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Obviously, I need to re-evaluate the time I have available for posting.  I’m doing a pretty good job keeping up with the readings, but maybe a weekly or semi-weekly posting schedule will be better than shooting for every weekday.  Now that this draft is a couple of weeks old, I really have some catching up to do!

As I read Luke 23:6-11, I thought back to my GI Joe & He-Man days.  There was always a great deal of anticipation and longing for the next new toy with whatever cool accessories or actions moves it might have.  This new thing simply must be better than anything that I already had, so I just need to get the new Snake Eyes!

Well, I’d save my money and head to Ben Franklin and bring the toy I’d drooled over for a couple of weeks home.  Sure, it would be great fun for a couple of days, but – eventually – the excitement would fade.  Pieces would be lost or consumed by a younger sibling or pet.  Limbs would break or cease to function properly.  It just couldn’t ever – in a lasting way – live up to my expectations.

Herod seems to express the same feeling in this passage.  He so longed to meet Jesus hoping He would perform some great miracle for him.  It was all about the entertainment value for Herod.  When our Savior was brought before this so-called king, He didn’t perform.  He didn’t do what He was “expected” to do, so not only was Herod disappointed, but he outright rejected Jesus.  Herod openly mocked Jesus and delivered Him back for execution.

Are we so very different from Herod?  We read of the great things Jesus did and the promises that are recorded in the New Testament and have a set of expectations based on the conclusions we derive.  How often do we go to our Heavenly Father in prayer asking – by the power of Jesus – to deliver some supposedly urgent request that we can’t live without, when we really have the wrong motives in mind?  Then, we’re disappointed that God doesn’t respond exactly as we hoped nor as immediately as we expect.  We are tempted to cast our Lord aside because He didn’t perform according to our expectations.

It is imperative that we reset our perspective and seek to serve in our relationship.  We need to be praising God from the mountaintops that He hasn’t acted as Herod did, or as we are tempted to – by casting us aside because we don’t perform as God expects.  We are, far too often, the observed character that fails to impress on every count when measured by God’s standard.  What a great Master we serve that He affords us time and opportunity to improve and seek to measure up to His standards better every day.

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Father Give Me…

Luke 15 contains three parables that are very familiar to many. I’ve read and preached on the prodigal son many times. While reading the passage this time, one phrase struck me – “Father give me…”

In verse 12, the son expresses his arrogant, thankless attitude by thinking he deserved anything.  Loving parents prodivde for their children and this son surely lacked nothing necessary for life – except some perspective.

He then goes out with his portion of the inheritance, blows everything he was given on the pursuit of whatever craving bit him.  He finally pulled out of his nose dive when he realized he was envious of the food he was giving the pigs.

Verse 18, he has turned around and basically says “Father FORgive me.”  This time, the arrogance was nowhere to be found.  He knew what a great situation he had and that he totally blew it.  Like most parents, when their child wants to change, forgiveness is always available.

How often do we do the same thing the son did with our Heavenly Father?  We forget the multitude of blessings with which he has provided us and take for granted His grace and mercy.  Have we lost the sense of perspective that helps us realize how amazing God’s mercy is and that we are constantly in need of his provision and care?

Regrettably, even the other brother lost his perspective.  He didn’t think he had sinned – only because no one brought it to his attention!  He said the same thing – “Father give me…”

We need to take a step back and consider the blessings God has given us and remember and praise His name because He has not given us what we deserve.

I want to start posting the words to some of my favorite hymns on the weekends.  There are a lot of new songs that contain good, edifying, theologically rich lyrics, but – in general – these contemporary songs leave much to be desired in content.  So, I tend to prefer the older songs.

All Creatures of Our God and King was written by St. Francis of Assisi and translated by William H. Draper.

All creatures of our God and King
Lift up your voice and with us sing,
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Thou burning sun with golden beam,
Thou silver moon with softer gleam!

O praise Him! O praise Him!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

Thou rushing wind that art so strong
Ye clouds that sail in Heaven along,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Thou rising moon, in praise rejoice,
Ye lights of evening, find a voice!

O praise Him! O praise Him!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

And all ye men of tender heart,
Forgiving others, take your part,
O sing ye! Alleluia!
Ye who long pain and sorrow bear,
Praise God and on Him cast your care!

O praise Him! O praise Him!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

Let all things their Creator bless,
And worship Him in humbleness,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Praise, praise the Father, praise the Son,
And praise the Spirit, Three in One!

O praise Him! O praise Him!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

Edwin already said what I was thinking, though he did a better job of it.  So, I’ll share some thoughts about another part of today’s reading.

In chapter 10:38-42, Luke records the following account:

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary.Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

Mary and Martha provide an interesting contrast.  Martha was focused on doing what she always had – providing for the needs of her guests, attending to the many pressing concerns of this life.  It was a big responsibility to care for guests in the appropriate way.  How much more important to be certain that everything was perfect for this great teacher?! Mary, on the other hand, was willing to forget about these things and just sit at Jesus’ feet and listen.

Before Jesus entered the house, both women probably had similar feelings of excitement and anticipation.  Word, surely, had reached them of the good things Jesus accomplished as well as some summary of the lessons He taught.  They were probably both excited to talk with Him and hear some new thoughts from this great teacher or to maybe hear the same things of which they were told, but to hear it from the great Teacher’s mouth!

When the time came, Martha was still so set in making sure every little thing was perfect and every need was met that her opportunity was passing her by.  This moment was passing too quickly and she was unable to pull herself from her routine to just stop and have hear ears and heart filled with wonderful words of life.

I never thought of it this way, but it would be wonderful to just sit and chat with Jesus.  When we have guests over, by the time a meal is done, we’ll sit around the table or go sit by the fire and just talk about whatever is on our minds – just getting to know each other better.  Even if Jesus wasn’t “teaching” it would have been marvelous to be able to simply enjoy His conversation.  Mary did what I hope I would have done.  She just sat and soaked it all in.  Content to be close to Him and just enjoy the words of Jesus.

How often do we let this life get in the way of our devotion to God and service in the name of Jesus?  It becomes so easy to fall again into our routine of waking, preparing for the day, heading off to whatever activities necessary to care for and provide for our families.  By the time those are finished, we’re too tired to do much of anything except flake out and consume our chosen media.  Then, another day has passed before we know it.

How easy is it to just be like Martha and get so caught up in our routine that we simply don’t notice the opportunity God has placed before us – for more time in study and prayer, for training our children to enjoy the beauty and wonder of God’s creation and His word, to stop and talk with someone that we’ve met who we notice is in need of His healing.

We need to be like Mary, to stop, sit, and listen.  To open our eyes to the wonders all around us.  We need to take advantage of the day with which we’ve been blessed so that we can grow in our relationship with God.

While reading chapters 7-8 of Luke, one passage in particular caught my attention.

In 7:36-47 we see Jesus invited to dine with a Pharisee, cared for by a woman regarded by all as a “sinner” and Jesus using this recognition to make a strong point.

This woman came in and provided care for Jesus that should have been given by His host.  She washed His feet, dried them and anointed them with perfume.  This would have been the customary treatement of a guest by a host.

What stands out is that this woman washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and dried them with her hair.  When she heard he was there, she came to the house and as she stood behind him, she started to cry.  The translation says that she was “weeping” – a flood of tears because she recognized Jesus as the Savior, the one who could forgive her sins.

The host thought to himself, “If Jesus were really a prophet, he would know about this woman.”  Jesus, recognizing the heart of this one posed a question – if one had two debtors, one with a small sum, the other large, and forgave them both, “which of them will love him more?”  The obvious answer was given, the one who owed a greater debt.

Jesus’ point was that this woman recognized the consequences of her many sins, while this Jewish paragon of adherence to God’s law needed no forgiveness (in his eyes).  Consequently, she loved Jesus – greatly.  The pharisee had little if any affection for Jesus.

We need to remember, it only takes one sin – one violation of God’s law – to separate us from Him.  So, it doesn’t matter if we’ve sinned only once or have a multitude of sins, they all make it impossible to be with God.

So, we need to get past our comfort with “acceptable sin” – convenient lies, gossip, hatred of others – and recognize the gift that we’ve been given – the mercy we have in Jesus’ sacrifice.

We need to adjust our attitudes and love Him more!

At Your Word I Will

Continuing our excursion through God’s word, today’s reading is Luke 5 & 6

One point I’d like to consider is Simon’s response to Jesus in 5:5.

Simon had labored all night fishing with nothing to show for his work.  There was no reasonable, natural explanation for setting off and trying to catch something else.  Yet, when Jesus told him to go out and cast his nets the response he offered was excellent:

And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” Luke 5:5

Contrary to his experience as a fisherman, Simon heeded the command of the one he heard teaching.  This expression of faith should be an example to us all.

He could have done as many and made the statement and let it sit at that.  How often do we agree with a point made in a sermon or discussion in a Bible class, but then forget what was said by the time we are on the road home?  It is easy to make assertions describing what we claim to believe, but if we leave it there, we’ve missed the mark.

We should seek to emulate the example of Simon in this instance by not only proclaiming our faith in words, but proving our faith in deed!  Had he not cast his net, he would not have enjoyed the bounty of this catch.   This brings to mind a verse in Malachi

Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.” Malachi 3:10

We are to resolutely endure trials so that we may test and prove our faith and proceed to maturity (James 1:2-8; 1 Peter 1:6,7).  God is asking Israel to test Him with their faithful obedience to see if they could fathom the richness of His blessings.

We need to remember that all good things in this life are gifts from our Heavenly Father.  It is because of the greatest gift – the sacrifice of His Son – that enjoy this relationship.  We are to conform ourselves to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29).  Jesus went to the cross, not because it was something He was eagerly and joyously awaiting, but because it was necessary to faithfully follow God’s plan.  We must be willing to – even when it’s difficult or doesn’t seem to make sense  – obey God.  We need to have the attitude that, no matter what God asks of us, we can respond – at your word, I will.

Today’s reading is Luke 3-4.

There were  a number of things that struck me with this text. What really caused some reflection was 3:7-14.  John is working to turn these people back to the Lord (1:17) and finds many who he regards as vicious snakes coming with the crowds.

What was the difference that set these apart from the others who came to hear John and be baptized?  They came to do the right things, but their heart wasn’t in them.  John didn’t require miraculous revelation to recognize this because they did not show fruit “in keeping with repentance.” (3:8)  They likely had fallen into the trap of doing the right things, but not with the right motivation or concern for why they were done.

When we feel that we are comfortable in our relationship with God and that we have all of the answers, it is easy for us to be motivated by fear of consequences for leaving some thing undone.  This also leads to – sometimes – false conclusions about what God desires of us because we are so concerned with being “right” that we try to choose a “safe” path that doesn’t approach the boundary defined by God.

Instead, we need to have the heart of the tax collectors and soldiers who knew they were hopeless without God and needed to change in order to please Him.  Their fervent desire was to change – they had willing hearts and wanted to know what fruit they should bear in keeping with repentance.

They were given simple answers.  Do good to others with the possessions that you have and be content with the blessings you’ve been given.  John’s standard of rich blessing was much lower than ours.  If you have more than one change of clothes, share with him who has none.  If you have food to eat, share with him who has none.  In these two simple areas, those of us who live in the USA are going to be hard pressed to meet people with no clothes or no food, but that doesn’t negate the principle that we are to help others.

We are richly blessed.  If we want to have a heart that God desires, we should look for ways to serve others.  Sometimes, this requires effort on our part to find someone who has a need we are able to meet.  If we want to continually turn from devotion to this world to our Heavenly Father, we need to bear fruit in keeping with repentance.