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Saturday, March 28, 2020

Pray for those Battling Coronovirus!


 Jesus Healed An Epileptic Boy

According to Luke, the very next day as he descended from the mount of transfiguration, a crowd had already gathered to meet Jesus:

“Then on the following day, as they came down the hill-side a great crowd met him. Suddenly a man from the crowd shouted out, “Master, please come and look at my son! He’s my only child, and without any warning some spirit gets hold of him and he calls out suddenly. Then it convulses him until he foams at the mouth, and only after a fearful struggle does it go away and leave him bruised all over. I begged your disciples to get rid of it, but they couldn’t.”

“You really are an unbelieving and difficult people,” replied Jesus, “How long must I be with you, how long must I put up with you? Bring him here to me.”

But even while the boy was on his way, the spirit hurled him to the ground in a dreadful convulsion. Then Jesus reprimanded the evil spirit, healed the lad and handed him back to his father. And everybody present was amazed at this demonstration of the power of God. (Luke 9:37-43, J.B. Phillips The New Testament in Modern English, Geoffrey Bles Ltd., 1960)

A father’s love for his only son drove him to make an urgent appeal to Jesus. We don’t have many details, but Luke reports that an evil spirit would take control of his son, throw him into convulsions, and leave him battered and bruised.

But Jesus overcame the evil spirit, healed the boy, and handed him back to his father.

By looking at one individual’s anguish, seeing the bruised boy, and feeling the pain of a desperate father, we are reminded how such scenes are repeated every day, every night, all around the world. Like the father in Luke’s account we cry out to God to bring healing into our desperate situation.

In the year 2020, a novel coronavirus is sweeping away lives in country after country.

When can it be slowed down? When can a vaccine stop this virus? 

                 Pray for God’s Protection & Power for those Battling Coronavirus!

Let us join in prayer and ask God to demonstrate his power through the heroic doctors, nurses, caregivers, and first responders who are risking their lives to save others.

Monday, January 20, 2020

After the Ascent . . . A Descent

While Peter wanted to memorialize the amazing experience on the mountain (Luke 9:28—36), Jesus led his three companions back down to rejoin his followers.

“No sooner had Jesus descended from the mountain top than the demands and disappointments of life were upon him,” writes William Barclay in The Gospel of Luke, (Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, Kentucky, 1975, page 125).

A great crowd was waiting for him.  Then a man calls out:

“Teacher, I beg you to look at my son, for he is my only child. A spirit seizes him and he suddenly screams; it throws him into convulsions so that he foams at the mouth. It scarcely ever leaves him and is destroying him. I begged your disciples to drive it out, but they could not” (Luke 9:38—40).

Jesus replied with an abrupt, somewhat shocking statement:  

You unbelieving and perverse generation, how long shall I stay with you and put up with you?” (Luke 9:41 NIV)

Did his words reflect his humanity? Did he react impatiently? Did his response hint that he had an emotional letdown the day after his mountain top experience? 

See how different translators phrase his reply:

O faithless and twisted generation! How long will I be with you” (Wright)

You faithless and depraved generation! How long shall I be with you and put up with you?” (Barclay)

You really are an unbelieving and difficult people. How long must I be with you, how long must I put up with you?” (Phillips)

What a generation! No sense of God! No focus to your lives! How many times do I have to go over these things? How much longer do I have to put up with this?” (Message)

If his initial reply was unexpected, and difficult to express, these translators all agree on what happened next, by using the same words—Jesus said: “Bring your son here.”

“Even while the boy was coming, the demon threw him to the ground in a convulsion. But Jesus rebuked the impure spirit, healed the boy and gave him back to his father. And they were all amazed at the greatness of God” (Luke 9:42-43).

In his comments, N.T. Wright notes that all four gospel writers link “the mountain top experience and the shrieking, stubborn demon.”

Wright also provides a perspective we can apply:

“We are right to be wary when we return from some great worship service, when we rise from a time of prayer in which God has seemed close and his love real and powerful. These things are never given for their own sake, but so that, as we are equipped by them, God can use us within his needy world”  
(Luke for Everyone, by N.T. Wright, Westminster John Knox Press, 2004; page 114).






Monday, January 13, 2020

Listen to Him


                                                    
"A light-radiant cloud enveloped them"

About a week after Peter responds to Jesus by saying he is “God’s Messiah,” Jesus takes Peter, John and James up onto a mountain for a time of prayer.

According to Luke’s report, As Jesus “was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning” (Luke 9:29).

While this is happening, “Two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus” (Luke 9:30).

They were talking about “his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem” (Luke 9:31). Meanwhile the disciples had fallen asleep.

As Eugene Peterson writes, they were “slumped over in sleep. When they came to, rubbing their eyes, they saw Jesus in his glory and the two men standing with him” (Luke 9:32 Message).

After Moses and Elijah leave, Peter exclaims “Master, this is a great moment! Let’s build three memorials: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah. He blurted this out without thinking” (Luke 9:33 Message).

“While he was babbling on like this, a light-radiant cloud enveloped them. As they found themselves buried in the cloud, they became deeply aware of God. Then there was a voice out of the cloud: ‘This is my Son, the Chosen! Listen to him.’

“When the sound of the voice died away, they saw Jesus there alone. They were speechless” (Luke 9:34—36 Message).

As this day began, Jesus set out to pray on a mountainside with three of his disciples. The appearance of Moses and Elijah turned the prayer time into a time of preparation for Jesus.

As N.T. Wright explains, “the word for ‘departure’ can mean exodus . . . like ‘exodus’ in the Old Testament, ‘departure,’ ‘going away’. It can also serve as a euphemism for ‘death’ . . . In the first Exodus Moses led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt and home to the promised land.

“In the new Exodus, Jesus will lead all God’s people out of the slavery of sin and death, and home to their promised inheritance—the new creation in which the whole world will be redeemed” (Luke for Everyone, by N.T. Wright, Westminster John Knox Press, 2004; pages 114—115).

Above all else, Peter, James and John never forgot the words they heard God speak in the cloud on the mountain:

 “This my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.”

Sunday, January 5, 2020

What About You?


The landscape of Galilee today, has not changed dramatically since the days when Jesus walked with his disciples near the lake . . .


Once again the disciples are with Jesus when he is praying privately. Jesus turns to the disciples and asks a direct question “Who do the crowds say I am?” Luke 9:18.

Some say you are John the Baptist, Elijah, or one of the old-time prophets brought back to life. Hearing this, Jesus asks his disciples a personal question:

“But what about you? Who do you say I am?” (Luke 9:20).

Peter responds with a personal answer: “God’s Christ,” meaning God’s anointed One, the long-awaited Messiah. 

Jesus cautions the disciples, he “strictly warned them not to tell this to anyone” (Luke 9:21).

What was Peter’s understanding of Jesus at that moment?

 “For Peter, Messiah was a title of a glorious personage both nationalistic and victorious in battle. Jesus on the other hand, saw His destiny in terms of a suffering Son of man and Servant of God”

(Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Nashville, Tennessee, 2003).

Jesus makes who he is crystal clear to his disciples: 

“It is necessary that the Son of Man proceed to an ordeal of suffering, be tried and found guilty by the religious leaders, high priests, and religion scholars, be killed, and on the third day be raised up alive” (Luke 9:22 Message).

“Then he told them what they could expect for themselves: Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat—I am. Don’t run from suffering: embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self.

“What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? If any of you is embarrassed with me and the way I’m leading you, know that the Son of Man will be far more embarrassed with you when he arrives in all his splendor in company with the Father and the holy angels” (Luke 9:23—27 Message).

As William Barclay writes, “It is never enough to know what other people have said about Jesus. A man might be able to pass any examination on what has been said and thought about Jesus; he might have read every book about Christology written in every language on earth and still not be a Christian. Jesus must always be our own personal discovery . . . Christianity does not mean reciting a creed; it means knowing a person”

(The Gospel of Luke, Translated with an Introduction and Interpretation by William Barclay, Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, Kentucky, 1975).

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Five Loaves . . . & . . . Two Fish





Returning from their journey (Luke 9:3-6) the apostles reported every detail of their experiences to Jesus (Luke 9:10).

Were they surprised again when he “took them with him and they withdrew by themselves to a town called Bethsaida”?

Were the Twelve expecting a quiet time alone with Jesus? If so, they were soon disappointed. Crowds of people were following Jesus wherever he went.

“He welcomed them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed healing” (Luke 9:11).

“Late in the afternoon the Twelve came to him and said, ‘Send the crowd away so they can go to the surrounding villages and countryside and find food and lodging, because we are in a remote place here’ ” (Luke 9:12).

Then came another surprise: Jesus replied -- “You give them something to eat.”

“We have only five loaves of bread and two fish”.

Jesus takes the loaves and fishes and gives thanks. Then the astonished apostles take the bread and fish and distribute them among the crowd that numbers well over 5,000 people. Miraculously, surprisingly, Jesus multiplied what seemed like very little given the size of the crowd.

“They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over” (Luke 9:17).

Their baskets were empty when the disciples left for their retreat with Jesus. After watching him multiply the loaves and fish, their baskets overflowed.

Where would you like to see Jesus multiply resources in the coming year?



Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Take nothing for your journey


 "Take nothing for the road, neither a staff, not a wallet"




Jesus continually surprised his disciples. He gave them “power and authority to drive out all demons and cure diseases, and he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick” (Luke 9:1-2).  

Imagine how the Twelve responded: were they excited, or a little fearful?

Even more surprising were his next words,  “Take nothing for the road, neither a staff, nor a wallet, nor bread nor money, nor two tunics” (Luke 9:3 Barclay).

Here Jesus invites his first followers to join him on mission.

Just go, don’t wait to pack or make special preparations. Did the disciples hesitate? Did anyone grumble? How would you respond?

Jesus adds still more unusual directions: “Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that town” (Luke 9:4).

“If anyone won’t receive you, go out of that town and wipe the dust off your feet as evidence against them” (Luke 9:5 Wright).

Immediately Luke summarizes the results “So they set out and went from village to village, preaching the gospel and healing people everywhere” (Luke 9:6).

As N.T. Wright comments, Jesus “was beginning to share his vocation with them. They needed to learn to do what he was doing, to trust God like he trusted God.”

Jesus still invites his followers to join him on mission today.

Are we ready to build relationships with our neighbors? Are we prepared to share the good news of the gospel where we live and work? Will we pray faithfully for sick family members and friends?

We are commissioned by Jesus just as the Twelve were in Luke 9. 

Let’s go.





Thursday, August 30, 2018

Re-starting: Highlights from this Summer’s Readings


I wrote my previous post on May 7th. Today is August 29th. What happened? Summer, of course—some travel, some family times, a beach visit here, a good book there. One constant through the last three plus months—our men’s group continued to meet twice a week so that those who were not traveling could continue our summer program:

Wednesday mornings at 6:00 a.m. we read and discussed my wife Cheryl’s book, Pray Through Your Day Learn to Pray the Benedictine Way, available on Amazon in paperback or Kindle.

Friday mornings at 7:00 a.m. we continued our study and discussion of Luke’s gospel. Alternating between a practical study on praying “the hours” with careful readings in Luke created a balanced weekly rhythm that we will continue to explore as Summer turns to Fall.

Re-starting our journey with Jesus in Luke 8, I realize why I’ve been reluctant to “catch up.” There’s simply so much ground to cover! Luke 8 is as full of important lessons as my Summer was full of all kinds of diversions and distractions!
  
Luke 8 begins with Jesus traveling from one town and village to another “proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God.” With him are the twelve and a remarkable group of women. Jesus had cured these women of evil spirits and diseases. Luke, who often draws attention to the role of women in his gospel, explains they are financially independent women who are supporting Jesus’ ministry using their own resources (Luke 8:1-3).

Read the Parable of the Sower Luke 8:4-8, and Jesus’ explanation of the story when the disciples ask him to interpret it for them in Luke 8:9-15. 
As N.T. Wright comments “If Jesus was telling this story today, he might well include other categories as well. What about the seeds that were planted in good soil but were ruined by acid rain? What about the plants that were coming up nicely but were bulldozed by occupying forces to make room for a new road?” (Luke for Everyone, Westminster, John Knox Press, 2001, 2004, page 93).

The thought-provoking teaching continues, with Jesus reminding everyone that his “mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice” (Luke 8-16-21).

Anyone exploring the question “who is Jesus?” will want to look closely at the second half of Luke 8.  First, Jesus calms a storm on the lake when his disciples thought they were going to drown (Luke 8:22-25).

Next, Jesus commands an impure spirit to come out of a demon-possessed man who had been kept under guard and chained. He was named “Legion” because so many demons had entered him and taken over his life. This distraught man becomes completely sane and calm after Jesus commands the evil spirits to leave him (Luke 8:26-37). Although he then begs Jesus to take him with him, Jesus sends him away saying “Return home and tell how much God has done for you.” Luke adds “So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him (Luke 8:38-39).

Jairus, a synagogue leader, throws himself at Jesus’ feet because his 12-year-old daughter is dying.

On the way to Jairus’ house, the crowds following Jesus nearly crush him. In the midst of the swirling throng Jesus feels power leaving him, sensing a desperate touch by a suffering woman longing for healing. She had experienced twelve years of bleeding that no doctor had been able to heal. But when she managed to touch the edge of Jesus’ cloak, her bleeding stopped immediately. “Who touched me?” asks Jesus.

In the presence of all the people, she explains herself, and how she was instantly healed. “Then he said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace’” (Luke 8:47-48).

While Jesus is still speaking, messengers arrive from Jairus’ home to report that his daughter has died. Jesus startles everyone when he tells Jairus “Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed” (Luke 8:50). When Jesus takes her by the hand, he says “My child, get up!” Luke reports that her spirit returned, and at once she stood up. “Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat. Her parents were astonished, but he ordered them not to tell anyone what had happened” (Luke 8:55-56).

To summarize, in one fast-moving chapter, Jesus demonstrates his unique power and authority over—
  • The natural world (by calming the storm)
  • The spirit world (by healing Legion)
  • The physical nature (by healing the suffering woman)
  • The realm of death (by raising Jairus’ daughter back to life).                                                      
 N.T. Wright's commentary helps summarize what we've seen and heard in Luke 8: "Luke has been patiently pointing out, through one story after another, who Jesus really is . . . in whatever problem or suffering we face . . . the presence of Jesus, getting his hands dirty with the problems of the world, is what we need and what in the gospel we are promised" (Luke for Everyone, Westminster, John Knox Press, 2001, 2004, page 105).