Thursday, September 30, 2004

When Will We Get It?

When will we -- the church -- get it? Our tendency is to accept people -- even lost people -- only after they have first come our way in behavior, dress, lingo, etc. Only after they have "bought in" do we pursue (maybe).

So many times in my life I have heard people say, "I've invited my friend to church. He's not a Christian, but he's a good person." That's cool. But don't "bad people" need Jesus, too? And to be honest -- without Christ, aren't we all bad people?

All this hit home with me this morning as I was reading Luke 5. Jesus was being criticized by the Pharisees and teachers of the law for attending a banquet at Levi's house. Levi (Matthew) was a tax-collector (translation: bad person). Everyone who is religious knows that you don't eat with "sinners." (That would make eating a lonely occasion, wouldn't it?)

We love Jesus' answer to those religious hypocrites. We wish we could have been there to cheer him as he spoke those bold words. Jesus answered them, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." GO, JESUS!

Yet, 2,000 years later, who do we most resemble in this story? Jesus -- feasting with the social rejects? Or the Pharisees -- wanting to keep a proper image?

Do you think we will ever get it?

Wednesday, September 29, 2004


There have been occasions in my life when I have been absoluteley filthy. Repairing sewer lines, for instance. Times when the grime and smell have been so bad that I couldn't stand being close to myself. Wow, did it feel good to get in the shower and be cleansed!

One day Jesus was approached by a man who had leprosy. It is a horrible disease in which the flesh actually rots and falls off. The smell is gut-wrenching.

The man begged Jesus, "Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean." Get this: Jesus reached out and touched that smelly, rotting mass of flesh and said, "I am willing. Be clean!" Can you imagine how that leper felt? Flesh restored. No more odor. Clean!

What a physical picture of what Jesus as done for us spiritually! If we could only see what our sin looks like. It rots our soul. It is a stench in the nostrils of a holy God. But when we come before him, in that pathetic condition, and say, "Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean" -- guess what? He reaches out his hand and says, "I am willing. Be clean!" And our soul is restored. And the stench is replaced with the aroma of Christ himself. Cleansed!

Awesome, huh.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Repulsively Attractive

I wonder what Luke had in mind in Luke 5:1 when he wrote that Jesus was standing by the lake and people crowded around him and listened to the word of God. Could he have been thinking along the lines of John's "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God"?

Well, as the passage unfolds Jesus has Simon (Peter) put the boat out into the deep water to fish. Peter reminds Jesus that they had fished all night -- and caught na-da. However, they end up with a boatload of fish -- so many that the boat is beginning to sink.

Here's where the passage grabs my attention. Peter comes to Jesus and falls at his knees. "Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!" He comes face-to-face with the awful-attractiveness of God. In one instant, he is drawn to Jesus -- and yet knows he doesn't belong there.

This is the constant tension which I believe should always exist as we press into God. He is holy and awesome -- and we are not. There is a nagging feeling that we don't belong here. But at the same time, there is an attractiveness which we cannot resist and to which we are drawn. We want to climb up into the lap of our Abba. To lose sight of either end of the tension will make for an unhealthy and imbalanced relationship with Him.

Monday, September 27, 2004

It Doesn't Seem Right

As I have grown older, my interest in sports has decreased. I used to love pro football, but something about a defensive lineman making a tackle after a 4-yard gain on 1st down -- and then strutting around flexing and posing has turned me off. But I digress.

I do enjoy college football more now than ever. I love the way the fans so avidly follow their teams. One of the greatest rivalries is Texas-Texas A&M. Tens of thousands of people in burnt orange trying to outshout tens of thousands of others in maroon. "Hook 'em, horns!" "Gig 'em, aggies!" Imagine how it would throw things out of kilter if someone in burnt orange slipped out onto the field and led the crowd in the A&M fight song. Bedlam would ensue. It doesn't seem right, does it?

Well, it's not a perfect parallel -- but it strikes me as just as odd. One day, Jesus came across a man who possessed a demon. The demon began yelling at the top of his voice, "Ha! What do you want from us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are -- the Holy One of God!"

Just a few verses later, we find people bringing others with various illnesses -- and Jesus was healing them. As demons were coming out of people, they were shouting, "You are the Son of God!"

Demons cheering for Jesus? It doesn't seem right, does it?

Now imagine a different scenaro: A Texas-Texas A&M game where the fans sat quietly in the stands. No burnt orange or maroon to identify anyone by. No "hook 'em, horns!" No "gig 'em, aggies!" Just silence. It doesn't seem right, does it?

How about this one: A sinner -- redeemed, cleansed, set free from sin. Filled with the Holy Spirit of God. Adopted as a child of the Father Himself. Promised an eternity in heaven. The response: Silence. No cheering. No identifying marks. Just silence. It doesn't seem right, does it?

Jesus once said of his disciples, "if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out." Rocks having to testify about Jesus because those he has saved remain quiet? It doesn't seem right, does it?

Monday, September 20, 2004

The Holy Spirit

I'm reading Luke chapters 3 and 4, and it just jumps out at me. In 3: 21-22, Jesus is baptized by John the Baptizer, and the Holy Spirit descends on him. Then, chapter 4 begins, "Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit . . . was led by the Spirit in the desert." There, he faces the temptations from the devil.

After the temptations, 4:14 says, "Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit." He goes to the local synagogue and stands to read. The passage is from Isaiah 61: 1-2, and begins, "The Spirit of the Lord is on me."

Incredible! At the onset of his ministry, Jesus was empowered by the Holy Spirit. The same Holy Spirit who empowers us! The same Holy Spirit who sustained Jesus through his temptations will sustain us as well. The same Holy Spirit who covered his ministry of preaching the good news, setting prisoners free, giving sight to the blind, etc will bless our ministries as well. That is an awesome thought.

So, my prayer for you and me today is from Ephesians 1: 17: "I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better."

Thursday, September 16, 2004

One Weird Dude

He dressed weird. His diet was weirder. His opening words were said with such warmth: "You brood of vipers!" He wouldn't be welcomed into the pulpits of any churches I am aware of.

He wasn't politically correct. His message wasn't sugar-coated. Nor were they intended to convey that "Everyone is OK. Let' just all feel good." No, he came warning of coming wrath. He said, "Prove you have repented by living like it." He said, "Don't tell me you're OK because you come from a lineage of good people. God can turn stones into good people." He said, "The ax is sharpened and ready to cut down fruitless trees. And they will be thrown into the fire." He said to share your clothes and food with people who have less than you. He said to be fair in your business dealings.

And get this: He said to be satisfied with your salary.

Yet, Luke says (3: 18) that this man "preached the good news to them." Good news? Not to those who think good news means "you're OK just the way you are." But it is good news to know that the Redeemer is on his way.

So, who is this weird guy? Well, Jesus said that he was the greatest man born of woman. You probably already know that he is John the Baptizer. And in a short time, his preaching shook a nation. Join me in praying that God will raise up a few "Johns" in our day to shake us and wake us.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Treasures of the Heart

Beverly and I love being at this point in our lives. As we walk or drive together, we find ourselves sharing memories of raising our children. Many of those memories are wonderful. A few of them, however, still give us chills. Like the time we lost Jenny, and found her floating face-down in the lake. Or the time we were at Tino's Restaurant and lost track of Josh. We ended up calling the police. I was freaking out. Praise the Lord, those stories had happy endings. Jonathan, thanks for not following in your siblings' footsteps.

So, there's Mary and Joseph -- leaving Jerusalem after Passover to return to Nazareth. They think Jesus is off playing with the siblings and cousins. After a day, they begin to worry. Where is he? So, they head back to Jerusalem -- and look for him for three days! Can you imagine how frantic they must have been? Probably as frantic as I felt when I found Josh that night -- calml watching a high school basketball game. "Do you know how worried you mother and I were?" "What, Dad? I wasn't doing anything." Grrrrrrr.

Mary finds Jesus in the Temple and tells him how worried she and Joseph were. Jesus' response? "Why are you searching for me?" (Hello! Because you are only 12 years old, and you're our son!) "You knew where you could find me. I had to be in my Father's house."

Then it says that Mary "treasured all these things in her heart." Can you imagine year later, as she sat around talking with Joseph and their other kids? "Hey, remember the time we went to Jerusalem, and on the way home we couldn't find Jesus?" Wow! What a story! And what an ending.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Living Intentionally

I don't know about you, but my life is lived with so many different focuses (focii?). My future is caught up with worrying about my retirement funds, my health, etc. My present seems to have an attention span of about 15 minutes -- as I flit here and there with minimal concentration.

Then I read about this guy named Simeon in Luke 2. He is described as righteous and devout, and the Holy Spirit is upon him. The Spirit had told him that he would not die until he had seen Messiah. And it seems that had become the focus of his life. Apparently, he hung around the Temple courts -- checking out each male child as he was brought in to be dedicated.

Then one day, he sees a man and woman bringing in their baby. Could this be the one? He took the baby in his arms and praised God. His eyes have seen Messiah! His response? I'm paraphrasing, but he says, "Lord, you are faithful to your promise to me. I have seen Messiah and the salvation that will come through him. You may take me now, because my life is fulfilled."

Wow! I want to live with that kind of focus! To see the face of the Christ -- that is enough to fulfill me.

Monday, September 13, 2004

I'm Too Old For This?

Next month, I turn 48. Sometimes I wonder how anyone can keep up with all of the new technology. Is it even worth the effort? I guess it must be -- or I wouldn't be "blogging" today.

So, I can relate to Zechariah. In Luke 1, the angel Gabriel comes to him whil he is ministering in the Temple. Gabriel tells him that he and Elizabeth are going to have a son. Zechariah's response (v. 18) is, "How can I be sure of this?" I am an old man and my wife is well along in yars." Because he questions the angel, Zechariah is struck mute until the birth of his son.

But later in the chapter (v. 26ff), Gabriel comes to Mary and tells her she will give birth to Jesus. Mary's response? "How can this be since I am a virgin?" Now, I ask you: Is Mary's response all that different from Zechariah's? Why isn't she struck mute? Where is the fairness here?

Could it be that more is expected from Zechariah because he is a minister -- a servant of God? God, help me to believe You when You speak -- no matter what You say!