Thursday, June 24, 2010

The would-be followers...

As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, "I will follow you wherever you go."

Jesus replied, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head."

He said to another man, "Follow me."
But the man replied, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father."

Jesus said to him, "Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God."

Still another said, "I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family."

Jesus replied, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God." Luke 9:57-62

We often remember the men who upon hearing the call of Jesus to "Follow" did just that. They left everything and followed him. Luke reminds us that there were others.

There is the one who volunteers. He seems almost impulsive. The kind of person who will rashly commit to something before considering the weight and responsibilities that come with his/her action. Jesus reminds them that there are great costs and sacrifices to be considered before following him. Everything is on the table.

Jesus calls the second person whose response is one of family commitment. The comment that he must first go back and bury his father can mean either a.)that his father has just died and he has to go back and bury him. or b.)that his father is still well and healthy and that this person has to go back and wait for him to die before leaving. Either way Jesus points out that the call to follow involves total abandonment.

Finally we find ourselves with someone who is either responding positively to Jesus' invitation to follow or is another volunteer. Either way, once again there is a 'but' to their willingness and commitment. They want to go back and say good bye to the family. How big is the family?? This could take days, weeks, months or even years. Again Jesus reminds them that you can't look back. If you choose to follow Jesus, looking back will only result in the kingdom work being badly done.

So Lukes' point is that the call to follow Jesus comes to all. It is your decision to follow or not. It is a call to give live in the here and fulfill the command of Jesus, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength."

The ultimate question in the quest of discipleship is found in Jesus' conversation with Peter... "Do you love me?"

Friday, June 18, 2010

Luke 8...A living witness

Its a popular story...Jesus meeting the demon-possessed man...casting the demons out who enter a herd of pigs feeding nearby...the pigs immediately rushing headlong down a steep embankment into the lake where they are drowned. Amazing stuff really. Great demonstration of the supernatural powers of Jesus, as son of God. Clear declaration of his victory over Satan and all his followers. But you get so caught up in the story you miss out on an even more interesting bit at the end.

The people living in the area came out and saw the man now clothed and in his right mind and heard how he was cured. They were frightened by these developments, no explanation is given in the text, but fear it was and so they ask Jesus to leave. And so Luke tells us that he got into the boat and left. What is interesting in all this comes back to the man delivered from the demons.

The man from whom the demons had gone out begged to go with him, but Jesus sent him away...(v.38)

The man begs to go with Jesus. Who wouldn't. To have lived in such a state for such a long period of time and then to be healed in what can only be described as an awesome demonstration of divine power...I don't know about you...but I would want to follow this guy, too. Think about what you could learn. Imagine what you would see. But oddly Jesus sends the man away and says...actually commands him....

"Return home and tell how much God has done for you."

No invitation to call to forsake all and come along...but a very clear directive to go your family...your friends...your tribe...your neighbourhood. Tell them...not just your story...but what God has done. There are two good reasons for these instructions.

First reason...Jesus...
1. Jesus scared these people by his demonstration of power. They couldn't listen to him or think about him without thinking of demons and devils and pigs rushing into the lake.
2. Jesus was gone. They had asked him to go away so he was not physically present to proclaim the coming kingdom and the healing and forgiveness it would bring.

Second reason...the man...
1. He was family. The people knew this man for years in his former state. They had tried to deal with for the best of their abilities. You can probably imagine the heartache many of them felt seeing him in his demon-possessed state. Now he was healed. Dressed and rational. Though he probably still made them a little uneasy he is once more one of them.
2. He was among tell the witness to the power and love of God. Even the nation of Israel, God's chosen people, wanted Moses to act as a bridge between them and God because God frightened them...too much glory, too much perfection. Moses was one of them...the people. In the same way so is this man. He becomes a prophet in one sense because he now speaks on behalf of Jesus. By his life and word he is proclaiming the good news of the coming kingdom and all that the Kingdom of God would bring.

Luke records for us that the man is obedient to this command of Jesus and becomes an active witness for his town...not the countryside...just the town. Small area of operation, but vital for the work of the Kingdom.

Now you and I are not demon-possessed. You have not lived for years naked out in the outback or broken chains used to bind you. In fact you have probably lived a pretty ordinary life. You have grown up...fallen in and out of love...become educated...developed skills and abilities...found employment...maybe married and raised or raising a family. You have all had a variety of experiences both good and bad, and you have also know joy and sorrow. But the truth is the same for you as it was for the demon-possessed man.

1. You have been delivered by Jesus from the power of Satan and evil. Through his obedience to the Law and will of God, his innocent suffering and death, his resurrection and your baptism into Him, Jesus has removed any claim that the devil and all his powers has on you. Try as he might, Satan cannot take you out of the hand of God...or remove you from his kingdom. You are now God's child...a disciple of heir of the kingdom.
2. You are called to your the place where you live and work and play. You are called to witness to your family, your friends, your workmates, to people you meet...telling them the story (your story) of what God has done for you. It is a marvellous opportunity...and a command.

The beauty and simplicity in all this is that what many people are looking for in this day and time is authenticity...something "real". Amazing miracles or answers to all life's questions and problems are not what is wanted. They want to hear real people telling real stories of God works in their life and how he affects the way they live. Your family...your friends...want to hear your story and see it lived out in you everyday in the ordinary things and ordinary places of your life. That's why Jesus sent the man back to his town so that every day the people there had a living witness of God's love and power and healing...a witness they knew...a witness they could relate to and talk to.

You are that witness...where you live...where you work...where you play.

"Tell them how much God has done for you."

Friday, June 11, 2010

Don't you get it?

Then Jesus said, "Your sins are forgiven." Luke 7:48

I don't think Simon was particularly self-righteous. I doubt very much that he thought himself a perfect person. There was too much in the life of a Pharisee that would have reminded him of his failures, his weakness, his sin and his need for God. Rituals of sacrifice and purification would be potent reminders on their own. What Simon failed to understand was the meaning and power of the very forgiveness that he was seeking from God through all these rituals.

When I read this story I recognize that more often than not I am more Simon and less like the unnamed woman. I confess my sin. I hear the words of forgiveness. But life doesn't change. I don't change. My attitude is still judgmental. I still experience regrets and guilt. I still try to hide the reality of who and what I am. I just don't get it. My sins are forgiven. I am forgiven. I am a new creature. A new creation.

"Your sins are forgiven." Powerful words that you may not have considered fully. Your sins are forgiven. No more guilt. No more regrets. No more hidden lies or lives. You are forgiven and it comes to you out of grace from a gracious God. He extends his forgiveness before we ask for it or look for it or even recognize our need for it.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Raising the Dead....

In Luke 7 we come across the story of Jesus raising the dead son of a widow who lived in a town called Nain. When I think about all the arrangements and preparations that had been made for the day of the funeral and all the emotional and psychological adjustments the mother of this lad had already gone through I can only surmise that his resurrection would have created a few difficulties along the way. Firstly would be the complete sense of unreality about the whole affair. I mean, dead is dead, isn't it? Or maybe not...such as in this case. Then there is all the grief and heartache that she had already suffered. All the mourning, the physical preparations of the body, the grave-site, plus many more experiences, responsibilities and action that surround a death. In one sentence Jesus undoes everything and now everyone has to make a new readjustment. It is not just a case that the young man is alive...he was that before...but that he was dead and they knew he was dead and they were going to bury him dead...and NOW he is alive! I think everyday everyone would have taken a good close look at him just to make sure.

It seems to me that there would be some adjustment problems with getting someone back from the dead so it naturally follows that any church which is honestly seeking revival and renewal will face difficulties also.

People seem to resign themselves to the death of their church/congregation. Whole congregations develop this mindset that as long as someone is here to bury us and turn out the lights and shut the door when we are all gone then we are good. Like the widow and the gathered mourners there is this sense of inevitability about death.
Jesus challenges this perception. In fact he more than challenges it...he breaks it down...tears it up...and tosses it for a simply raising the dead. If Jesus can raise dead people like the young man from Nain or Lazarus...and if Peter can raise Dorcas...and if Paul can raise Eutychus...then it is possible for Jesus to resurrect dead congregations, too. They need to be willing to be resurrected though. I mean what would have happened if after Jesus said, "Young Man! Get up, I tell you!", the first words out of the mouth of that young man were, "Leave me alone! I'm dead!" You can't do much with that a person or in a church community.