The Redeemed Life

a Christian blog cultivating spiritual growth

Archive for the 'devotional' Category

17 February
0Comments

Luke 15:1-10 – The “Lost and Found” Parables

Luke 15:1-10 – Listen

1 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. 2 And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”

3 So he told them this parable: 4 “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? 5 And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ 7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

8 “Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? 9 And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ 10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

 Redeemed Mind – Learn

As Jesus continues his ministry to the poor and marginalized in society, he once again faces off against the religious elite who criticize him for associating with “sinners.”  In response to this, Jesus, as per his usual MO, tells them a series of stories in order to teach a lesson.  These stories all speak about how we see everyday people finding value in seeking out something they have lost.  And upon finding it, they rejoice.

Jesus uses the “lesser to greater” argument: if imperfect people experience joy in finding things they’ve lost, how much more does God rejoice over those who have been “lost” and have been “found.”  Twice, Jesus emphasizes that “there will be more rejoicing in Heaven over one lost person being found,” versus 99 people who think they are righteous not doing anything different.

Redeemed Heart – Worship

The irony of this story is that Jesus is telling this parable to the Pharisees, a religious group who deeply believed they were without sin, criticizing those “sinners” who were less holy than them.  This stands in start contrast to what the Bible tells us: that we are all “lost” in sin.  The ESV Study Bible says: In light of the emphasis in Luke–Acts on the universal need of repentance (seeLuke 3:3) and the evil of humanity (11:13; cf. Rom. 3:10–20), this is best understood as ironic for “those who think they are righteous and have no need to repent.”

Living in this world, I have seem hundreds of people who really don’t care about how they live their lives.  They are content to judge other people without giving a second thought to self-examination or thinking about how messed up they really are.  I have seen what the Bible describes as a “veil” that disables people from seeing and acknowledging humanity’s spiritual bankruptcy.  In many ways, they are like the hard-headed Pharisees who seem to be incapable of seeing their own flaws and failings.

These parables remind me of my place in the story.

I am that coin.

I am that sheep.

And Jesus is the Good Shepherd that takes me upon his mighty shoulders and brings me safely home.

By God’s grace alone do I find this to be true for my life.  And I pray it continually brings me to my knees when I remember that this parable is not about doing better in life, but rather that Jesus did the best thing for my sake.

He gave up everything for this this unworthy lost soul.

Redeemed Life – Grow

As with most things in the Bible, I don’t believe this story is telling us to try harder.  Do better.  Get it right.

I believe it is challenging us to make a change in our perspective.

The Bible is not an instructional guide for how we live our lives.  We (humanity) are not even the main character!  God is!

The Bible is the story of a God who created a good and perfect world.  A world that was corrupted by sin and deceit.  And a world that became estranged to the One who created it.  The Bible is a story about God coming into our darkness to claim us as His own.  We are merely the blessed recipients of God’s overarching story.  We are the beloved “lost” ones that He takes joy to receive back into his possession.  We are the object of his savage love and unrelenting grace.  We are his.

When was the last time you thought about yourself in that light?

20 January
0Comments

Everyday Faces

I love people watching.  Not in the creepy voyeur type of way, but simply noticing people in public places like coffee houses, restaurants, airports, etc.   Its so fascinating to watch people go about their daily lives, and I have a habit of trying to figure out what they’re thinking.  Some people are obviously in a rush and you can see on their face that they aren’t really present in anything that’s happening around them.  They’re thinking about someone, or something else.  Other people are out with friends and they’re smiling and happy, catching up on gossip or simply taking time away from the daily grind of life.  Others look sad or lonely, some bored, etc.

Its so amazing to think about these people in the context of their own lives.  They have families, friends, a history full of successes and failures.  These people have hopes and dreams.  They are unique and each have their own story to tell.

And in light of what we have been talking about here, these same people have eternal destinies.  Its hard to think about the realities of Heaven and Hell on such beautiful innocent days where all I want to do is notice and watch the beauty of people going about their daily lives.  But therein lies the rub.

The realities of Jesus teachings on Heaven and Hell are meant to do exactly that – shake us out of our comfortable nests and remember exactly who we are and where we are.  In the bigger picture of the Gospel story, we are people, just like those who come and go, who have had our eternal stories changed forever.  In the midst of the chaos of each of our lives, Jesus called our attention to Him and in effect, redeemed everything that we have ever done or will do.  In this time He’s given us, we find ourselves in an active battlefield where angels, demons, God and the devil all, wage war for people’s souls.

The business of Hell is meant to be an uncomfortable subject because the realities it presents confronts us personally.  Who are you friends with that you’ve never built up the courage to ask what they believe about God?  How many members of your family live lives devoid of God’s truth and love?  How many times have you felt God tug on your mind and heart to speak to someone about His goodness, mercy, and truth?  How many times, like me, have you ignored those “divine nudges” and opted instead to bow your knee to the god of “being comfortable?”  I know I have hundreds of times…

This last Sunday, I was invited to preach at the Portland Rescue Mission’s church service.  The passage was included John 14:6.  In it, Jesus says, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”

While I could tell you stories about how much I hated this passage before coming to Christ, I will simply tell you this: I have come to believe what Jesus said.  And that fact should always shape the way I interact with people.  Not that I’m to cram Jesus down their throats, but I am to be concerned if they know their Way in this life.

While I could give excuse after excuse about why it shouldn’t be me or why now is not the right time, the truth remains.  I have been called to tell people about the Way to Heaven, and as I think about it, I could very well be the only person that know the Way that God has placed in their lives.  That means responsibility and responsibility, for me, means discomfort.

But God never said it’d be comfortable, did He?

In the reality of that discomfort, Jesus reminds me of this truth, “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.”  He didn’t leave me alone in this task, but promises to be readily available when I for His help.

One last thing – we are not called to this task alone.  This is a team battle.  What support and prayer do you need as together we awkwardly walk into the moments that God has prepared for us?

Whose faces are coming to your mind?

08 January
0Comments

What the heck… Or should I say what the Hell?

Hey readers… while we’re talking about uncomfortable things in Christianity, why not keep going and talk about hell?

I recently finished a book by Francis Chan & Preston Sprinkle called Erasing Hell.  It was a book written in response to another book called Love Wins by Rob Bell.  In the book, Chan challenges the idea that everyone will go to heaven, and takes a long hard look at Jesus’ words in the Gospels.  The website describes it well:  

“In this groundbreaking new book, Francis Chan and Preston Sprinkle take on the topic of hell and our eternal destiny, with a sense of humility and a deep respect for the inspired Word of God. They will address questions such as “Will everyone be saved?” and “Does God Get What He Wants in the End?” as well as reviewing in depth, everything Jesus said about Hell.”

I would definitely encourage you to read it if you’re at all interested in the topic, or perhaps if you’re like me and struggle with ways of explaining it to other people.  But be warned!!  It is brutally honest and the authors do a fantastic job of giving an unflinching, unapologetic view of the Biblical picture of hell.

Tomorrow, I’ll be writing about how this book challenges my all-too-comfortable view of relationships and personal responsibility as a Jesus follower.

Stay tuned!  This could be awkward… and who wants to miss that?

06 January
0Comments

Luke 14:25-34 – The Cost of Discipleship

Luke 14:25-34 – Listen

 25 Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. 33 So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.  34 “Salt is good, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored?

Redeemed Mind – Learn

There is a big part of me that doesn’t want to talk about this passage.  But being honest with God and others means dealing with everything God said, not just the pretty, comforting things… darn.

This is a hard passage because those who have something against Christianity, Christians, or Jesus will gravitate to one word: hate.  From that one word, they will choose not to listen to anything else and set up a “straw man” of Christianity that has little to no substance.  According to the ESV Study Bible, “’Hating’ is a Semitic expression for loving less (cf. Gen. 29:30–31; Deut. 21:15–17; Matt. 10:37).”  The basic idea is: if you love anyone or anything more than God (wife, husband, kids, money, job, etc), then Jesus says you’re not really a disciple.

Redeemed Heart – Worship

Allow me to make a confession:  there are many times when I read my Bible and in my arrogance I cringe and think, “God!  Why the heck did you have to go and say that!”  Its going to make it so much harder to share your message if you keep saying dumb stuff like that!”  Like the child of an alcoholic father, I find myself fumbling for excuses and answers that normalize the things that I find to be embarrassing…  This is one of those passages that challenges my pride and makes me question where my heart is at when I share Jesus with others.

I recently finished reading a book by Francis Chan called “Erasing Hell.”  What really struck me was the way he openly struggled with the hard things that Jesus has to say about judgment, punishment, and wrath.  And in the end, I too came to the realization that I have to stop apologize for God, and apologize to Him for being so embarrassed of His words.

Redeemed Life – Grow

When Jesus draws the line in the sand and defines what it means to follow Him, He also pleads with His hearers to count the cost of following Him.  He says you are expected to calculate whether you think its worth it to follow Him or not.  It means taking a brutally honest inventory of your life, relationships, desires, and dreams… and then consider if it is worth letting them all go to follow Jesus.

This is serious business people.

The faith we are called to is not full of puppies and rainbows.  It is a gritty, sacrificial, painful marathon that Jesus predicted only a few will finish well.  Jesus called it “bearing your cross.”  The imagery that Jesus uses is the equivalent of a modern day death sentence – and the strange paradox is the invitation to come and die is actually an invitation to live eternal life.

Fellow readers: have you counted the cost?  Are you willing to let it go to follow Him?

05 January
0Comments

A New Year and New Resolutions

As we enter into another new year, I have thought through countless resolutions that would better my life… Eat better, spend more time on the things that matter, spend less time on things that don’t…  I think you know how that goes.

One resolution that I read a few years ago seems to capture the desire that drives this blog.  Jonathan Edwards, an American Puritan pastor from the early 1700’s once wrote:

“Resolved, To study the Scriptures so steadily, constantly, and frequently,

as that I may find, and plainly perceive, myself to grow in the knowledge of the same.”

I pray that together, we can look back on 2014 as a year that is marked by this very resolution… that in 2015, we can plainly see that we have grown in the knowledge of God and His Word.  I like to think of it as prepping for eternity 🙂

01 January
2Comments

Here’s to New Beginnings!!!

Hope you and your loved ones had a safe and blessed New Years!

 

Stay tuned for upcoming changes for The Redeemed Life in 2014!  I look forward to growing with you!

23 October
0Comments

Luke 14:12-24 – Thanks God, But No Thanks…

Luke 14:7-11 – Listen

12 He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. 13 But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind,14 and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”

15 When one of those who reclined at table with him heard these things, he said to him, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” 16 But he said to him, “A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. 17 And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ 18 But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.’ 19 And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.’ 20 And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ 21 So the servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’ 22 And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ 23 And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled. 24 For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.’”

Redeemed Mind – Learn

While dining with the Pharisees, Jesus takes the opportunity to teach his hearers about the coming Kingdom of God.  While the Jews He was eating with envisioned the Kingdom of God being a feast where only the super-saints were invited, Jesus rocks their long-standing view of God’s Kingdom by telling a parable that showed the exact opposite.

Those who were originally invited (the people of Israel) continually declined God’s gracious invitation to share in His Kingdom, so God extended the invitation to the “outcasts and outsiders.”  The problem was not with God’s invitation, but the hearts of those who were originally invited.  In God’s Kingdom, the least, the weak, and the meek, were those who were celebrated and honored.  Those who were originally invited rejected that heavenly reality and instead created their own vision on heaven where only the “super saints” would be in attendance.  Jesus (thankfully!) reveals the error of in their thinking.

Redeemed Heart – Worship

In the parable, those who were invited to the King’s feast presented a whole host of lame excuses for not being able to make the feast.  They had allowed the busyness of everyday life choke out their active participation in the Kingdom Jesus offered.  Their actions reveal the sad nature of their hearts: they rejected the claims of God and substituted the things of this world in its stead.  The parable labels these people the “unworthy.”  They will not share in God’s Kingdom and its blessings because they have turned their eyes on the things of this world.  In the truest sense possible, they crowded God out of their lives for worldly (note well: not evil) things.

Redeemed Life – Grow

Has the daily grind of life choked out the priority you once gave God?  Have your mind and heart wondered away from the God who

once captivated every fiber of your being?  Do you, like the invited guests, politely tell God “no thank you!  I’m a little busy for your right now… Maybe next time!”?

Jesus words were meant to rouse a sleeping world that had forgotten about God.  His words continue to challenge us today as we face more distractions than every… each thing competing with God for our time and energy.

What are you willing to do to make God your priority today?  What needs to come off your schedule in order to make room for God?  What it really boils down to is: do you believe its really important to make God a priority?  Your actions will most definitely speak louder than your words.

21 October
0Comments

Luke 14:7-11 – A Lesson in Humility

Luke 14:7-11 – Listen

7 Now he told a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they chose the places of honor, saying to them, 8 “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, 9 and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this person,’ and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place. 10 But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. 11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”.

Redeemed Mind – Learn

In Jesus’ culture, seating arrangements directly correlated to a person’s social standing and reputation.  Those sitting closest to the host (at the head of the table) were considered of higher standing than those who were at the end of the table.  Jesus, while dining with the religious leaders, illustrates the potential humiliations and blessing that come through living and choosing humility.

If one chooses a seat of low honor, the only possible direction they could move is up!  But if one chooses to sit in the highest seat possible, there is a very real chance that they will be asked to give their seat to someone of higher social standing, and as a result, would take the long walk of shame toward the lower end of the table.

Jesus reveals that choosing a life of humility opens the doors for a person to be exalted by God and others.  The converse is also true: if a person thinks and acts like he is the most important person in the world, they’re in for a harsh wake up call – if not in this life, than the life to come.

Redeemed Heart – Worship

The beauty of this parable is that it is spoken by One who lived in accordance with what He taught.  Philippians 2:5-9 says,

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,
who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,
but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,
being born in the likeness of men.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death,
even death on a cross.
Therefore God has highly exalted him
and bestowed on him the name that is above every name…” 

Jesus not only taught us the value of living humbly.  he modeled it in His life, death, resurrection, and exaltation.  He doesn’t give us empty words, but a new reality of His Kingdom here on earth.

Redeemed Life – Grow

What opportunities have you been given to practice this lesson in humility?  Where can you choose to become a servant so that God and others can exalt you?  Is it with your family?

Your work?

Perhaps your church?

Are you willing to give up the fight for respect and control?  Or will you live in a perpetual battle to be important in the eyes of others?

Give up the non-nonsensical battle, and humble yourself under the mighty hand of God.  And in His time, he will exalt you (1Pet:5:6).

01 August
0Comments

How Do You Respond To Truth? – Luke 14:1-6

Luke 14:1-6 – Listen

1 One Sabbath, when he went to dine at the house of a ruler of the Pharisees, they were watching him carefully. 2 And behold, there was a man before him who had dropsy. 3 And Jesus responded to the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?” 4 But they remained silent. Then he took him and healed him and sent him away. 5 And he said to them, “Which of you, having a son or an ox that has fallen into a well on a Sabbath day, will not immediately pull him out?” 6 And they could not reply to these things.

Redeemed Mind – Learn

In the Gospel of Luke, this is the third and final healing miracle that Jesus performs during a Sabbath (see Luke 6:6-11 & Luke 13:10-17).  In this scene, Jesus heals a man while sharing a meal with the religious leaders.  In the Ancient Near East, it would have been perfectly normal for houses to have all their doors open with guests coming in and out.  In this case, Jesus, the famous rabbi, would most certainly have attracted large crowds, including those who were seeking healing from their diseases.  As the ESV Study Bible explains: the man healed in this passage “probably had edema, where excess fluid gathers in various parts of the body.”

Similar to the previous Sabbath healings, Jesus confronts the religious leaders’ blatant hypocrisy by highlighting the ridiculous fact that the Pharisees were more willing to help a farm animal than a human being made in the image of God.

The Pharisees were so blinded by their self-imposed laws and regulations that they had ultimately lost sight of true religion.

Redeemed Heart – Worship

While Jesus may have seemed like an irreligious rule breaker to the Pharisees, He actually exemplified the priority God places on caring for one another.  Jesus teaches that the desires of the heart are more important that checking off items on a to-do list… that relationship is more important than following rules… that Christianity is more than doctrine, but is something that must be lived out in every moment of our lives.  Above and beyond any religious facade, this living faith is what God desires most in from His children.

Redeemed Life – Grow

My jaw drops when I see the Pharisee’s stubbornness.  I think: “I can’t believe how stupid and heartless those guys were…”

But when I reflect on my own life, I find myself doing a similar thing.  I know some of the sinful things I do make absolutely no sense, and even though I’m confronted with Truth, I ignore God and continue on in my stupidity.  This sometimes happens on Sunday when I hear convicting preaching or spend time with God in prayer.

This makes me think of Proverbs 17:10: “A rebuke goes deeper into a man of understanding than a hundred blows into a fool.

I really want to be that “man of understanding” that is quick to change my ways in light of God’s Truth, but in my sinful rebellious heart, I still want to do things my own way.

Do you resonate with that?

Sometimes the Bible tells us of sinful people (like the Pharisees), but also points the finger at us.  It asks, “How do you respond to truth?  Are you willing to change when Jesus challenges you?”

My prayer is that we can together be people with soft, teachable hearts – seeking God way rather than our way.

24 July
0Comments

A Glimpse Into Our Savior’s Heart – Luke 13:31-35

Luke 13:31-35 – Listen

31 At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” 32 And he said to them, “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish my course. 33 Nevertheless, I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the day following, for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem.’ 34 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! 35 Behold, your house is forsaken. And I tell you, you will not see me until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’”

Redeemed Mind – Learn

This passage focuses on Jesus’ path to the cross.  Some Pharisees attempt to warn Him about Herod’s plot to take His life, but Jesus continues on, knowing that His purpose is not to die a senseless death at the hands of Herod, but instead to give His life as sacrifice to restore rebellious sinners to God.  Jesus foretells that His ministry work will continue until “the third day,”  referencing His resurrection from the dead on Easter Sunday.  As the God-man, Jesus mourns about the consistent hard-hearted “religious” people in Jerusalem who failed to live up to God’s standard and takes on a motherly tone and speaks of a mother hen’s desire to pull her children together to comfort and protect them.

Redeemed Heart – Worship

Jesus cared deeply for people who rejected Him.  In the face of hatred, misunderstanding, and ignorance, Jesus speaks words of love and patience.  This passage reveals a glimpse into the heart of our Savior.  He is heart-broken over the countless times His people had rejected Him.  Yet amazingly, He continues to offer His love and grace to the very people who had made themselves enemies against Him.

Reading this today, I am reminded that Jesus love for His people has not changed.  He still shows love and concern for those who hate Him.  His deepest desire is to bless those who curse Him.  To love those who hate Him.  And to make friends out of those who were once enemies.  When we think of God’s love, no words will ever be able to describe the scandalous affect that He showers on His unworthy people.

When was the last time you realized that His love for you doesn’t change, even in the face of sin, hatred and rebellion?

When was the last time you thanked Him for that undeserved love?

Will you take a moment now to worship Him in your heart?

Redeemed Life – Grow

Jerusalem was the religious epicenter of the Jewish world during Jesus’ day.  It was the recognized place of worship where all the Jewish elite gathered to practice their religious rituals.  To every observing eye, it seemed like the place where serious religion happened.

But Jesus saw right through that.  He saw their hearts.

While the people looked religious on the outside, their hearts were centered around themselves.  While they said all the “right” prayers with their mouths, their real desires played out in their sinful lives.  While they acted holy on the outside, their interior lives were putrid and filthy.

This Scripture passage functions as a mirror into our own lives.  It points the finger at us and asks, “Do you identify with the people of Jerusalem?”  Do you think you’re saved because you call yourself a Christian or do “Christian things” every once in a while?  Do you put up a religious mask around certain people to make it seem like you have it all together?

God sees past the our exterior facade and looks at the most important part of who we are: our heart.  He desires you to live in obedience and love 24/7, not just on Sunday mornings.

What does this passage reveal about your heart?

22 July
0Comments

Narrow Doors and Grim Warnings – Luke 13:22-30

Luke 13:22-30 – Listen

22 He went on his way through towns and villages, teaching and journeying toward Jerusalem. 23 And someone said to him, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” And he said to them, 24 “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. 25 When once the master of the house has risen and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us,’ then he will answer you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’ 26 Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.’ 27 But he will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of evil!’ 28 In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God but you yourselves cast out. 29 And people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at table in the kingdom of God. 30 And behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”

Redeemed Mind – Learn

It is a little known fact that the prophet that speaks most about the judgment of hell is Jesus Himself.  Over and over again in the Scriptures, He warns His hearers about the real danger of missing His message of saving grace.  This teaching uses physical examples (the narrow door, the Lord of the House, etc) to describe a future spiritual reality.

This is one of the most frightening passages in the entire Bible  because  those who have been cast out in judgment also claim to be people who knew Jesus in some way.  They ate with Him (fellowship) and heard His teachings (preaching), yet they were not included as part of God’s redeemed family.  This seems to indicate that simply knowing about Jesus does not lead to salvation.  Something more is needed to find salvation.

Redeemed Heart – Worship

When people hear judgment passages from the Bible, many tend lash out in rebellion and anger.  They are upset because they have an incomplete view of Jesus Christ.  The truth of the matter is that Christianity’s core centers around a gentle Savior who has come into the world… but is also returning as a righteous, judging King.  The merciful, gracious Jesus that most people know is only half the picture.  Throughout the Scriptures, there are echoes of judgment and grace, promises of a future redemption for the family of God, but also severe condemnation for the enemies of His Kingdom.

We who have been redeemed await not only the blessings of Kingdom life, but also a final retribution God will deliver to an unbelieving world.  We worship out of appreciation for being saved, but there is also a clear reason why there is a consistent theme in the Bible about “fearing” the LORD.

Redeemed Life – Grow

As you read this passage, what tone of voice did you hear as Jesus send away those outside His house?  Did you hear a feeling of estrangement or even hostility?  A passage from Matthew 7:21-23 sheds light on this cryptic teaching.  In it Jesus says,

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’  And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

“Ex Urbe” by Medici – Latin for “Out of the City”

The key here seems to be God’s knowledge of us, but specifically, an intimate knowledge, a personal relationship.  Those who have kept Jesus at a distance for their entire lives find themselves strangers and enemies of God, and here Jesus warns that estrangement leads to judgment.  The key to salvation is an intimate knowledge of Jesus, as a Friend, Brother, Savior and King.  It is one thing to know about God.  It is a completely different thing to know God.

Jesus was intentional about making sure this message was given to all His hearers.  He wasn’t seeking to condemn, but rather to save.  He desires us to live with the reality that this final judgment is coming so we can choose wisely.

How will you allow His words to affect you today?

15 July
2Comments

The Kingdom of God – Luke 13:18-21

Luke 13:18-21 – Listen

18 He said therefore, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it? 19 It is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his garden, and it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.”

20 And again he said, “To what shall I compare the kingdom of God? 21 It is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, until it was all leavened.”

Redeemed Mind – Learn

In response to the preceding healing miracle, the crowds in the synagogue rejoice in the work that Jesus does among them.  Jesus takes this teachable moment to explain exactly what God is doing – He is breaking into our world of darkness, establishing His heavenly Kingdom through Jesus Christ.

Jesus illustrates this spiritual reality by using 2 examples that would have been easily understood by His hearers: a mustard seed and yeast.

Both examples start out as something small and insignificant, but as the seed grows into a plant, and as the yeast permeates dough, their final form is immense compared to their humble beginnings.

This stands in stark contrast to what the Jews of that time were expecting of God’s coming Kingdom.  They were looking for a massive political upheaval leading to instantaneous transformation of their world.  Instead, Jesus comes on the scene, not changing culture and politics,  but establishing His humble Kingdom by caring for those who were unimportant and insignificant.

Redeemed Heart – Worship

In the midst of the chaos of our lives, we hear Jesus’ promise that one day His Kingdom will be fully and permanently established in our world.  As we see His Kingdom slowly break into our own lives, we also have to deal with the reality that everything is not yet as it should be.  We still feel the paralyzing effects of sin in our world.  We still experience abuse, shame, fear, isolation, and loss.

The challenge before us as believers is living our everyday lives in light of the “big picture.”  Knowing God’s promise is one thing, but believing it will come to pass is another – it is called faith.  Through that lens of faith, we are able to see the corruption in our everyday lives from a new perspective.  As an old hymn describes it,

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus.
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of Earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace
.”

Redeemed Life – Grow

What perspective do you have when you look at your life?  Have you lost sight of God’s coming Kingdom?  Does the reality of His return impact the mundane things of your daily life?

Jesus’ presence in this world was the first step of God’s reclamation of a world that was lost due to sin and rebellion.  In this passage, Jesus promises us that one day His Kingdom will be fully established on earth.  That is our blessed hope.  Not that we will solve all the problems of our world, but that He will return and finish His rescue plan.

Will you allow that to impact how you spend your time?  How you approach conflict?  How you treat relationships?  Will you allow yourself to see life through that lens?

11 July
0Comments

God in a Box – Luke 13:10-17

Luke 13:10-17 – Listen

10 Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. 11 And behold, there was a woman who had had a disabling spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not fully straighten herself. 12 When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your disability.” 13 And he laid his hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and she glorified God. 14 But the ruler of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, said to the people, “There are six days in which work ought to be done. Come on those days and be healed, and not on the Sabbath day.” 15 Then the Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger and lead it away to water it? 16 And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?” 17 As he said these things, all his adversaries were put to shame, and all the people rejoiced at all the glorious things that were done by him.

The Redeemed Mind – Learn

This Sabbath healing miracle brings Jesus into conflict with the religious leaders once again.  This time, their objection to Jesus is that He shouldn’t be “working” on the Sabbath in terms of healing the crippled woman.  Jesus responds by challenging their critical heart – these religious leaders “work” in caring for their barn animals, but are unwilling to “work” to care for God’s sons and daughters.

If you’re familiar with the Bible, you may be asking yourself – where does it say that healing can’t happen in the Bible?  Short answer: it’s not in there!  These religious leaders had added law upon law, adding to God’s Word in an attempt to be sinless by their own effort.  In their effort to keep the law on their own power, they crippled their ability to love and serve one another.

The Redeemed Heart – Worship

Jesus shames these Jewish religious leaders by exposing their internal hypocrisy.  Their actions showed that their hearts were more inclined toward serving their man-made laws rather than caring for those whom God had placed around them.  The core issue with these Pharisees was an issue of worship.  They had lost sight of worshipping God, and had subtly been worshipping the creation of their own hands – self-imposed laws that they thought made them holy.  Jesus chooses to enter into the mess of their hearts and engage them on the core issue – their hearts were far from God, even though they looked like the religious elite.

The Redeemed Life – Grow

Throughout the Bible, there are stories about the success and failures of men and women as they interacted with God.  The relgious leaders in this story were upset with Jesus because He challenged their view of God.  They thought that they could please God by adding rule after rule on His Laws, but in reality they were trying to place God in a box where He’d be predictable and easily manipulated by their “acts of worship.”

Its important to remember that they did not set out expecting to get it wrong!  They really tried hard to pursue God, but did it in the wrong ways.

Have you unwittingly placed God in a box in your own life?  Have to taken the easy road and thought “if I just do this, God will be happy with me and He’ll get off my back.”  Its all too easy to treat God like a machine (put the right thing in and He will spit out the good things we expect).  Its much more difficult to realize He is a Person who wants a relationship with you.

If I’ve learned anything so far, its that the hard choice is usually the right choice.

In your thinking, allow God to be bigger than you’re comfortable with.  Only then will you begin to see Him as He is.

08 July
0Comments

The Immanence of Judgment – Luke 13:1-9

Luke 13:1-9 – Listen

1 There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? 3 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. 4 Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? 5 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

6 And he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. 7 And he said to the vinedresser, ‘Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?’ 8 And he answered him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. 9 Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’”

The Redeemed Mind – Learn

These passages speak of the impending judgment looming over the original hearers.  Jesus uses an agricultural example that any of his hearers could understand.  In the Ancient Near East, garden land was in high demand, and any plants that failed to produce a crop were cut down and used as firewood, freeing up precious room for another plant which could produce fruit.  In this teaching, Jesus directly speaks about their rejection of Him, comparing them to the fig tree that had 3 years to produce the fruit of repentance, yet failed to do so.

As an example of God’s mercy, the barren fig tree is given one more year (ie – another “season” to repent) before God consumes them with fiery judgment.  It is interesting to note that the Greek grammatical structure indicates that the plant will still fail to produce a crop, showing the futility of that generation’s efforts to truly accept Jesus.

The Redeemed Heart – Worship

Many people, including Christians, maintain the false belief that God is supposed to be the “divine grandpa” up in the sky who is at hear a big softy… An old, perhaps borderline senile old guy who lets his grandkids get away with whatever they want.

In truth, passages like this challenge that comfortable view of God as something we can manipulate or control.  These passages of judgment stir within each of us a sense of awe, fear and reverence.  God is indeed fatherly, loving, patient and kind.  But let us not be fooled for a second, forgetting that that He is also holy, just, and powerful beyond imagination.  The truth in these passages tells us that He will reveal a holy judgment on all people who have foolishly presumed on His grace, forgetting that He is also the pure embodiment of justice.

The Redeemed Life – Grow

This passage reminds me of a scene from the Chronicles of Narnia.  In this scene, two characters are talking about Aslan the Lion, who in that story line is the embodiment of Jesus Christ.  A couple of the children ask the residents of Narnia if Aslan is safe, to which they reply:  “Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

Over and over again, the Word of God is called a light that guides our feet on the path leading to eternal life.  It is meant to pull us out of the microcosm of our little worlds, and refresh our perspective on eternity.  Have you lost sight of our wildly, unimaginable powerful God who has moved heaven and earth to call to you to Himself?  In the hustle and bustle of daily life, have you thrown God on the back burner?

Lets be intentional today to live in the reality that God is just and holy, and He will return when we least expect it.  Are you living like you’re ready to meet Him?

04 July
0Comments

Happy 4th of July!!!

Dear friends,

Happy 4th for those of you in the States!!

As we celebrate our nation’s independence, let us also remember the shadows of joy in this world will one day be a reality in the Kingdom of Heaven!  Thank you Lord for freedom from the old ways of life, and the ability to live, move and have our being in You!
“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed”
– John 8:36

I pray you have a fun and safe time celebrating Independence Day!!!