The Redeemed Life

a Christian blog cultivating spiritual growth

Archive for February, 2013

28 February
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Who is this who forgives sins? – Luke 7:36-50

Luke 7:36-50 – Listen

36 One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 37 And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment,38 and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears andwiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment.39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” 40 And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.”

41 “A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty.42 When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” 44 Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. 46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 47 Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” 48 And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49 Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves,“Who is this, who even forgives sins?” 50 And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

The Redeemed Mind – Learn

One of the Pharisees, named Simon, invited Jesus to dine with him.  Jesus graciously accepts and despite what many believe, He extends grace to hard-nosed legalistic Pharisees.  While there, Jesus encounters a woman who somehow knew Jesus’ authority and come to Him full of repentance and humility.  While the Pharisees ridicule Jesus for not being a prophet, Jesus proves (by reading Simon’s thoughts and knowing the sinful woman’s life story) that He is indeed a prophet.

This final scene in chapter 7 leads to the culiminating questions that Luke wants to ask his readers: “Who is this, who even forgives sins?”  In the context of this chapter, we find Luke building the case for who Jesus really is.  In the healing of the centurion’s servant and the resurrection of a widow’s son, Jesus proves in his words and deeds that He is greater than any prophet, priest or king this world has ever seen.  While this story of the sinful woman doesn’t involve miracles, theatrics or fireworks, Jesus does something that no one would ever dare to do.  It’s something that only God Himself was able to do and now Jesus makes it undeniably clear that He is God: Jesus forgives the sins of this woman.

The Redeemed Heart – Worship

The sinful woman was not saved because of the works that she did for Jesus.  The Bible makes it painfully clear that no amount of good we can do in this world will ever amount to the salvation of our souls.  What his woman was doing was expressing repentance and hope that Jesus would forgive her for the many sins in her life.  Jesus, who clearly knew about her history, doesn’t forgive her based on what she does to Him, but rather forgives her because of her posture of humility, repentace, and worship.  These actions she expressed were the “fruit” of what was really in her heart.  This woman fully understood that she was living in sin, yet she was able to muster together enough courage to approach God, manifest her repentance, and wait for God’s mercy.

God draws near to people like this – individuals who are able to love God because they see the darkness that was once their life, and they flee those things in pursuit of God’s forgiveness.  In our lives, let us never forget the sin and darkness that God pulled us from, because without that rememberance, our love of God will grow cold and dull.  Let us never become too familiar with the mind-boggling truth that a perfect God chooses to forgive us, and more than that, extends grace, welcoming us into His family as sons and daughters.

Who is this that even forgives sin?  Its Jesus Christ, our God and Savior, who chooses to love us and redeem us.

The Redeemed Life – Grow

The woman in this story took a risk in approaching Jesus.  It cost her money (the costly perfume), her social standing (it was socially unacceptable to act like this, especially in public), and hurt her pride (she had to set aside her ego to seek repentance).  But for all eternity, her story will be recorded in God’s Word as a testament of faithfulness, humility, and love.

What risks have you taken in following our God?  What “cost” have you paid in pursuit of Jesus and the grace He offers?  One day, when we stand with our Savior and King, He will reward us for everything we gave up in this life in pursuit of Him.  And those rewards will be more than we can begin to imagine.

Know that whatever you lose in this life (high-paying salary, reputation, family/friends) is something that will not go to waste, but is something that will be repaid by God Himself.  Give freely and pursue Jesus with wreckless abandon.  Because in light of eternity, the things we lose here and now will be dim shadows in contrast to the glory of God’s Kingdom.

27 February
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Doubting Prophets and a Gentle Savior – Luke 7:18-35

Luke 7:18-35 – Listen

18 The disciples of John reported all these things to him. And John, 19 calling two of his disciples to him, sent them to the Lord, saying, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?”20 And when the men had come to him, they said, “John the Baptist has sent us to you, saying, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?’” 21 In that hour he healed many people of diseases and plagues and evil spirits, and on many who were blind he bestowed sight. 22 And he answered them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. 23 And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”

24 When John’s messengers had gone, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? 25 What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who are dressed in splendid clothing and live in luxury are in kings’ courts. 26 What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 27 This is he of whom it is written,

“‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face,
    who will prepare your way before you.’

28 I tell you, among those born of women none is greater than John. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” 29 (When all the people heard this, and the tax collectors too, they declared God just, having been baptized with the baptism of John, 30 but the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected the purpose of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him.)

31 “To what then shall I compare the people of this generation, and what are they like? 32 They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling to one another,

“‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
    we sang a dirge, and you did not weep.’

33 For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ 34 The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ 35 Yet wisdom is justified by all her children.”

The Redeemed Mind – Learn

While in prison, John sends messengers to ask Jesus whether He was the coming Messiah.  Apparently, John was having doubts.  Probably because Jesus was nothing at all like the envisioned Messiah would be… a military hero, an influential social leader, etc.  But Jesus proves who He is, not with a direct answer, but through the works He has accomplished.  Jesus understood that His actions were just as conclusive as His own words.  The powerful miracles He performed could not be done by anyone other that God Himself.

Jesus then goes on to rebuke the spiritually rebellion (the Pharisees and Sadducee).  These “religious elite” rejected both the somber, ascetic John, and they also rejected the joyful, light-hearted Jesus.  No matter how God reached out to them, the Jewish religious leaders refused the men who God sent to represent Him in the world.

The Redeemed Heart – Worship

Jesus has high praise for John the Baptist.  But even compared to the powerful preaching and actions of John the Baptist is nothing compared to the “least” of the Kingdom of Heaven.  What exactly does this mean?   It means that the Old Testament prophets were certainly powerful men and women of God.  They had a special standing before God and God would listen to their prayers and work through their lives to accomplish His work in the world.  But even those iconic prophets cannot hold a candle to the children of the Kingdom of Light.  We, as followers of Jesus and children of God, have all (if not more of) the power of the Old Testament prophets, an even closer relationship with God, and an infinitely higher potential to reach this fallen world with God’s truth and mercy.  No Old Testament prophet could ever boast that God Himself lived and dwelt in them as He does with believers today.

Don’t quickly forget that we are privileged to be standing on this side of the cross.  Millions of faithful men and women eagerly awaited the day that God would redeem and dwell in and among His people.  And we can boast that we are receivers of that privileged today.  Through the power of God’s Spirit in His people, we have an incredible capacity to be prophets, priests, ambassadors, princes, and princesses of God Almighty here and now.

The Redeemed Life – Grow

When I read this passage, I find that I’m surprised to see John the Baptist doubting.  He was unsure about Jesus.  But instead of ignoring that doubt, He came directly to Jesus to find an answer.

In one way or another, we all struggle with doubt.  Some days are just harder than others.  But notice Jesus’ response to John:  He doesn’t rebuke him, ridicule him, or punish him in any way for doubting.  Instead, He answers that doubt by showing what He has already clearly done.

Jesus is not afraid of your questions and doubt.  He will not reject you or be angry with you if you “don’t have it all together.”  Come to Him in honesty, and feel the embrace of our gentle and loving Savior.  He wants you just the way you are, but He will cause you to mature and grow.

26 February
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The Physical and the Spiritual – Luke 7:11-16

Luke 7:11-16 – Listen

11 Soon afterward he went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a great crowd went with him. 12 As he drew near to the gate of the town, behold, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow, and a considerable crowd from the town was with her. 13 And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.” 14 Then he came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said,“Young man, I say to you, arise.” 15 And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. 16 Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has arisen among us!” and “God has visited his people!” 17 And this report about him spread through the whole of Judea and all the surrounding country.

The Redeemed Mind – Learn

In the previous passage, Jesus healed the servant of a centurion and now in this passage Jesus does a greater miracle: raising the dead.  This passage is reminicent of a passage from 1 Kings:17-24.  In the 1 Kings passage, one of the greatest prophets of the Old Testament does a very similar healing miracle: raising the dead son of a widow.  The prophet, Elijah, has to go through elaborate prayers and requests before God restores the boy’s life.  Now in Jesus, we see a stark difference in power between Jesus and the OT prophet:  Elijah has to plead and pray to God to restore life; Jesus has authority in Himself to restore life to the dead.  While the previous prophets were dependent on God’s power, Jesus proves He has the very same power as His Heavenly Father.  He, as God Himself, can raise the dead through the use of His simple yet utterly powerful words.

Jesus had compassion on this widow because without a son or husband to represent her in a patriarchial society, she would have had no social standing.  Unlike our world today where single women have the ability to sustain and grow their social or political standing, this widow would have been condemned to live her life solely on the alms and donations of other people in society.  Jesus, in a very real way, saved her from a life of begging and shame by restoring her son to her.

This passage, as well as the previous passage, is all building up to the question that is coming up in 7:49, “who is this man, Jesus?”  This passage explains that Jesus is greater than any prophet who has ever lived.

The Redeemed Heart – Worship

In this scene, we see glimpses into the heart of our Savior.  He is not so “spiritual” that he doesn’t care about physical needs.  He communicates care by meeting the physical needs of this widow.  Jesus, the God-man, fully understands that we need our physical needs met, and not only our spiritual needs.  He understands that we must live within the bounds and limitations of our society and culture, just as the widow in this passage was bound to her patriarchical society.  Jesus meets us where we are to give us comfort, peace and hope.  He blesses us in tangible ways that really mean something to us.  Jesus is not a God who tells us to disregard our world, culture, or things.  He cares deeply about our physical state and chooses to bless us in phsyical ways.  He is a God who gives us the whole package, both physical and spiritual.  And it brings Him joy to bless us every way possible.

The Redeemed Life – Grow

“Leaning on God” means depending on Him to support and empower you.  Leaning on God is more than an etheral idea that speaks of something mental or purely spiritual.  It is also a physical reality which speaks of being fully dependent on God for everything in life.  This most certainly includes our physical wellbeing.  Do you live your life in the knowledge that God cares about how you live?  Do you know that He wants you to lean on Him for everything in your day?  God has something to say about how you spend your time, your money, and energy?  God came to meet us where we were so that He could redeem every part of our lives, both internally and externally.

Make your decisions today in the truth that God wants to redeem every single thing that happens in your day.  He desires to be in very conversation, act and thought.  Are you going to surrender to His calling and lean on Him?

25 February
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Finding Peace in His Authority – Luke 7:1-10

Luke 7:1-10 – Listen

After he had finished all his sayings in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum. Now a centurion had a servant who was sick and at the point of death, who was highly valued by him.When the centurion heard about Jesus, he sent to him elders of the Jews, asking him to come and heal his servant. And when they came to Jesus, they pleaded with him earnestly, saying, “He is worthy to have you do this for him, for he loves our nation, and he is the one who built us our synagogue.” And Jesus went with them. When he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends, saying to him, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. Therefore I did not presume to come to you. But say the word, and let my servant be healed.For I too am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me: and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard these things, he marveled at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” 10 And when those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the servant well.

The Redeemed Mind – Learn

After Jesus’ Sermon on the Plain, Jesus proceeds to prove His identity through multiple miracles.  Here, Jesus proves His authority over the effects of sin in this world.  He encounters a centurion, a Roman commander over an army of about 100 soldiers.  This centurion had a beloved servant who had fallen deathly ill.  In his desperation, he came to Jesus, knowing that Jesus had the authority from God to heal his servant.  He clearly illustrates his understanding of Jesus’ authority because he himself is a man who is under authority, and also has authority over other people.  Jesus marvels at the centurion’s authority, which is striking because the Roman official was not a Jew and did not know God.  Yet here, Jesus accepts the fact that the Centurion had faith in Him, and rewards that faith through healing his sickly servant.

The Redeemed Heart – Worship

“Say the word, and let my servant be healed.”

The faith that Jesus rewards is a faith that places complete trust in Him.  Jesus does not cringe at the thought of having all the weight of the world placed on His shoulders.  He embraces and reward those who have the faith to place everything into His hands.  As believers today, this still applies.  No matter how big or how small, Jesus desires to be our Hero and Rescuer.  Nothing is too great for Him to accomplish.  He lives and breaths to intercede for you before God the Father.  Many forget that since Jesus left this world, He serves as a full time priest before God Almighty in Heaven.  So if you’ve ever wondered, “what is Jesus doing today?” the answer is that this very instant he pleads for you before the throne of His Father in Heaven (Heb. 7:25).  We truly serve an amazing God!

The Redeemed Life – Grow

In my own life, I know that this Scripture passage has brought me relief and comfort during times of stress.  All too often, I find myself buried under the stresses of this world – things that are out of my control.  I feel frustrated, exhausted and alone in my meager attempts to face the troubles of this world on my own.

If you are going through times of stress, anxiety or despair, lift your eyes to heaven.  See our Savior standing there ready to hear your prayers.  See His smiling face and feel comfort knowing that He is the owner and giver of every good thing.  Plead with Him and pour out your heart to Him.  He desires to bless you and give you good things.  Believe that He really has the authority to bless you, and rest in the surety that He has the authority to create miracles, even today.

Let your prayer be simple: “Lord, just say the word and let it be.”

22 February
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Jesus, Houses, and Legos – Luke 6:43-45

Luke 6:43-45 – Listen

46 “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? 47 Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: 48 he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. 49 But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.”

The Redeemed Mind – Learn

This teaching sums up Jesus’ sermon on the plain.  The message is as clear as a bell: don’t go on calling Jesus “Lord” if you don’t live out His instructions for your life.  Simply calling Jesus “Lord” does not mean that you have placed your faith in Him, or that you’ll live your life according to the rules of His Kingdom.

You are either in or out.  You will either believe Him, or disregard Him.  Jesus leaves that decision wide open but explains the risk of ignoring His teachings through a vivid illustration:  No man would build a costly house without first laying a foundation.  Anyone with foresight, wisdom, or even common sense would know that a house would eventually face adverse conditions.  A well built house on a firm foundation will never be moved.  Likewise a disciple of Jesus who lives according to the rules of the Kingdom of Heaven will never be spiritually shaken, no matter what the world throws at them.

The Redeemed Heart – Worship

Sometimes LEGOS speak louder than words.  Enjoy this video illustration!

The Redeemed Life – Grow

As a Christian, we model our lives after Jesus Christ.  Through His teachings throughout the Gospels, He gives us a new way to live.  While alive in this world, we are called to also live in the reality of the Kingdom of Heaven.  We live as it were, with one foot in Heaven and one foot on earth.  If we have been redeemed, we will journey further and further into Kingdom life while here on earth.  This is a new reality that Jesus invited you to live in today.

How have you been building your house?

21 February
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Our Hand and Hearts – Luke 6:43-45

Luke 6:43-45 – Listen

43 “For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, 44 for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. 45 The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

The Redeemed Mind – Learn

This passage can be understood in the context of the previous post.  The way to accurately assess people is to see they types of “fruit” they produce in their lives.  In simple terms, its watching how a person acts to assess the content of their hearts.  An evil person can fake it for a while, but eventually, they will return to what they know.  They can fake being kind or loving, but if it is not sourced in a heart that has been redeemed by God, their true colors will eventually show.  The same can be said of those with a transformed heart.  Like any other human being, they will make mistakes and sin, but eventually they too will default back to the way they are.

The contents of a person’s heart is displayed by the way they live.  A person’s hands will always follow their heart.  These are the grounds upon which judgments are to be made.

The Redeemed Heart – Worship

God doesn’t care about external action that is not sourced in a loving heart.  God looks past our actions and knows us at a heart level.  This passage teaches us that there are good hearts and evil hearts; there is no middle ground.  There cannot be a disconnect between what we deeply believe and what we do because that is not the way God created us.  Our hearts and actions come as a single package.  God doesn’t call us to live out dry passionless lives of rote service.  Instead, He provides us with new hearts that drive us to action.

The Redeemed Life – Grow

This passage gives us a way to discern the hearts of other people so that we can appropriately judge and assess others.  But along with that, it gives us a mirror into our own hearts.  What kind of a life do you live?  Is there a noticeable difference between the life you lead and the lives of those who do not know God?  Are you aware of the fruits you produce in your own life?

If you’re up to the challenge, ask someone who you trust to give you their honest assessment of you.  Seek out a person who knows you, yet loves you enough to tell the truth.  It could be a long time friend, a mentor, or family member.  While there is certainly room for self-evaluation, there are also insights we are blind to from our internal perspective.  Invite others into your journey of spiritual growth by giving them permission to speak truth into your life.

20 February
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Those Judging Christians… – Luke 6:37-42

Luke 6:37-42 – Listen

37 “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; 38 give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”

39 He also told them a parable: “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit?40 A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.41 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 42 How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye.

The Redeemed Mind – Learn

I cannot count the number of times I have heard people misquote this passage.  More often than not, the person quoting this passage is attempting to justify an action they know they can’t really defend morally or ethically.  So let’s take a look and see what Jesus is actually talking about here.

Is Jesus condemning any and all judgments?  The simple answer is no.  He is not.  Jesus is giving His disciples the right way to judge and assess people.  To be clear, He is not teaching His disciples to be morally apathetic and uninvolved.  Instead, He’s teaching that we cannot be hypocritical in our judgments.

We are called to assess our own hearts and lives before judging another person who may be struggling with sin in their life.  This is a Biblical principle that is found throughout the Bible (1 Tim.4:16; Eph 4:15).  Jesus gives us a comical picture of a person who has a log sticking out of their eye, trying to “help” a brother who has a speck in their own eye.  The proportion of sin (the log) is exaggerated to show just how ridiculous it is to be in judge another person whose sin is microscopic in comparison to the sin in your own life.  It would be like a person who has declared bankruptcy a dozen times offering financial coaching to someone who has trouble managing finances.  It just doesn’t make sense.

The Redeemed Heart – Worship

Part of living a new life means living with a new heart.  The world teaches us to tear others down so that we can get ahead.  This world encourages us to compete with one another.  We act out of envy, anger, and pride.  But the laws of the Kingdom of God are different.  The King of the Kingdom has given us a new heart to help each other grow.  We do not minister to each other from a position of pride and superiority, but instead as humble partners and friends.  This passage all speaks about the condition of your heart as you live in relationship with others.  Are your judgments sourced in a redeemed heart, or in the ways of this world?

The Redeemed Life – Grow

Jesus teaches that we must remove the log first, then help our brother remove the speck.  Not to just sit in complacency while our brothers suffer in their own sin.  The underlying principle here, as is usually the case, is to do this in the context of love, desiring the best for our brothers and sisters.  Not to judge others as a means of feeling superior to them.

The process of removing the log from our own eye is a discipline of the Christian life called self-examination.  Its the first step in the process of addressing sin.  To look at ourselves before condemning the sin in others.  Its easy to point out the faults of others, but its a mark of maturity to see our own sin first.

What’s the “log” in your eye that obscures you from helping your brothers and sisters?  What vice hinders you from helping others grow in their faith.  Examine yourself and be humbled in the knowledge that God’s still working in you.  You can’t lead people where you haven’t been yourself.

19 February
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The Core of Our Morality – Luke 6:27-36

Luke 6:27-36 – Listen

27 “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29 To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. 30 Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. 31 And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.

32 “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. 35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. 36 Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.

The Redeemed Mind – Learn

The “Golden Rule” is one of the core principles Jesus teaches in His sermon on the plain.  As I have studied various world religions, I find the Golden Rule echoed through many of their teachings.  Buddhism, Bahá’í, Hinduism, and other monotheistic religions have a similar teaching: do to others as you would have them do to you.

So what sets Christianity apart?

Love.

The foundation upon which the Christian acts in humility and compassion is love.  Believers of Jesus have a high and holy calling: to love their enemies.  To love people who hurt them, take advantage of them, and hate them.  While many other world religions teach orthopraxy (way of acting), Christianity alone founds our orthopraxy on our belief that God is love.  God is not loving sometimes, or only to those who are good enough.  But God is love, and from His very character, he is merciful and “kind to the ungrateful and the evil.”

The Redeemed Heart – Worship

While other world religions seek to change a person’s behavior from the outside in (do good, behave), the glory of the Gospel is that we are transformed from in the inside out (a new heart means new affections which lead to new behaviors).  We love others not as an isolated action, but because it is connected to the bigger picture of our faith: God first loved us.  And that picture of love is nothing less than the sacrificial love that Jesus displayed on the cross.

The source of our love is not in some pathetic, fleeting emotion that we muster up.  The source of our love is rooted in the eternal and overwhelming character of God Himself.

God loved us in this way: He gave up His Son to bring us back to Him.  What other religion can match the love our of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord?

The Redeemed Life – Grow

As a follower of Christ, you are commanded to be merciful as God is merciful.  Now, I’ll be the first to admit that we will always fall short of that perfect standard while on this side of Heaven.  But Jesus calls us to live out a new way of life.  A way of life that is not characterized by outward external behaviors, but rather a life that flows from a heart that is grateful for redemption and forgiveness.  A heart that understands forgiveness is a heart that is able to love much.

To grow in love as a Christian does not mean “doing good” for the sake of doing good.  To be loving means staying rooted in truth that God loved us first, grounding it forever the in tumultuous ground of Self-sacrifice.  Before engaging our broken world, prepare your heart and mind by remaining in the truth that we love because God first loved us.  We are to be merciful because God was first merciful to us.  We are to love others because God first loved us.

Service separated from the wellspring of God’s love is nothing more than an arid wasteland of empty action.

18 February
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On the Stress of Resting

Today I have been blessed with a day of rest and time away from work.  And I admit that I’m not very good at resting.  I tend to stress out thinking I should be doing something “productive” or using the time to “get ahead” on work.  But I’m also reminded that in my resting, I can acknowledge and celebrate my humanity and finiteness.  God created us to be dependent on Him, so I am practicing that even though its uncomfortable and stressful.  Sometimes that best way to worship God is through rest.

We will continue on with our study of Luke tomorrow.  So if you get the day off of work or school, enjoy your extra time today!

Here is another quote from the beloved CS Lewis:

“The Christian does not think God will love us because we are good,

but that God will make us good because He loves us.”

Let us rest in knowledge and confidence that God is working in us, even when we are at rest.

Be blessed today and I’ll see you on Tuesday!

15 February
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And The Bad News… – Luke 6:24-26

Luke 6:24-26 – Listen

24 “But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.

25 “Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry.

“Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.

26 “Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.

The Redeemed Mind – Learn

Jesus is not exactly a “nice guy” like many people believe Him to be.  He is not afraid to speak truth, even when its not good news.  The Gospel of Luke includes a list of “woes” as a warning to those who are living comfortably.  The term “woe” is actually a technical term that is used in mourning, specifically during a funeral or burial process.  When Jesus warns these people who are living in comfort, He uses funeral imagery to emphasis the severity of the judgment that was coming from God.

But let me be clear: it is not sinful to laugh, be physically full/satisfied, or have a good reputation.  The woes here are directed to people who do not care about the afflicted, the hungry or the faithful.  They are people so inundated by the pleasures of this world that they are apathetic to the things of God.  There are people who are so myopic that they fail to see the big picture.  They do not see life in the context of eternity, but only as the here and now.

Throughout the Gospel of Luke, there is a heavy emphasis on the justice of God.  Here specifically, we have promises of hope knowing that the events of this world are not final.  There will indeed come a Day when God will return and make all things right.  Those who have suffered for His sake will be greatly rewarded, and those who disregarded Him will face judgment.

The Redeemed Heart – Worship

While you may face pain and sorrow now, cling to the promise that one day God will return and make it right.  While we live in an age characterized by violence and evil, let us stay grounded in the truth that God is still in control.  Let us renew our minds in the truth that God does not waste our suffering and pain in this world.  Every trial we face, ever tear we shed, every moment of pain, is going to be redeemed by Jesus.  It will not go in vain.  Let us worship our God because He is wise, powerful, and compassionate, knowing that we may suffer for a season, but peace, honor and rest will be rewarded to those who overcome the trials of this world.

The Redeemed Life – Grow

Sometimes its hard using the Bible as a mirror into our own life.  Living as an American, I experience many comforts and pleasures every day.  When I read this passage about woes, it makes me think more deeply about my actions and motives.  Even if I don’t make a ton of money, I can easily fall into the trap of thinking life is all about the things of this world:  A comfortably full bank account… Comfort in physical pleasures like food or sex… People pleasing…

As we read about these warnings, let us not glaze over them thinking that we are somehow immune to these dangers.  The temptations of live a “worldly” life exist all around us.  Our world is constantly selling the false belief that life is only the here and now.  It tries to brainwash you into thinking that life consists of pleasure and comfort.  It teaches you to care only about yourself and “getting ahead” no matter the cost.

Don’t listen to the lies of this world.  They sound good and initially feel good, but they will lead you down a path to spiritual death.  Instead, live as citizens of Heaven, knowing our time here is only a passing moment in the scope of eternity.  Let that affect your decisions today.

14 February
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The Already & The Not Yet – Luke 6:21-23

Luke 6:21-23 – Listen

21 “Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied.

“Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.

22 “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! 23 Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.

The Redeemed Mind – Learn

In the last post, we read about the blessing given to the “poor,” and now we hear the Lord’s blessings upon the hungry, those who weep, and those who are persecuted in their pursuit of God.  While each of those categories relate to a physical reality for followers of Jesus, its clear that Jesus is also describing a spiritual reality.  Those who are hungry are described in Matthew as those who “hunger and thirst for righteousness.”  The blessing coming to those who weep is the promise that one day God will wipe away their every tear (Rev. 21:4).  And those who are persecuted can rejoice because their reward in heaven, not earth, will be well worth it.

The Redeemed Heart – Worship

Living as Christians today means living in tension.  We can be completely certain about how everything will end.  We can be certain that we are living in God’s favor.  We can be certain that Jesus has triumphed over sin, death, and this world.  Yet, here we are.  Living in the very same world that sought to snuff out the Light of the world.  We live in tension because Jesus as accomplished the amazing work of salvation, yet we are challenged to wait until He returns to complete the process of redeeming our broken world.

Living after the cross, yet before the Final Return, we experience some, but not all of the perks of being citizens of heaven.  In our journey in this world, we are being transformed into saints who will be fit for heaven.  And somehow, in God’s design, He believes its in our best interest to live and grow in this world.  So while we eagerly await the Return of our King, let us also embrace the time He has given us now.  Let us tightly cling to His promises for our future, yet also allow ourselves to hunger for righteousness, weep over our sorrows, and rejoice in our suffering, knowing that one day when we stand with our Redeemer and Lord, it will all have been worth it.

The Redeemed Life – Grow

To grow in your faith, you must find balance.  Some people are so “heavenly-minded” that they are of no earthly good.  Others are so consumed with the here and now they suffocate the possibility of a redeemed future where God is in control.  In this period of time as we await our Savior’s return, do not neglect the responsibilities and relationships God has entrusted to you.  Steward them well so God may reward you upon His return.  While we exists in this present world, let us also see these present things in light of eternity.  Don’t allow yourself to get so nearsighted that you are unable to acknowledge and celebrate the fact that God has secured our future through His great and awesome promises.

Do you find yourself being drawn to one side or the other?  Pray God guides you toward a healthy balance.  Learn to live in the “already & not yet” Kingdom of God.

13 February
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Are You Among the Blessed Poor? – Luke 6:20

Luke 6:20  – Listen

20 And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said:

“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.

The Redeemed Mind – Learn

Starting in 6:20, Jesus preaches a sermon that is called the “Sermon on the Plain.”  It’s similar, yet distinctly different from the “Sermon on the Mount” (see Matt. 5-7).  When Jesus teaches about the Kingdom of God, we get a crystal clear glimpse into God’s economy.  Everything that we understand in this world is upside down and completely reversed from the way we understand things.  The weak are the powerful.  The wise are foolish.  Child-likeness is maturity.  And freedom is bondage.

I have chosen to only focus on one verse because I believe Jesus wanted to draw our attention to this specific blessing.  Did you notice that most of the “Beatitudes” are Kingdom realities that will happen in the future?  Most speak of a later time when the reversal will occur – those mourning will rejoice, those who are pure in heart will see God, etc.  But Jesus opens His sermon with a Kingdom reality that impacts us here and now: Blessed are those who are poor, for yours is the Kingdom of God.  It is a present reality that happens in the lives of the “blessed” here and now.

The Redeemed Heart – Worship

The word “bless” gets thrown around a lot in Christian circles – God bless mom and dad; God bless uncle Roy’s toe; God bless our food.  The word bless has been so overused that it has almost lost all meaning, but Jesus meant something when He spoke this.  To be blessed by God means having special favor in God’s eyes.  Those who are “blessed” in a Biblical sense are those people who God has singled out to be near to Him in relationship.  Its substantial, concrete, and plays out in the lives of God’s chosen people.  And the Greek word for blessing here denotes a meaning of exclusivity: the poor alone receive the Kingdom of God.

When Jesus preaches this, He is not speaking to the masses, but to the disciples and followers who are with Him.  His words were given to bring comfort and consolation to the men and women who have lost things in this life in their pursuit of God.  Those who have been called to follow Jesus are included in God secret – while we may seem like we are missing out on the pleasures of this world, we are in fact getting the better end of the deal.  We worship a God who has revealed to us the secret of His economy, and has invited us to reap the benefits of that life here and now.

The Redeemed Life – Grow

Who are these “poor” people that Jesus is speaking about?  It certainly is not limited to a financial interpretation – I know plenty of poor people who have not been blessed with Kingdom citizenship.  The language used here for poor speaks to those people who have nothing to offer – spiritually and financially.  And in relation to God, these are the select few who have come to the harsh, yet liberating truth that they have nothing to offer to God.  The “blessed poor” understand they are only in a position to receive, not give, and this appears to be the key to citizenship in God’s Kingdom.  The “poor” realize anything that they could bring before God Almighty is a gift which He first gave them.

I know in my own life, I go through periods of time where I think I am doing great things for God and doing Him favors because I am so skilled and gifted.  Then the reality dawns on me: I don’t have anything to offer God that helps Him.  Even the best I could offer is like rags and filth before His perfection.  It is certainly a blow to the ego, but its refreshment for the soul.

Pride prohibits us from experiencing the Kingdom of God.  Take time to remember your place before God.  And remember the point is not to get depressed about who we are, but rather to find rest and relief for our tired souls.  Free yourself from your every expectation and simply acknowledge you have nothing to offer God.  Let that truth set you free experience the blessing that only comes from being “poor.”

So friends, ask yourself today: “Am I spiritually poor?”

12 February
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Called into God’s Mission – Luke 6:12-19

Luke 6:12-19  – Listen

12 In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God.13 And when day came, he called his disciples and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles:14 Simon, whom he named Peter, and Andrew his brother, and James and John, and Philip, and Bartholomew, 15 and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon who was called the Zealot, 16 and Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.

17 And he came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon, 18 who came to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. And those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. 19 And all the crowd sought to touch him, for power came out from him and healed them all.

The Redeemed Mind – Learn

Throughout the Gospel of Luke we find Jesus placing a heavy emphasis on prayer in His ministry.  Jesus consistently retreats to desolate places to pray before going through significant events in His life.  He prayed before His baptism and temptation in the wilderness.  And here again we see Jesus going to a mountain top to pursue God in prayer before appointing the 12 apostles.  Immediately after appointing this inner circle, Jesus then proceeds to preach the “Sermon on the Plain” (cf Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount” Matt. 5-7).

Its interesting to note the group of men He assembled together.  In particular He chose to include Simon “the Zealot” and Matthew, a tax collector.  These two men were complete polar opposites.  Zealots of Jesus’ day were political radicals who sought bring down the Roman.  Matthew was a tax collector and agent of the Roman government who sought to enforce Roman rule.  These two men would have hated each other, yet Jesus chooses both men to travel together.  It seems clear that Jesus wasn’t working from a human logic, but rather was following God’s guidance which He received through prayer.

The Redeemed Heart – Worship

Jesus invited men and women, young and old, revolutionaries and tax collectors, to play a role in His drama.  He chose to involved flawed human beings in the divine process of redemption.  He did not choose individuals based on their skill, talent, or status.  He chose people who were immature on many levels.  Throughout the Gospels the apostles (especially Peter) proved themselves to be far from perfect.  But what we see is that Jesus did not call the equipped, but equipped those He called.  And He continues to do that today.  Thank God He doesn’t wait for us to be perfect before calling us to follow Him!  If He did, we’d all still be dead in our sin.

The Redeemed Life – Grow

Its always a good idea to take our cues from Jesus… except maybe when He walks on water…  Don’t try that one.

In this passage, Jesus exemplifies what it means to live a life that is fully dependent on God our Father.  Before choosing the 12 men who he’d pour the next three years of His life into, the men who He would empower to spread the Gospel to the ends of the earth, the men who would forever change the course of the entire world, He prays.  He seeks guidance from God to discern who He will choose for this monumental task.

As we live our lives, we reach many crucial points that will define so much of our future.  Where will we live?  Where will we work?  What will we study in school?  Who will we marry?  At any junction in your life, follow Jesus’ example and take time to be in prayer, seeking God’s guidance and direction.   Jesus thought it was important enough to spend the entire night in prayer before making His decision.  In your life, can you take time away from your busy schedule to listen to God’s guidance through solitude and prayer?

11 February
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The Power of His Word – Luke 6:6-11

Luke 6:6-11  – Listen

On another Sabbath, he entered the synagogue and was teaching, and a man was there whose right hand was withered. And the scribes and the Pharisees watched him, to see whether he would heal on the Sabbath, so that they might find a reason to accuse him. But he knew their thoughts, and he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come and stand here.” And he rose and stood there. And Jesus said to them, “I ask you, is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to destroy it?” 10 And after looking around at them all he said to him, “Stretch out your hand.” And he did so, and his hand was restored. 11 But they were filled with fury and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus.

The Redeemed Mind – Learn

This is the second passage concerning Jesus’ ministry during the Sabbath.  In the previous post, Jesus challenged the false belief that Jews were to follow the Law as a means of pleasing God.  In this passage, He challenges the Pharisees’ lack of compassion and hardness of heart.  The issue here again is whether it is permitted to “work” on the Sabbath.  Jesus perceives the judgmental thoughts of the Pharisees and confronts them with a question that cuts straight to the issue at hand: is it better to do good or harm, save life or destroy it?  The Pharisees are caught in their hypocrisy.  They know its better to do good but refusing to acknowledge that Jesus is right, they sit in silence.  Jesus then heals the man without doing any “work.”  Jesus was capable of accomplishing this healing and still be perfectly blameless according to the Jewish laws.  When the Pharisees see this, they’re filled with anger and begin to scheme how to get rid of Jesus.

The Redeemed Heart – Worship

Sometimes being familiar with these stories makes us numb to the amazing acts of God that happen through Jesus.  We can read straight past this story without giving a second thought to the mind-boggling idea that this actually happened in our world.  God came in the flesh and began to heal a world that was ravished by sin, decay and death.  He healed medical issues that we are unable to fix with our technology today.  Jesus tapped into the most potent source of healing and restoration in all existence – the power of God.  I pray as you grow closer to God through His Word that these stories come alive to you.  I pray you’re able to see Jesus and continue to be amazing by His wisdom, compassion and power.  Through these stories we can be certain that there is no one else that is worthy of our devotion, worship, and love.

The Redeemed Life – Grow

Healing miracles aren’t unique to Jesus.  They’re found all over the Bible.  But there is something striking about the way Jesus heals people compared to the prophets of old: its virtually effortless.  In the past, prophets were empowered by God to miraculously heal people, but they would usually have to perform some physical act or go through some special ritual to bring about the healing.  Here in the Gospels, Jesus brings a whole new level of authority over sickness and death: He simply speaks and it is done.  In healing the man with a withered hand, Jesus doesn’t even lift a finger.  He speaks a word, wills it in His heart, and it happens.

My friends, this is the God we serve.  In Jesus, we have direct access to the power of God Almighty.  Take some time to pray today about the things that are heavy on your heart.  Pray with confidence knowing that the same power Jesus used to heal a withered hand is the very same power that is available to answer your prayers.  His power is still available to those who believe in Him.

Lord, say the word and let us be healed.

08 February
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Freedom from False Beliefs – Luke 6:1-5

Luke 6:1-5  – Listen

On a Sabbath, while he was going through the grainfields, his disciples plucked and ate some heads of grain, rubbing them in their hands. But some of the Pharisees said, “Why are you doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath?” And Jesus answered them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and took and ate the bread of the Presence, which is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those with him?” And he said to them, “The Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.”

The Redeemed Mind – Learn

In this passage, Jesus and His disciples begin to eat heads of grain as they were walking through a grainfield.  Upon seeing this, the Pharisees criticize Jesus for breaking a Sabbath rule – no “work” on the Sabbath (the process of rubbing the grain together to remove the outer husk was considered “work”).

In reply, Jesus quotes to them a passage from 2 Samuel 21 where David and his followers did another “unlawful act” (eating bread that was only reserved for priests of God) which was overlooked because David was seen as king of Israel.  The logic follows that if David, who was the earthly king, was allowed to bypass the law, then how much more is Jesus, the Heavenly King, allowed to overrule the law.  In other parallel passages in the New Testament, Jesus also expresses “the law was given to serve the people, not for the people to serve the law” (cf Mark 2:27).

The Redeemed Heart – Worship

We tend to misunderstand the Pharisees, thinking they were stupid or completely misled, but they thought they were doing it right.  They were misled, thinking that God viewed them differently based on their works rather than their faith.  The truth and beauty behind Christianity is that we are not condemned to figure out a way to live a perfect life.  We could never in a million years perfectly live out the Laws of God.  Even if we mess up once in the tiniest way, we would fall short of God’s perfect, holy standard.  Thank the Lord Jesus Christ that we are saved by our faith in God’s Son, not by our works and “good efforts.”  We can rest in His perfect work, not our own.  We can strive after God in safety, knowing that we are in eternal good standing with God through the work of Jesus our Lord.

The Redeemed Life – Grow

When Jesus came into this world, He challenged many false beliefs that existed about His Heavenly Father.  Jesus consistently faced off against the Pharisees who had come to an overly legalistic view of the Law.  The Pharisees had incorrectly placed more value on following the Law than being in a loving relationship with God.

In your own life, what false beliefs hinder you from enjoying your relationship with the Lord?  Do you think God requires you to do certain things to make Him happy? Do you feel guilt or shame for the past even though you have heard that God has forgiven you?  Our good intentions sometimes turn into traps that make it impossible to enjoy God.  So today, simply allow yourself to be in God’s presence.  Even for just a couple minutes, be alone with God and embrace the truth that He loves you because of who you are, not because of what you do.  Allow that truth to liberate you today.