Let’s review what’s happened in Luke’s gospel so far. Luke spent the first chapter introducing us to John the Baptist’s parents, Elizabeth and Zechariah. We met Mary and Joseph, and heard Mary and Zechariah sing praises to God for what God was about to do.
Luke 2 is all about the birth of Jesus, his presentation in the temple – where Anna and Simeon recognize him as Messiah – and what little we know about Jesus’ childhood. There’s that story of Jesus hanging out with the scribes and teachers while his parents head home to Nazareth, but that’s about all we know from Luke about the boy Jesus.
Then chapter three brings us back to John the Baptist, but now he and Jesus are grown men. John baptizes Jesus and moves into the background. He knows that it’s time for him to become less so Jesus can become more.
Chapter 4 has taken us into the wilderness of temptation, and back home to Nazareth to hear Jesus preach his first sermon in the synagogue there. It starts out well, proclaiming the year of the Lord’s favor, but it ends up with the people of Nazareth trying to throw Jesus off a cliff. Jesus passes through their midst and gets away. He knows this isn’t the hill he’s supposed to die on. He still has work to do. Continue reading →
The story of Blind Bartimaeus acts as a bookend in Mark’s gospel. It closes out a long section that began back in chapter eight, when Jesus healed another blind man – only that time, Jesus had to spit twice before the man could see. This whole section has come to its climax here in chapter ten, where we’ve been walking with Jesus this month. The itinerary Jesus and his disciples have been following, as they travel from Galilee to Jerusalem, has been pretty … eventful. Continue reading →
I knew a guy once who worked really hard at appearing humble. In public, he was always putting himself down, always declining praise when he’d done something good. But in private, it was a different story. One time he told me of a particularly generous thing he’d done for someone we both knew. And then he said, “But of course, I don’t want anyone to know it was me. Jesus says to give alms in secret.” And I thought, “but you just told me.” Continue reading →
Have you ever held a garage sale? Somewhere in the process of getting all the items ready for the sale, did you ask yourself “How did I accumulate so much stuff?”
Our culture encourages consumerism – advertisers play on our emotions to convince us we really need something that, to be honest, we probably don’t need at all. Mary Hunt, who writes a newspaper column called “The Everyday Cheapskate,” has a saying that many of us could put on our bathroom mirrors to read as we brush our teeth every morning: Continue reading →
My mom used to say, “Watch your tongue, young lady; if you aren’t careful, you might cut your lip on it.” She understood, even if I didn’t, how much damage the words coming out of our mouths can cause. And she knew, even if I didn’t, that the person most damaged by my sharp tongue might be … me.
I knew that “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” was a lie. I’d walked to school listening to a classmate chant, “Your daddy’s in jail, your daddy’s in jail” from across the street for four long blocks, and I’d heard that same chant on the way home for those same four long blocks. I’d suffered through my third grade teacher holding my paper up in front of the class to tell everyone in the room how not to do their math homework. I knew how much words could hurt.
In today’s passage from the book of James, he dives a little deeper into the idea we heard a couple of weeks ago: “everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.” (James 1:19) When we let our tongues run ahead of us, it can cause a lot of trouble. Continue reading →
Have you ever been in a situation where you needed to make a decision, and you just couldn’t decide? You’d looked at all the options, and there didn’t seem to be one right answer, one perfect solution. So you asked for some help. You talked to someone you trusted to get their opinion. And after they listened to all those options, they just shrugged their shoulders and said, “Do whatever you think is best. You’ll just have to make a judgment call.”
We see it all the time in sports. The referee makes a call on a play that isn’t really clear from the sidelines, so they review it. And as the commentators in the booth discuss the slow motion video of the play from all possible angles, they can’t decide which way it should go, either. But the game has to go on. Everyone depends on the ref’s best judgment to make the final call.
We make judgments all the time. We make choices based on the best information we can gather. Sometimes those choices are good ones, and sometimes we make poor choices, Either way, every choice we make is a judgment call.
Last week, we talked about being the church instead of just going to church. We learned from the Psalms that we can only thrive when we are firmly planted in the house of the Lord. That kind of planting requires an all-in commitment, and it involves getting our roots connected to each other as well as to God.
But how do you do that? How do you become a disciple of Jesus Christ who thrives, whose faith grows exponentially? How do you apply the principles Jesus laid out for his disciples more than 2,000 years ago to life in our 21st century culture? How does working your faith develop a faith that works? Continue reading →