Saturday, January 10, 2015

How to Inherit Eternal Life, Part 1

And a lawyer stood up and put Him to the test, saying, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" And He said to him, "What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?" And he answered, "Y OU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND; AND YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF." And He said to him, "You have answered correctly; DO THIS AND YOU WILL LIVE." (Luke 10:25-28 NASB)

We begin a new series today, this time on the topic of how to inherit eternal life. The opening salvo is given by a lawyer who wanted to test Jesus. To understand this passage, we need to understand to whom Jesus was speaking. The word translated as "lawyer" is nomikos and does not mean a person who helps with wills and lawsuits. This "lawyer" was a man who was an expert in Mosaic law. They had memorized the law and studied it to such a degree that they knew exactly what it said, every jot and tittle. Knowing the words of the law was not the same as knowing the heart of the law, as we shall soon see. 

I would like to believe that this lawyer, an expert in Jewish law, was there because He was truly interested in what Jesus had to say. Scripture tells us, however, that the reason this lawyer was asking Jesus a question had nothing to do with interest in eternal life. His sole reason for coming to Jesus was to trap Him. He was "putting Him to the test" in hopes that He could trick Jesus into saying something that would contradict the law (bringing him into direct conflict with the Jewish officials) or alienate the masses. 

He asked a question we all should ask. "What do we need to do in this life to have eternal life in the next?" The question was a good one. The motivation behind it was not. Perhaps the best way to start this series is by taking a look at our own motivation for approaching Jesus. Let's look not only at why we approach Jesus, but at why we are involved in the church at all. Are we simply interested in an intellectual exchange, a play with semantics? Are we interested in supporting our own agenda rather than exploring the ways and words of Jesus? Do we come to church simply for the social connections? Do we seek a kind of built-in family or community? Do we come seeking to know Jesus more intimately, serve Him more fully, follow Him more closely? 

Selah. Pause and consider.

For today, let's spend a few minutes considering our own motivation for coming to Christ, to the church. Are we, like the lawyer, there only to achieve our own purposes or do we come, humble and open, to our Savior? Let's be sure our motivation is one that pleases Christ and leads us toward that eternal life about which we will soon learn. 
The link to last night's post, Ryan's Rooster Adventure, is here:

If you are weary in waiting for the answer to your prayer, here's something that can help. The Waiting: When the Answer to Your Prayer is Delayed and Your Hope is Gone, is available here. Also available in Tupelo at Joyful Creations and Park Place Salon.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Ryan's Rooster Adventure

"Good grief, Mom! You need to do something about that rooster of yours!" Ryan said when he returned from feeding. I laughed. I'd had a little encounter with that rooster myself, but we had gotten our differences worked out, and we had been getting along nicely ever since. "Why? What happened?" "You are not gonna believe this! I walked in with the feed and he jumped right on my head! He tried to spur me! I about never got him off me! Can you believe that?" Yes, actually, I could believe it, but he'd been doing so well lately that his new shenanigans caught me off my guard. "I should have warned you. He thinks he's in charge of the chicken pen and very particular about who comes in and out." "Particular is not the word I'd use for it. You need to watch out for him!"

When I went in the chicken pen to feed this morning, the rooster was on the tail board, watching the door. As I walked in, he clearly eyed me, considering his options. "Don't even try it," I told him, and he didn't. We're getting along much better. After I finished at the barn and headed back to the house, I thought about how much better the rooster is doing, at least with me. He has a way to go yet, but my bossy rooster has learned a little about submitting to the one that is ultimately in charge of the chicken pen.  

It's one of those lessons we'd all do well to learn, too. Perhaps the first thing we need to learn is that we are not really in charge of anything. No matter how much we think we are in charge, we are not. Our little "chicken pen" may look like the entire universe to us, but it's just a dot in the sky in comparison to all God owns, and He is firmly, completely in charge. Where the boss is concerned, my rowdy rooster has relinquished his fantasy of control. He is minding his manners and doing what he's told, and maybe that's what we should do, too. Swap control for submission and give the One in charge the respect He deserves.

Sending the Seventy, part 30: Waiting to See

Turning to the disciples, He said privately, "Blessed are the eyes which see the things you see, for I say to you, that many prophets and kings wished to see the things which you see, and did not see them, and to hear the things which you hear, and did not hear them. " (Luke 10:23-24 NASB)

This is a continuation of  part 29 of this series. You can read that post in a separate window here.) 

We saw in the previous post that, for those who see the mighty works of God, the blessing is "long and lengthy".  It sticks with us, changes us, and leaves us different (better) than before. In the verses above, Jesus said those who see the works of Christ were especially blessed because so many prophets and kings had longed to see the Messiah, had longed to hear the Messiah, had waited for the Messiah, but never saw or heard. The time was not right. (Eventually, of course, they did see and hear the Messiah, but only in eternity.)

That waiting, that hoping, that longing for the Messiah was not pointless. It was not just a fantasy. It was waiting based on fact, the fact that the Messiah was coming. The problem is that God's perspective on time is different from ours, eternal rather than temporal. In fact, everything about His timing is different from ours, isn't it? He waits until the time is right to move, in contrast to our desire for immediate action. 

There is a tendency to think that only the ones who saw and heard Jesus were blessed. The ones who waited for Him, however, were also blessed. Their blessing was not of seeing and hearing, but of believing in what they had not seen and heard. Theirs was a blessing of faith that gave them a relationship with their God that was filled with hope, longing, and anticipation. They were constantly watching for the fulfillment of the promises of God. 

In our society, we have been molded by the fast-food culture to expect instant results and that has extended to our prayer life. We expect God to move and to move right this minute, as if the Omnipotent God would consult us for His timetable! Because of our inherent impatience, we have lost some of the joy in waiting that the prophets and kings of old enjoyed, we've forgotten that God still moves in the midst of the waiting. The delay is never wasted. There is a constant sense of anticipation and joy that comes from believing before seeing and waiting until God moves, if we are willing to persevere in the delay. 

Are you waiting for God to move? Have you become impatient and weary in His delay? Take heart! The delay is not wasted. The waiting is not without point. Delay is not synonymous with denial. Perhaps God is using the time to mold you (and me) into the people He wants us to be... before He moves to answer our prayers. In the meantime, thank Him for the blessings you do see and wait with anticipation for the ones you don't.
We often want a "fast food" answer to our prayers when what we need is the "crock pot" solution that allows God to do His work completely, both in us and our situation. If you are weary in waiting for the answer to your prayer, here's something that can help. The Waiting: When the Answer to Your Prayer is Delayed and Your Hope is Gone, is available here. Also available in Tupelo at Joyful Creations and Park Place Salon.
Here's the link to last night's post, Learning From Experience. 

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Learning from Experience

Some of you may remember the Water Wars from last year (and Water Races and Water Wars Again. (You can click on the links if you've forgotten) 

During an outrageous Arctic Blast, my water froze at the barn and in every line going to every automatic waterer I had. To keep water going to all the livestock, I hauled water for hours before AND after work to the barn, to the cow waterer, to the horse waterer. You get the idea. It was awful. To make matters worse, I had to heat the water in my kitchen, then pour it into the buckets for some reason which I have, thank the dear Lord, forgotten about now. Anyway, it was just awful and to make matters much worse, before it was all over, the water in my kitchen froze while it was dripping out of my faucet, leaving me with a very interesting icicle dangling from the faucet! After that, I really had a water adventure!

I was determined not to have a repeat performance this year. When I saw that we were about to have another Arctic Assault, I almost panicked. Then, I suddenly remembered. Oh yeah! I've learned from my mistake! When I was finally able to get away from hauling water long enough to get to the farm supply store last year, I snapped up two water heaters as quick as a flash. They've been in my cabinet ever since. These are just marvelous contraptions that are electric hot sticks to put in water buckets. They heat the water and prevent freezing. No hauling. No heating. Just plug and go. 

Before the temperature started dropping yesterday, I ran an extension cord to the automatic waterers, plugged in my water heaters, and put them to work. Marvelous! They are marvelous! I was a little nervous about the water this morning, especially when the water in the stall buckets was frozen. Needless to say, I dreaded checking the automatic waterers for fear of what I would find. Much to my surprise and delight, they were fine. No ice. Just nice warm water. The horses didn't really like the warm water, but it's much better than ice. 

I've been back and forth to the barn today, checking on the water and being sure all the animals are situated, and all day I've rejoiced at having learned from experience. It's a funny thing about learning from experience. I don't always do it, do you? It seems like making a bad decision and suffering consequences would prompt us to say, "I am never doing that again!" But no. We have a tendency to make a decision, suffer a few consequences, then turn around and do it all again. How silly is that? Very! Today, though, I've had such a wonderful result from what I learned last year that I've decided to learn from some of my other less than stellar experiences, too. I've made a list of a few things I'm going to be doing differently, and you might consider making a list of your own. Speaking with the Voice of Experience, it's a much better way to go.

Stay warm and may your water ever flow!

Sending the seventy, part 29

Turning to the disciples, He said privately, "Blessed are the eyes which see the things you see, for I say to you, that many prophets and kings wished to see the things which you see, and did not see them, and to hear the things which you hear, and did not hear them. " (Luke 10:23-24 NASB)

Jesus had been speaking to the seventy sent-ones. He turned "to the disciples" to continue speaking. The word here does not make it entirely clear. He may have turned to the twelve apostles but the word translated as "disciples" is also used in Scripture for anyone who is "both a pupil and an adherent" of Jesus, meaning they not only learn the words of Jesus but obey them. These disciples had not only seen the miracles but also understood at some level that they were a manifestation of Almighty God.  They understood that Jesus was not just the Son of Man, but also the Son of God.

The disciples had heard about and seen miraculous things. People had been healed of disease and distress. Lives had been changed. Hearts had turned toward God. Jesus told those who had seen, not just with their eyes but also with their hearts, that they were blessed. The word translated as blessed is makarios and comes from two root words meaning long and length. In a sense, the blessing that comes from seeing the mighty works of God are both long and lengthy, they "stick with us." 

Isn't that what time spent in the presence of God should do? Seeing Him at work should not just change those who receive the miraculous, but also those who stand in the presence of that miracle. Seeing God at work should change us, but does it? When we see Him work in our lives, do we take note and remember it, continuing to praise and thank Him for what He has done? When we see the evidence of His hand in the changed lives around us, do we celebrate it long after the initial glow has passed? 

Recently, a pastor asked for people to share praises in a worship service I attended. Almost all of the people present kept silent. At last, someone mentioned one of the attributes of God. Someone else mentioned another. Most of us (including me, I'm ashamed to say) kept silent. It wasn't that we hadn't seen God do wonderful things. For whatever reason, we refused to speak it. In retrospect, I had spent the last two days praising God for all He had done for me. How did I dare to keep silent? After the service, I was terribly convicted that I, who know so much better, had not done my part. Next time, I will.

He who blesses us in long and lengthy ways deserves our most enthusiastic thanks and praise. We must be sure that we celebrate the One who is so generous with us. Don't hold back. Speak out, shout out, sing out. Let the world know that our Savior lives, reigns, and is still in the miracle business. Praise His Holy Name!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Sending the Seventy, part 28: The Knowing

All things have been handed over to Me by My Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him. " (Luke 10:22 NASB)

Every day I think, "Wow, this is a great verse!" The next day, I look at the Scripture and think, "Wow, this is even better!" Today is one of those days when I started meditating on the verse saying, "Lord, won't you please give me something I can understand?" Before He was through, however, I was saying, "Wow, this is a awesome verse!" I think you will agree.

This business of "handing everything over" is indicated by the word paradidōmi, translated as "handed over". It might be better understood as "entrusted to me to manage and care for". God has placed Jesus in charge of everything, including us.

The next part of the verse is very encouraging. "No one knows who the Son is except the Father". The word ginōskō, translated as "knows", does not mean that only the Father knows Jesus' name or that only God the Father can recognize Him. This "knowing" is not a casual acquaintance. It is a complete understanding on a deep level. We might say, "He knows me through and through. He knows everything about me." Look at the Leanna Paraphrase and see if it helps. "No one understands me completely except the Father. No one understands the Father completely except the Son, Jesus, and anyone to whom the Son, Jesus decides to reveal the Father." Jesus totally understands the Father, of course, because they are both parts of the One Triune God. 

Jesus can "reveal" the Father to whomever He chooses. This revealing is like uncovering something that is hidden to reveal the treasure inside. In John 10, a passage about the Good Shepherd, Jesus tells us that we, too, can know the Father in the same way He does.

"I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep." (John 10:14-15 NASB)

The same word for "know" is used in both verses. ginōskō. If we belong to Jesus, if we give our hearts and lives completely to Him, we, too, can know the Father in that same way that Jesus knows Him. We will know God the Father because, as we follow the Good Shepherd, Jesus, we will begin to know Jesus. The longer, and closer, we follow Jesus, the better we will know Him, and, when we know Jesus, we know the Father. Do you want to understand God better? Then get to know Jesus.

How exciting it is that, by simply obeying our Good Shepherd, we can come to know Him inside and out, just as He knows us and, as we know Him, we will also know the Father. Our obedience is the key that unlocks the "revealing", the uncovering of the hidden depths of treasure in our Almighty God. When we understand that fact, we begin to see the great riches we gain in exchange for our efforts at obedience. What we gain is infinitely more than what we give up. Dear ones, the walk of faith and obedience is worth it, so press on. You'll be so glad you did. 

Sending the Seventy, part 27: The Hidden Things

At that very time He rejoiced greatly in the Holy Spirit, and said, "I praise You, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight. All things have been handed over to Me by My Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him. " (Luke 10:21-22 NASB)

This is a beautiful picture of our Lord, who bubbles over with prayer as He is talking with His disciples. As we have seen in previous posts, the seventy disciples had gone out to the villages and towns where Jesus was headed. They had preached, healed the sick, and had an incredible experience. They returned, filled with joy and excitement over all they had seen and done. Jesus "debriefed" them, then explained that although what they had seen was very exciting, they should be even more excited about having their names recorded in heaven. 

"At that very time", Jesus was so overwhelmed with rejoicing in the Holy Spirit that He began to pray aloud. Praise for His Father poured forth. One of the things for which He praised God was that He had hidden "these things" from the wise and intelligent and revealed them to infants. What were "these things" that had been hidden? The things that were hidden were those about which He had just been speaking, including authority over the power of the enemy in the name of Jesus, spiritual protection in service, and the certainty of eternity. 

For the most part, the religious leaders of the day failed to recognize the deity of Jesus and did not acknowledge the power and authority of Jesus. For people dependent upon the law, the idea of grace was a foreign concept. The "infants", those who were not learned scholars, fluent in the law and the prophets, had grasped the truth of Jesus when those who should have recognized Him did not, and Jesus said it was "well-pleasing" in the sight of God. 

The "infants" were just common men. They weren't fancy or wealthy. They weren't wise or educated. The amazing thing is that God did this intentionally. He chose to come to the common men and women of the day, and He still does. Nothing special or fancy was required to learn the deep truths of God. All who came could know Him. All who come, even now, can know Him just as deeply, just as intimately.

Can we know the "hidden things" of God? Yes, we can. God Himself delights in revealing truth to those who will seek it. In fact, He is well-pleased when we seek and find what He has hidden just for us. If you will seek, you will find all He has set aside just for you. Even better, in the seeking and finding, you will also encounter the pleasure of God. What could be better than that? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Sending the Seventy: Part 26

The seventy returned with joy, saying, "Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name." And He said to them, "I was watching Satan fall from heaven like lightning. Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing will injure you. Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven." (Luke 10:17-20 NASB) 

(Note: this post is a continuation of part 23 and part 24 and part 25. You may want to read those before continuing with this post.)

Jesus had sent the seventy disciples out to teach and heal in the villages to which He was going.  They were not to take anything with them, but were totally dependent upon the hospitality offered in the places where they served. They returned after the trip, full of enthusiasm and bubbling over with joy. "Even the demons were subject to us in Your name!" they told Him. Jesus was as kind and encouraging as a proud daddy with a toddler taking his first steps. He told them that He had seen in the spiritual realm what they had seen in the physical. 

Metaphorically speaking, He had given them authority to "tread on serpents and scorpions". We saw yesterday that this did not mean to literally walk on snakes (nor handle them) but to participate with Christ in the fatal blow to the serpent's head foretold in Genesis 3:15 (and covered in part 24) "Nothing will injure you," He told them. We saw in part 25 that those who are obedient and following Christ can take comfort in the fact that the enemy cannot "injure" them by permanently wounding their faith.

We turn now to the last portion of this passage.

Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven. Luke 10:20 NASB

We are to focus on the eternal life Christ offers and not on demon-bashing. It's a matter of perspective. The spirits are not really subject to "us". The spirits are subject to "us" only because of the name of Jesus. To have the right focus on our authority over demons, over healing, or any other kind of service, we need to keep our focus on the One who makes our service possible. Jesus Christ. 

We are not only to keep our focus on Jesus, but we are also to rejoice that our names are recorded in heaven. This, dear ones, should be a source of great joy for us, because the enemy of our soul has no power in heaven. He cannot erase our names that are recorded there, nor the name of anyone else that is already recorded in heaven. This is amazing news! When Jesus said that they could tread on the serpents and "nothing will injure you", He was not just talking about physical injury. No matter what tactic the enemy tries against our faith, he cannot change the fact that, for believers, our names are written in heaven. What a cause for rejoicing! 

As you go about your day, take heart, disciples of Christ. Your name is written in heaven. It is already written in heaven and nothing can change that fact. Rejoice in that truth. One day, as a follower of Christ, you will stand at the gates of heaven and find that your name is clearly written there. Those gates will swing open and you will enter eternity where our Savior lives and reigns forever, so rejoice now, as you await that glorious day. Rejoice!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Sending the Seventy, part 25

The seventy returned with joy, saying, "Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name." And He said to them, "I was watching Satan fall from heaven like lightning. Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing will injure you. Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven." (Luke 10:17-20 NASB) 

(Note: this post is a continuation of part 23 and part 24. You may want to read those before continuing with this post.)

If you are just joining us on this journey with the seventy, we have been studying this passage in Luke 10 for several weeks. Jesus sent seventy of his disciples to the towns and villages where He intended to go later.  They were to take nothing with them, but were dependent upon the hospitality of the villages where they would teach about Jesus and heal the sick. It must have been a hard journey, but they returned rejoicing over all they had  seen. Even the demons were subject to them in the name of Jesus.  

When they reported all that they had seen with their physical eyes to Jesus, He shared with them what He had seen in the spiritual realm. Their obedience in healing those who were beset by demons had great effect in the spiritual realm, resulting in destruction of the kingdom of the evil one. Still speaking from a spiritual sense, He told them He had given them authority to "tread on serpents and scorpions and over all power of the enemy". This was likely a reference to the fatal bruise on the head of the serpent foretold in Genesis and covered in part 24

"Nothing will injure you," Jesus told them. The word translated as "injure" comes from a root word meaning to violate justice or to deal fraudulently or deceptively.  We might interpret this to mean that nothing will deceive us. When we are obedient in following Christ, we can trust His Spirit to guide us to truth. If we follow Him, though the enemy fights against us, we will be able to resist and avoid the deception he would offer. 

These men had just completed a long and difficult journey of faith. They were not "social club church goers". These men were 100% sold out to Jesus, willing to go anywhere and do anything in obedience to Him. They were not just followers.  They were disciples. What great news it must have been that, in giving authority to do battle with the enemy, Jesus also gave them protection in the battle. Because they had a promise of protection from the enemy, they did not have to  be afraid of the battle! How often God tells us, "Fear not!" Once again, Jesus teaches them that there is no need to fear because the enemy cannot overcome their faith. 

Does this mean that there will be no physical injury? No. He had been speaking in a spiritual sense throughout this sentence, and there is no reason to think He suddenly jumped to a physical sense. When we place our trust in Jesus, He holds us secure against the wiles of the evil one, who would seek to wrench us from Christ. This fact should give us great hope for eternity and great comfort in our present life. We are safe with Jesus, no matter where He leads. Take heart, then, no matter where your obedience takes you. His Spirit is there, guiding and protecting all the way. Follow then, and fear not.