The Redeemed Life

a Christian blog cultivating spiritual growth

Archive for April, 2013

23 April

Loss and Profit – Luke 12:49-53

Luke 12:49-53 –Listen

49 “I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled! 50 I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished! 51 Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. 52 For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three. 53 They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

The Redeemed Mind – Learn

This is probably one of the most controversial passages ever recorded from Jesus’ lips.  The key to rightly understanding this message is again found in the context.  When Jesus speaks of bringing fire to the earth, He is most likely referencing a fire of purity or refinement rather than a fire representing final judgment.  The reasoning behind this is the greater context of the Biblical message.  Jesus did indeed bring divine salvation to the world (see John 14:27), but His message still causes division and conflict within established family and social units.

The Redeemed Heart – Worship

I have tasted the bitterness of separation and loss that comes with making a life-long commitment to following Jesus Christ as Lord.  I have experienced what it means to lose intimacy with friends and family because they think I’ve become a religious quack or just another one of those “Bible-thumping, brain-washed fools” who believe that the Bible says.  But even as I write about this, and reflect on those relationships, I am overwhelmed with the reality that all things are considered as rubbish and waste in light of knowing my God and Savior Jesus Christ.  According to the standards of this world, I’ve abandoned everything logical and reasonable (well-paying jobs, comfortable and secure living, etc) to pursue the painful road to the cross, knowing that it leads to glory and honor.  I am positive I can stand toe-to-toe with everyone whom I’ve parted ways with and prove the validity of this calling in life, but until they taste and see the pleasure of knowing and loving my Lord, they will never be able to fully understand this calling, nor accept me for who I have become.  And I’m actually OK with that.  I can freely, and joyfully worship God because I have counted the cost, and in light of these temporary, fleeting loses, I will gain eternal treasure and pleasures in the presence of God Himself.

The Redeemed Life – Grow

What loss have you experienced in your own life as a result of following Jesus?  What relationship, comfort, or idea have you had to part ways with because it stood in between you and your ability to follow our Lord?

Remember those things, and lift them up to Jesus today as a living sacrifice that we give to Him with thanksgiving.  For although we face temporary heartbreak and loss, we rest in the hope that He will generously repay our earthly losses with heavenly gifts that exceed our wildest imagination.  Let our hearts joyfully echo the words of the Scriptures:

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ!

I pray you remember that you don’t suffer alone.  We, as brothers and sisters, all eagerly await our Redemption and reward for the sacrifices we offer here and now.  Let us strive toward that noble goal together!

22 April

Living in Expectation – Luke 12:35-48

Luke 12:35-48 –Listen

35 “Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, 36 and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks. 37 Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them. 38 If he comes in the second watch, or in the third, and finds them awake, blessed are those servants! 39 But know this, that if the master of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have left his house to be broken into. 40 You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”

41 Peter said, “Lord, are you telling this parable for us or for all?” 42 And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom his master will set over his household, to give them their portion of food at the proper time? 43 Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. 44 Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. 45 But if that servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and get drunk, 46 the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces and put him with the unfaithful. 47 And that servant who knew his master’s will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating. 48 But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating,will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.

The Redeemed Mind – Learn

Jesus continues teach His disciples about living in the knowledge that the Day of the Lord was coming soon.  In light of that knowledge, His encouragement to them is to be in a state of continual readiness for the coming of the Lord.  The imagery He uses is that of servants waiting for the Master of the house to return.  The Master’s coming is unknown, so the servants have to be in a constant state of readiness to open the door when He knocks.  Those who are found living a vigilant life will be rewarded with heavenly and eternal blessings.  Those who are been living a life distracted by the things of this world will be punished.  Added on top of this is each person’s personal knowledge of God’s will for their lives.  Those whom God has entrusted with much knowledge and wisdom will be held to a higher standard than those who may not be as naturally or spiritually gifted.

The Redeemed Heart – Worship

The thrust of this passage, as well as the previous passage, is one of warning.  You can almost hear the urgency and concern in Jesus voice as He is leaving these warnings to His disciples.  While these warnings can seem ominous and foreboding, we also see a glimpse into the heart of Jesus – He wants to see us succeed and has given us every tool and bit of information that we need to succeed and be prepared for His return.

In the midst of reading through these hard passages, let us not forget to thank God for the provision He has given us through His Word. Let’s worship a God who has not left us in the dark, but has illuminated our minds and hearts with His truth.  And as we live worship-full lives, we can be certain that we will not be caught unaware when He returns.

The Redeemed Life – Grow

I believe in the doctrine of the Second Coming, but in many ways, it doesn’t affect my daily life.  But passages like this remind me that there is no guarantee that this I will pass away before the return of the Lord.  In my heart, I have found that there are some things that are easy to accept about Christianity (forgiveness, living on mission, etc), but other things (like the Second Coming)  just seem to big or too far away to affect my life.

I believe the mark of a mature Christian is that they are able to not only know about these doctrinal truths, but allow them to seep into the details of their daily lives.

What would be different if you knew that Jesus was coming back tomorrow?  How would that affect how/where you spend your time, money, and resources?

19 April

Earthly Wealth and Eternal Investments – Luke 12:13-34

Luke 12:13-34 –Listen

13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”14 But he said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” 15 And he said to them,“Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” 16 And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, 17 and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ 18 And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21 So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”

22 And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. 24 Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! 25 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 26 If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? 27 Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 28 But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! 29 And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. 30 For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.

32 “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

The Redeemed Mind – Learn

When someone in the crowd calls out for Jesus to make a judgment about a family inheritance, Jesus takes the opportunity to preach against the dangers that come with earthly wealth.  In His usual method of teaching, Jesus illustrates this spiritual lesson with a story.  His parable describes a man who had acquired so much earthly wealth that he beings to make plans to live in comfort, complacency, and self-dependence.  But Jesus reveals that the man would face death that night, and all his earthly possessions would be lost.

The teaching is summarized in a short proverb that sums up this passage: “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”  As Jesus taught us not to fear in the previous passage, He again reassures His followers “fear not” since our Father is happy to give us not only earthly possessions, but His very own eternal Kingdom (v.32).

The Redeemed Heart – Worship

There are countless scientific and socio-political studies which prove that material and physical wealth does not equate to happiness.  Everyday, we hear stories that illustrate that money and possessions will not ensure joy.  Celebrities turn to drugs and alcohol, politicians seek fulfillment outside of their marriages, and countless wealthy individuals suffer through depression, leading some to suicide.

Jesus’ message flies in the face of everything this society tells us about seeking happiness and fulfillment.  He teaches that true  joy is found in nothing else but in God and His Kingdom.  And amazingly, Jesus gives us the key to lasting, fulfilling joy – its free and you can have it right now.

I pray our hearts have not become so familiar with this truth as to render it meaningless in our own lives.

The Redeemed Life – Grow

Jesus’ questions is just as valid today as it was thousands of years ago.  Where are you storing your treasure?  The things that matter most to your heart are reflected in what that you value most here and now.  Are you constantly thinking about getting more money?  Or perhaps you move things around in your life to feel comfort, ease, and relaxation?

Jesus challenges us to think beyond the visible world, to an eternal existence where we can rightly place our resources, time and energy.  If you’ve valued the things of this world, repent and transfer your investment to God’s Kingdom where you will be richly rewarded on the other side of eternity.

If Jesus presents us with this spiritual reality, will you really believe Him and choose act on it?

18 April

The Unforgivable Sin – Luke 12:8-12

Luke 12:8-12 – Listen

“And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God, but the one who denies me before men will be denied before the angels of God. 10 And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. 11 And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, 12 for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”

The Redeemed Mind – Learn

These verses are among the most misunderstood and hotly debated sections of the Bible.  Jesus teaches that our willingness to be bold in our faith has a direct correlation to the judgment we will receive from God.  He then goes on to teach that those who speak against Him (‘the Son of Man”) can be forgiven, but those who blaspheme the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven.  The last teaching is that believers should not live in dread, fearing the testimony they will give about God, but live in the assurance that the Holy Spirit will provide a faithful witness when the time is right.

They key to understanding these ominous warnings lies in the context.

This unforgivable sin must been seen in contrast to “speaking a word against the Son of Man.”  In one situation, people have a real chance to be forgiven and restored after flippantly and carelessly denying or rejecting Jesus Christ (see John 21:15–19).  But those who continually and persistently resist the work of the Holy Spirit – who convicts the world of sin, offering forgiveness and grace through Jesus – will not be forgiven (see  Acts 7:51).  These are the people who live their entire lives denying and rejecting God’s offer of mercy and forgiveness.  Not people who make a rash denial of God but are truly repentant.

The Redeemed Heart – Worship

I sometimes fall into the trap of getting too comfortable with God.  I tend to slide into a sense of complacency, forgetting that He is indeed powerful, just and holy.  I forget that He demands my entire life, every word, thought, second of my day, etc.  Sadly, I forget about the coming Day, when He will return and hold us in judgment for our lives and choices.  Sometimes I forget that God is not only a lamb, but a Lion and Victorious King.

I believe the Bible uses the phrase “FEAR of the Lord” for a specific reason.  Through Jesus Christ, we have indeed become friends with God, but that does not change that fact that He is God.  In passages like this, I am quickly humbled and reminded of my place.  Part of worship for me is realizing I must surrender everything in my life, because He has called me to live in a new way.

The Redeemed Life – Grow

Throughout the Gospels, Jesus reminds us time and time again: He is indeed returning, and we will be responsible for the way we lived our lives.  Jesus constantly hold the reality of the Final Judgment before our faces.  He sought to warn His disciples and friends, and His warning echoes through the centuries to us today.  He wasn’t trying to paralyze us with fear, but instead motivate us to action.

Do you believe that Day is coming?  Are you making choices today with that Day in mind?

The only thing that won’t be forgiven is a hardened heart that refuses God’s grace and transformation.  And if you are breathing right now, you have a very real chance to live in God’s forgiveness.

17 April

Whom Shall I Fear? – Luke 12:1-7

Luke 12:1-7 – Listen

In the meantime, when so many thousands of the people had gathered together that they were trampling one another, he began to say to his disciples first, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees,which is hypocrisy. Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known.Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops.

“I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him! Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.

The Redeemed Mind – Learn

As Jesus grows in popularity and fame, He takes His disciples aside to warn them about the immanent dangers that come with being famous.  The unfortunate case study He uses are the Pharisees.  These religious leaders had allowed their religious and political power warp their minds to the point that they were more in love with their power than the God that had originally given His laws to them.

Jesus reminds His followers, especially those who have experienced the temptation of fame and popularity, that true and reverent faith is always centered on God, not ourselves.

The Redeemed Heart – Worship

When the Scriptures speak about Jesus “facing every temptation we face, yet without sin,”  I am amazed at how perfectly He handles the temptation of fame.  It blows my mind that Jesus had a very real choice every moment of His earthly life – the choice to take up His rightful divine power, yet He forfeited His divine rights, honors, and privileges so that we could benefit from His humility, faithfulness, and endurance.

When I remind myself that Jesus was actually God in the flesh, yet allowed Himself to be accused and abused at the hands of mere sinful mortals, I am humbled.  My heart can do nothing except worship my God, who gave up more than I could ever imagine, just to be with me.

The Redeemed Life – Grow

Power is intoxicating.  No matter where power and authority is experienced, there is always the risk of abuse.  It happens everywhere, from the family system to the business world.  Even the Church is vulnerable to the toxicity of spiritual abuse.

In your own life, God has entrusted certain people who depend on you and look to you for spiritual guidance and direction.  And in a very real way, you are there to pastor and shepherd these people in a way that honors and glorifies the God who entrusted them to you.  They may be children, peers, or even strangers that cross your path.

I pray that Jesus’ warning refreshes in your minds the severity, and honor, that comes with being in a position of power.  I pray that you approach those relationship with proper reverence and fear, knowing that God will bring all our works to light.  I pray that we are able to faithfully handle the responsibility that God entrusts to us.  And on that Day, we will not be trembling in fear of punishment because we have abused His people, but rather tremble with excitement, knowing we have a lavish reward awaiting us for our service.

Serve well, my friends.  It has eternal implication and unfathomable rewards.

16 April

The Condemnation of the Self-Righteous – Luke 11:37-54

Luke 11:37-54 – Listen

37 While Jesus was speaking, a Pharisee asked him to dine with him, so he went in and reclined at table. 38 The Pharisee was astonished to see that he did not first wash before dinner. 39 And the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. 40 You fools! Did not he who made the outside make the inside also? 41 But give as alms those things that are within, and behold, everything is clean for you.

42 “But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. 43 Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the best seat in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces. 44 Woe to you! For you are like unmarked graves, and people walk over them without knowing it.”

45 One of the lawyers answered him, “Teacher, in saying these things you insult us also.” 46 And he said, “Woe to you lawyers also! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers. 47 Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets whom your fathers killed. 48 So you are witnesses and you consent to the deeds of your fathers, for they killed them, and you build their tombs. 49 Therefore also the Wisdom of God said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute,’ 50 so that the blood of all the prophets, shed from the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation, 51 from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, it will be required of this generation. 52 Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering.”

53 As he went away from there, the scribes and the Pharisees began to press him hard and to provoke him to speak about many things, 54 lying in wait for him, to catch him in something he might say.

The Redeemed Mind – Learn

This scene describes Jesus’ interaction with the Jewish religious leaders of His day.  The passage explains that Jesus was invited to dine and have fellowship with Pharisees and lawyers (some translations call them “scribes”), but after being criticized for not undergoing ceremonial washing (which is not actually part of the Old Testament Law), Jesus unleashes a series of scathing woes against the Pharisees and lawyers.

The thrust of every condemnation comes from Jesus’ righteous anger against these “religious” rulers who have foolishly misinterpreted the Word of God, resulting in a severe burden upon the Jewish people who depended on the Pharisees and scribes to interpret the Scriptures to them.  Jesus turns the tables on the self-righteous leaders revealing the reality that it is they themselves who are spiritually defiled due to their lack of understanding and stubborn, rebellious hearts.

Needless to say, the meal ended quickly as the Pharisees and lawyers now openly reveal their inward attitude toward Jesus.  From this point on, they are seeking every possible opportunity to catch Jesus breaking a law or even misspeaking so that they could punish Him.

The Redeemed Heart – Worship

Through the barrage of condemnations directed toward the Pharisees and lawyers, we get a glimpse into the very heart of God.  Jesus embodied the fullness of God Himself as He rebuked the religious leaders for their careless neglect of the people of God.  God cares deeply about the welfare of His people, and His desire was never for outward compliance, but inward transformation.  In the Old Testament, this problem was directly addressed by God in Ezekiel 34:1-37.  In this amazing passage, God makes a promise that is fulfilled in Jesus – God Himself came to this world to show us the right way to shepherd and care for His people.

We rightly worship a God who gave up everything to make things right with us.  We worship a God who is faithful to His promises, and cares deeply about our struggles and burdens.  We worship a God who loves us more than we will ever fully know.

The Redeemed Life – Grow

This passage teaches us something very practical about Jesus – He wasn’t a nice guy all the time.  He wasn’t a pushover.  He didn’t allow people in authority to influence Him from doing and saying the right thing.  Jesus was bold in His faith, and zealous about loving and protecting people.

While Jesus was patient and gentle with those who knew they were spiritually impoverished, He revealed Himself as powerful, righteous and direct to those who thought they “had it all figured out.”  Being a Christian is NOT about being a nice guy/gal.  Its knowing when to be patient and gentle, and when its appropriate to speak in boldness.  What relationship in your life could use some assertiveness and boldness?

15 April

A Light in the Darkness – Luke 11:33-36

Luke 11:33-36 – Listen

33 “No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a cellar or under a basket, but on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light. 34 Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but when it is bad, your body is full of darkness. 35 Therefore be careful lest the light in you be darkness. 36 If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, it will be wholly bright, as when a lamp with its rays gives you light.”

The Redeemed Mind – Learn

Throughout the entire Bible, there is a reoccurring theme of light and darkness.  Light is typically the manifestation of God’s presence bringing clarity, truth and holiness.  Darkness is the absence of God’s presence bringing confusion, lies, and evil.  As Jesus continues to teach His followers about the dangers of the Pharisees, He specifically warns them about keeping the truth of God hidden from others.

Today, its hard to think of how familiar we are with technology and electricity.  Living in a major city, light is almost a nuisance that we cannot get away from, even when we’re trying to sleep!  That wasn’t the case in Jesus day.  Light was a luxury that people used in their homes to continue working, cooking, etc.  Jesus says that no one lights a lamp only to hide it under a basket.  The purpose light exists is to illuminate everything else around it.  Through the use of the shining light, people have a way to function in a world of darkness.  Our Lord makes the illustration that if we have the light of Christ (ie His presence, life, guidance etc) inside of us, we will be able to see the world as it is.  Conversely, if our “eyes” are darkness, we will not be able to function in this world, much less help anyone else living in darkness.

The Redeemed Heart – Worship

Its an amazing thing to think that God stepped down into a world of sin to be a “light to those who have been living in the darkness.”  God loved us so much He refused to leave us in our own sin and darkness.  He came to be a light for us, and more than that, He chose to become the light within us.  As children of God, we have eyes to see, and hearts to respond to the revelation and truth of God Himself.  What an amazing honor.  What a humbling privilege.

“I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”

– C. S. Lewis

The Redeemed Life – Grow

God reveals Himself to each of us in very unique ways.  He has entrusted you with a specific story, life experience  and relationships so that you could be a “light” to those around you.  Don’t allow your light to go wasted.  Be intentional about shining your light so other people can see God radiating in you!  Share with one other person how God has been a light to you, and see how God uses that to bless them.

12 April

Living in Light of Eternity – Luke 11:29-32

Luke 11:29-32 – Listen

29 When the crowds were increasing, he began to say, “This generation is an evil generation. It seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah. 30 For as Jonah became a sign to the people of Nineveh, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. 31 The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here. 32 The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.

The Redeemed Mind – Learn

In this passage, Jesus is responding to the crowd’s previous request to “see a sign.”  Jesus gives them a clear and simple answer: no.  He isn’t refusing to answer their request to see the power of God, but instead addressing the doubt and malicious intent of their hearts.  They don’t want signs to prove that Jesus is indeed the Son of God, they wants to see Him fail so they can find something tangible to accuse Him of so they could execute Him.

Jesus eloquently answers their demand for a sign by teaching out of the Old Testament.  The 2 examples He uses are from the book of 1 Kings and from the Book of Jonah.  In each situation, individuals or groups of people responded to God’s revelation to them through previous prophets and kings.  Both stories illustrate people’s ability to repent and move toward God’s revelation to humanity.  And now that the True Prophet and High King has come, they fail to recognize Him as He is.  Jesus says they will only receive the sign of Jonah – a reference of being buried for three days and afterwards being redeemed to life again.

For further proof of Jesus proper response to this situation, see Luke 16:31 and John 12:9-11.

The Redeemed Heart – Worship

Jesus references Old Testament figures who properly responded to God’s revelation.  Yet in the Old Testament, we have stories that foreshadow the brilliant reality that is fully embodied in Jesus Christ in the Gospels.  The Queen of Sheba  was able to recognize the wisdom of Solomon and seek his presence.  The Ninevites responded to a stern warning from Jonah, a prophet of God.  As Christians today, we have something even more clear to respond to.  No believer in the Old Testament could have ever imagined that God Himself would come to us in human form to give us a message of impending judgment and an escape route through His grace.  But today we have the 4 Gospels and New Testament that give us a privileged look into the divine plan of God Himself.

Jesus explains it well in Luke 10:24:  “For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.”

We are truly blessed to be on this side of the cross.  I pray you don’t ever that that for granted.

The Redeemed Life – Grow

In this passage, Jesus seems to casually speak of the Final Judgment with an a tone of familiarity and normalcy.  But let’s just step back for a moment and realize what Jesus is talking about here:  Jesus is telling us, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that there will be a final judgment when every soul that has ever lived will be brought back to human life and stand in judgment before God and one another.

Jesus presents us with a glimpse into the future where He is knows what will happen.  And beyond simply acknowledging this as a factual bit of information, Jesus allowed this reality to impact the things He was doing that very day.  Jesus lived in the reality that His actions have eternal consequences, and here He reminded His hearers of that very reality in their own lives.  Our actions today will have eternal implications for our future.

When was the last time you thought about your life in light of eternity?  Have you been making daily decisions with the mind of Christ, knowing what is to come?  Jesus gives us powerful knowledge that is meant to transform our lives now toward a future that we can be excited about.  Today, are you in fear of that final day?  Or do you eagerly await a reward for the things you’re doing now?

Live today with That Day in mind.

11 April

Our “Interior Lives” – Luke 11:24-28

Luke 11:24-28 – Listen

24 “When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and finding none it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ 25 And when it comes, it finds the house swept and put in order. 26 Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there. And the last state of that person is worse than the first.”

27 As he said these things, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!” 28 But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”

The Redeemed Mind – Learn

This cryptic passage follows the thoughts of the preceding passage.  Jesus is teaching His disciples that demonic deliverance is not something that guarantees lasting change within a person.  The illustration that He uses is of a demon that is cast out of a person, and after being unable to find a better dwelling, seeks to re-possess the person it was cast from.  The analogy of their “house” being “swept and put in order” indicates a tranquility or orderliness that come with being free of demonic oppression.  It is striking that this person’s “house,” or more clearly, “interior life,” is not filled with the presence of God, but rather an empty space that is prone to another demonic invasion.   The teaching behind this parable is that a person must be filled with the Holy Spirit instead of living a life of complacency.  In other words, living out the Word of God instead of foolishly expecting to be safe from demonic influence.  That is more clearly illustrated in verses 27-28 – “blessed… are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”

The Redeemed Heart – Worship

When Jesus responds to the woman who called out from the crowd, He is able to redirect her praise in a healthy direction.  The woman in the crowd was seeking to give honor to Jesus’ mother because of the amazing man that Jesus had become.  But Jesus rightly places the honor and praise back to God, defining blessedness as obedience in faith rather than physical relationships.

In Jesus teachings and everyday interactions with people, He sought to bring their attention, focus, and obedience back to His Father in Heaven.  He never sought to steal the glory or praise for Himself, but would in fact retreat away from fame in order to bring the crowds back to God.  Let us strive to live for God’s glory just as Jesus sought to do in His own life.  Let us find every way imaginable to bring people’s attention off of us, and rightly on our God and Savior.

The Redeemed Life – Grow

In our world today, there are many competing ideas about what it means to be spiritual.  Meditation studios, spiritual centers, and “religious” classes are offered which teach people to become more “spiritual”… whatever that means.  Many new age beliefs, as well as old Eastern religions, teach that we must learn to “empty ourselves” in order to grow.

In contrast to this, Scripture teaches us NOT to empty ourselves, but rather to FILL ourselves with the Holy Spirit.  In our parable today, the person who became re-possessed failed to defend their souls against demonic invasion.  Their “house” was left empty and ripe for the taking.  They did nothing to fill in that space that had been liberated from demonic oppression, and it seems that Jesus is calling us to fill our “interior lives” with obedience to God which results in being “filled” with the Spirit of God.

What does your “interior life” look like?  Is it empty and unlocked?  Or is it occupied and filled by Jesus Himself?  He desires to dwell in us and be active in our lives.  Have you allowed Him in?

10 April

Two Warring Kingdoms – Luke 11:14-23

Luke 11:14-23 – Listen

14 Now he was casting out a demon that was mute. When the demon had gone out, the mute man spoke, and the people marveled. 15 But some of them said, “He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the prince of demons,” 16 while others, to test him, kept seeking from him a sign from heaven. 17 But he,knowing their thoughts, said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a divided household falls. 18 And if Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say that I cast out demons by Beelzebul. 19 And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. 20 But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. 21 When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are safe; 22 but when one stronger than he attacks him and overcomes him, he takes away his armor in which he trusted and divides his spoil. 23 Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.

The Redeemed Mind – Learn

In this passage, Jesus once again comes in conflict with the Pharisees.  As Jesus continues to heal the sick, raise the dead, and free the demon possessed, the Pharisees attempt to slander Him by accusing Him of having miraculous power through an unholy association with Beelzebul, another name for the prince of demons, Satan.  Practicing black magic was a serious offense during Jesus’ day and would most likely lead to a death sentence from the Jewish Counsel.  Jesus then addresses the ignorance of their claim.  First, it would be completely illogical and irrational for Satan to be casting out demons because demons are actively doing Satan’s bidding.  Second, the other Jewish exorcists of the day would have to be guilty of the same crime, but Jesus clearly points out that they are singling Him out for a personal attack.

The Redeemed Heart – Worship

Jesus concludes this passage teaching about a “strong man.”  In this analogy, Jesus is equating the “strong man” with Satan, and what Jesus is teaching is that since He has already bested Satan in one-on-one combat, and has since then began to plunder his kingdom of darkness, bring more and more souls into the Kingdom of Light.  Jesus resisted every temptation that Satan could throw at Him during His 40 day testing in the wilderness, and ever since then, Jesus has progressively been advancing further and further into Satan’s stronghold, freeing soul after soul to live for Him.

Our hearts were created to adore Jesus Christ, our Heavenly Savior and Knight in shining armor.

The Redeemed Life – Grow

The last verse of this passage is a sobering reminder:  there is no middle ground when it comes to Jesus.  You can either be on His side and gather more souls into the Kingdom of Light.  Or you can be against Him, scattering souls, causing fear, anxiety and chaos.

Can you confidently say that you’re bringing more souls into God’s Kingdom?  Or is that a job you’re leaving for the “professionals”?  Jesus says if you’re with Him, then you’ll be like Him.  What opportunities has God placed before you to gather souls for heaven?  God has called you to a specific mission.  Embrace what He has prepared for you!

09 April

Praying Without Modesty – Luke 11:5-13

Luke 11:5-13 – Listen

And he said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’? I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs. And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find;knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 11 What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; 12 or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

The Redeemed Mind – Learn

Immediately after teaching His disciples the Lord’s Prayer (see the previous 3 posts), Jesus then launches into an illustration that demonstrates our manner of prayer.  In other words, the Lord’s Prayer teaches us what to pray and this parable teaches us how to pray.  The parable that Jesus uses here needs a little interpretation to be fully understood.  In that culture, if a guest came to visit a person’s house it would be a severe dishonor to not set food before them after their long travel.  The man in this parable was taken by surprise and so he asks his neighbor for help.  But since its so late at night, and since in that culture families would sleep all together in one bed in a central living room, the man’s friend’s reply is a simple: go away! its late and I don’t want to wake my family!  As the parable unfolds, it becomes clear that the man knocking on the door eventually gets his neighbor to help… NOT because they are friends, but simply because he asks for help in his time of need.  The comparison here is that if we as sinful people know how to care for each other’s requests and needs, then there is an infinitely greater answer that God will give us if we approach Him in prayer.

For a similar teaching on this approach to prayer, see Luke 18:1-8.

The Redeemed Heart – Worship

The word “impudence” in verse 8 is a very unique Greek work that only appears once in the entire New Testament.  The Greek literature of the day seems to denote a meaning of “lacking respect or modesty.”  It seems striking to me that Jesus would encourage us to approach God with prayer in this way!  When I think of the King of Heaven answering my prayers, I don’t usually think its best to barge into the Throne Room of God and spew out my incessant ranting prayers!  But that seems to be exactly what Jesus is teaching us to do.  And I believe the key to really understanding that is the relationship Jesus says we have with God – He is our Father!  We can come to him like needy children because that is precisely what we are!  We are fully and utterly dependent on Him for survival and happiness, and it brings God pleasure to provide for us, just as a father enjoys caring for his own children!  What an awesome thing it is to have such a close relationship with God!

The Redeemed Life – Grow

After learning what to pray and how to pray, are you willing to start practicing it?  Are you able to come to seek God’s help, pounding on the gates of Heaven until you receive what you’ve been praying for?  Are you ready to approach God as a providing Father, and humbly receive gifts as His sons and daughters?

Pray to God today.  Pray without modesty or civility!  And approach Him with a child-like heart because there is no need for formality. He is our Father, and we are His children.  Ask.  Seek.  Knock.  He is waiting to provide.

08 April

The Lord’s Prayer Part 3 – Luke 11:4

Luke 11:4 – Listen

and forgive us our sins,
    for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And lead us not into temptation.”

The Redeemed Mind – Learn

These final petitions end the Lord’s Prayer according to the Gospel of Luke.  The forgiveness of sins that Jesus is speaking about is not speaking about justification, or the permanent reality of eternal identity in Christ by faith, but is instead speaking about our constant need to repair our relationship with God as its marred by sin and spiritual distance (see Rom. 5:1, 9; 8:1; 10:10).  In the process of sloughing off the sins which cling to us, we are then able to extend forgiveness to those who have sinned against us.  According to Luke, being indebted to someone is one and the same as being in sin (see Luke 7:41–43, 47–49).  The final petition of the Lord’s prayer is a simple and direct request – to keep us away from temptation, aka the events, people, and things that cause us to sin most easily.

The Redeemed Heart – Worship

When I read the Lord’s prayer, I sometimes feel guilt and shame, knowing how pitifully short I fall of God’s perfect and holy standard.  When I seek Jesus’ guidance to teach me to pray, I feel utterly inadequate to pray these words.  I can pray these things about forgiveness, staying away from temptation, etc, but there is also a dark part of my heart that doesn’t want to part with the old sinful way of life.  When I face those times of doubt, frustration, and despair, I remember that when I pray this prayer, I am not the only one praying.  I remember that I have a heavenly Advocate who sits at the Father’s right hand, and prays for me to succeed.

You see, Jesus ascended to be with the Father in glory, but He did not forget about us.  Our beautiful Lord lives to plead and intercede for you!  That is His new full time job in Heaven until He comes back to take us home.  Take heart when you pray, knowing that your prayers are being echoed by our Savior in Heaven.  And wait expectantly to see just how powerful His prayers are for you.  We are not alone in this.

The Redeemed Life – Grow

A little self-disclosure… This verse is a challenging one for me to pray.  Usually I can pray through the Lord’s Prayer and feel a sense of peace and even feel affirmed… that is until I read “for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.”  I’m not good at forgiveness.  Its easy for me to think that God wants to extend me forgiveness and restoration, but I selfishly stop there.  I have a hard time extending God’s forgiveness to me in the form of forgiving other people.  I try to find every excuse in the book to not extend forgiveness They don’t deserve it!  If you only knew what they did to me!  I’m not ready to forgive them.  I’ll forgive them if they apologize

I realize not all of you struggle with this, but for those who do, let Jesus’ words sink in to your heart.  He is very serious about forgiving others, and this verse even makes it sounds like He is already expecting us to be doing it all the time!  Let us strive to live a forgiving life.  And today, think about someone who God is calling you to forgive.  Pray this prayer, with Jesus as your Advocate, and let’s be amazed at what He will do.

05 April

The Lord’s Prayer Part 2 – Luke 11:3

Luke 11:3 – Listen

Give us each day our daily bread

The Redeemed Mind – Learn

There is much that we can learn from this one seemingly simple phrase.  This prayer request is an echo of God’s provision for His chosen nation as they wondered through the desert for 40 years.  These events are recorded in the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.  During their long sojourn through the desert, God miraculously provided for their every need.  One essential need that was addressed on a daily basis was food that sustained the people throughout the day.  The instruction for the people were to only collect the food they needed for the day, the exception being to collect 2 days worth before the Sabbath.  Any extra food that they tried to hoard would be found rotten and infested with maggots the following day.

Throughout the 40 years of wondering in the desert, God taught the people the important lesson of dependence on Him.  They had to have faith that God would provide food for them, and learn to live in the tension that they would not be able to provide for themselves, but were utterly dependent on God for life.  This physical lesson had a direct connection to the spiritual truth that no person can survive apart from God.

Here again in Jesus’ prayer, we are encouraged to pray that God gives us hearts that are dependent on Him.  Jesus’ prayer for us is not that we receive everything that we need at one time, but rather to relate to God as a daily Sustainer of our needs.

The Redeemed Heart – Worship

Its amazing for me to think about how richly God provides.  While Jesus teaches us to pray for daily sustenance from God, I am always humbled when I am able to experience blessings that go above and beyond what I need for survival.  The other night, my wife and I went out for sushi, and as I gave thanks before we ate, I was surprised at just how lavish God’s love for me really is.  My Lord doesn’t dish out the bare minimum I need to survive, but rather blesses me with delicious food I can savor and enjoy.  He graciously and consistently provides in ways that I sometimes take for granted.  But today, as I write this, I am simply humbled that our God goes so far above and beyond the basics.  If this resonates with you, let’s take a moment to say “thank you,” and be reminded of our Lord’s gracious gifts for His undeserving children.

The Redeemed Life – Grow

Sometimes I find myself buying in to the false belief that I really don’t need to be connected to God for survival.  I see food in my pantry, clothing in my closet, gas in my tank, and a roof over my head and think, “I’m good.  I got this today God, you can have the day off.  I’ll provide for myself today.”

When I allow my heart to lose focus on God’s provision for my life, I slip into a false sense of security, thinking that I am somehow able to live apart from God.  This line from the Lord’s prayer challenges me to check my heart’s attitude toward God.  Do I view Him as a “spiritual Costco” where I can stock up for weeks and weeks in advance?  Or do I view Him as the Giver of every single thing I need to survive moment by moment?  Do I really know that He is the giver of my meals, clothing, and even the very air that I am breathing?

Where is your heart today?  Have you forgotten, like I have many times, the truth that we are useless and dead apart from relationship with God?  Pray today for God to revive in you a sense of thanksgiving and awe.  Pray that God molds your heart into a posture of dependence and expectation.  And as we pray this together, let us find joy and peace knowing that we are consistently and eternally cared for.

04 April

The Lord’s Prayer Part 1 – Luke 11:1-2

Luke 11:1-2 – Listen

1One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”

He said to them, “When you pray, say:

“‘Our Father,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come.

The Redeemed Mind – Learn

The Lord’s Prayer, aka the “Our Father,” has existed as a pillar of prayer within the Christian Church for thousands of years.  This prayer, taught directly by Jesus Himself, is the foundation upon which millions of Christians have experienced the bliss and joy of communing to our God in Heaven.  It has shaped and molded countless minds, it has caused societal upheaval, and in many ways, has brought the Kingdom of God in closer contact with our world.  We will take some time and work through the various parts of this prayer, as I am convinced that this is something that Jesus wanted us to remember, think about regularly, and meditate upon for spiritual growth.

This prayer was given in response to the disciples asking Jesus to “teach us how to pray.”  And according to the Gospel accounts, Jesus taught this specific prayer on multiple occasions when instructing His people how to pray (cf. Matt. 6:7-13).  The opening of the prayer tells us to whom we should pray – our Father in Heaven.  It reminds us of God’s perfection (“hallowed be your name = “let your name be holy”), and then aligns our will with God’s will (“let your kingdom come”… as opposed to our kingdom).

This opening phrase, along with ever other line of this prayer, could be mined for spiritual treasure and godly growth until the day we die.  But let us simply be reminded that we have a relationship with our Father God in heaven, and that we are to pray with him in a communal sense (“our” implies that we pray this together).

The Redeemed Heart – Worship

Sometimes prayer is so frustrating.  Its confusing, and sometimes I really just don’t know what to pray or how to pray.  At times, I really just wish that God would come down here to earth and tell us exactly how He wants us to pray!  God, if you can hear me – just make it easy on us already!  Why don’t You just teach us how to pray!

Oh, wait… You did that in Jesus Christ.  God actually came down in the flesh, spoke a human language we can understand, and gave us the clearest answer we could ever hope to receive.  He gave us the best prayer in the known universe because it’s author is God Himself.  Let’s take some time and simply marvel at the fact that God made prayer so amazing accessible through Jesus Christ.  And let us look at this prayer through a lens of gratitude.  Our Lord did not leave us to figure it out on our own.  He taught us how to pray.

The Redeemed Life – Grow

At my home church in Portland, we recently finished a series on the Lord’s Prayer.  The pastor introduced the series explaining that every line of the Lord’s Prayer is much like a hyperlink on the web – it connects us with virtually unlimited knowledge and potential depending on how deep we are willing to research.  Thus, each line of the Lord’s prayer outlines a basic truth about God, truth about us, or request to God, which if we were to pursue it, meditate on it, and pray through its implications for our lives, would provided limitless potential for things to pray for.

Considering these first three lines from the Lord’s Prayer, what hyperlink do you want to pursue today?  Will you seek to move deeper into your relationship with God as a Father?  Will you consider how His holiness impacts the way you live and interact with others?  Or perhaps you can pray about what God is doing in and through you to bring His Kingdom closer to our world?

Let us pursue God in prayer today, and let us together be amazed at what God will do as we pray these powerful words!

03 April

Mary Hearts in a Martha World – Luke 10:38-42

Luke 10:38-42 – Listen

38 Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” 41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

The Redeemed Mind – Learn

The narrative continues as Jesus makes His way toward Jerusalem and His sacrifice on the cross.  While on route, Jesus meets his friends Mary and Martha.  You may know these sisters in relation to their brother, Lazarus, the man that Jesus revived from the dead.  As is the custom during Jesus’ day, He and His disciples were cared for by individuals and families who provided food and lodging.  Martha and Mary provide hospitality for Jesus and His disciples, and as the scene unfolds, Mary quits working and instead sits at Jesus feet, a clear illustration of a student-teacher relationship.  Martha gets upset and tells Jesus to rebuke her lazy sister, but instead, Jesus gently reminds Martha that Mary is in the right.  Devotion to Jesus is more important than mindless service.

The Redeemed Heart – Worship

This short story has many amazing lessons for us.  And for today, let’s look at the way Jesus deals with His people.  Martha, throughout the course of this narrative does what many of us do.  We set out with good intentions to serve Jesus faithfully, but by the end of the story, we are upset with Jesus, yelling at Him and ultimately telling Jesus what He should do because we think we know what is best!  Jesus could have easily rebuked Martha for her outburst, but instead, notice the gentleness and compassion as He calls her attention.

Like many of us have experienced in the past, our well-meaning service sometimes turns into a pity-party where we feel like God doesn’t care about us.  But even in the midst of our self-centered tantrum, Jesus continues to be patient, loving, and instructive.  I love that He is so gentle with His people, and it makes me want to try even harder to get this service thing right.

The Redeemed Life – Grow

As I read this passage, I feel like most of us can resonate with Martha in this story.  We live in a world that is non-stop, demanding, and stressful.  Yet we also learn that Jesus wants us to be more like Mary than Martha in this story.  What we must learn is that Jesus wants us to have Mary’s heart while living in a Martha-kind-of-world.  We must be intentional about sitting at Jesus feet, even when we have long to-do lists and demands pressing in on us.  We must seek to make Jesus the first priority in our lives, not allowing the demands of our lives to dictate the posture of our heart.  Jesus teaches us that service, even the most well-meaning service, is useless, unless it is directly connected to a heart of worship, and a spiritual posture of dependence on Jesus.

Friends, let us strive to have devoted hearts in the midst of a chaotic world.  I pray you cultivate a Mary heart in this Martha world.