woman.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

The So-Called "Good Confession"

Let’s begin with an easy question this morning: “Who is Jesus?” For people living in Jesus’ time, that was not an easy question. Was Jesus Elijah? (Some thought so). David? The Messiah? Just another wanna-be prophet! In fact, for centuries, people have been trying to figure out who Jesus was.

Some of you may have heard of a group called “The Jesus Seminar.” This is a group of Christian scholars and teachers who set out to “find the real, historical Jesus.” Apart from myth, apart from legend. What’s interesting, though, is that the Jesus they consistently find looks a lot like them. Scholarly, void of emotion, a boring college professor type. If you ever have occasion to read any of their material, it’s actually quite comical. They think they are the cutting, edge brilliant scholars. But the methods they use to come to their conclusions are really absurd!

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Seeing and Hearing God

It’s almost frightening to be favored by God. I’m confident that the people of Israel uttered those words, or at least thought those words, on more than one occasion. I think of the people leaving Egypt and sure, God rescued them. Sure, God brought them out of slavery. But once they got into the desert, these people began to understand who it was they were dealing with. When the pillar of fire showed up and when the glory of God changed the appearance of Moses, I’m sure many of those people who witnessed these things uttered those words, “It’s almost frightening to be favored by God.” 

I think of the crowds of Israelites who helped escort the Ark of the Covenant from Baalah back to Jerusalem. Remember, the Ark had been out place—away from the people of God. Now, with David on the throne, the people were proclaiming in one voice, “We want God among us.” They were claiming their rightful title as “The People of God!” But when Uzzah reached out to stabilize that Ark… And when he died on the spot as a result…Well, I have to imagine there were some onlookers who thought…”It’s almost frightening to be favored by God.”

But here is something else: Sure, God’s power sometimes frightens His people. But even more, sometimes God’s people are left speechless because of a very important truism. The best way I know how to say it is to repeat the well-known phrase: “To whom much is given, much is expected.” You see, God expects more of God’s people than God does of others, and sometimes that thought alone is…frightening! We see a clear example of this truth by once again bearing witness to Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem.