follow the Leader

(Written by Shelley)

The Word for today:
Luke 14:25 – 35

mark this: Luke 14:28 —

Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it?

I laugh to myself when someone turns to ask me a question about the Bible, expecting I’ll be able to give her the answer like my husband Franklyn would. It’s as if they think that because I’ve been married to him for the last 25 years, his Bible knowledge has transferred by osmosis to me. I can tell you for certain that the only way to know the Bible is to read it for yourself. You can’t leave your understanding of Scripture to your Sunday school teacher, favorite radio preacher or Christian author, or even your husband.

Of course, I have learned a vast amount while helping Franklyn with his Bible classes. We even taught a class together (called “Acts 29”) but that was more up my alley – topically based with some life application.

If I had to boil down what I’ve learned into just two concepts, one would be that every story, person, and type in Scripture points us to Jesus. The second is that Jesus is bigger than I can ever imagine. So as I write a blog for Franklyn while he’s away at a conference, I will try to apply those two concepts to today’s passage.

Jesus has some hard words for us today as he tells the crowd, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters — yes, even his own life — he cannot be my disciple …any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.”

So Jesus is reminding us of the great cost of being His disciple. He wants to be first in our lives. Truly following Him will cost us our time, our hard-earned money, some of our closest relationships, and possibly our lives. What has it cost you?

Now I’ll try to kick it into “Franklyn” gear and go beyond the surface of what these verses say. Let’s not project ourselves into the passages and try to apply them to ourselves until after we look at Jesus as the prime example of what it means to be a disciple.

Jesus was a disciple of the Father. He didn’t say (1) or do (2) anything unless he heard or saw His Father do it first.

Did Jesus put God first? We read in Matthew 12:46 – 50 that when Jesus’ mother Mary and His brothers were looking for Him, He turned to those with Him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” His priority was the Father and his family took a backseat.

Did Jesus count the cost of obeying the Father’s will? He knew from the foundation of the world that He was to be the Lamb slain for our sins (3). He humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross! (4). He had no place to lay His head (5).

Giving up his home in heaven, he was homeless here on earth. He was misunderstood not only by His enemies but even by His family and His disciples. He was falsely accused, and He was pursued and ultimately killed by His own. While He hung on the cross, covered in our sins, He was forsaken by the Father. Yet He came and died for our sins anyway. It cost Him everything to obey the Father’s will.

Jesus is our leader. But don’t forget that as our leader, he even shows us how to follow.

So, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (6)

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(1) John 12:49; (2) John 5:19; (3) Rev. 13:8; (4) Phil. 2:5 – 11; (5) Luke 9:58; (6) Heb. 12:2

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the pictures inside your head

The Word for today:
Luke 14:1-24

We have before us today a very instructive picture of the kingdom of God. The first thing you’ll note is that it’s not populated by a bunch of cub scouts with merit badges:

When one of the guests sitting at the table heard this, he said to Jesus, “How fortunate the one who gets to eat dinner in God’s kingdom!”
Jesus said to him, “There was once a man who threw a great dinner party and invited many. When it was time for dinner, he sent out his servant to the invited guests, saying, ‘Come on in; the food’s on the table.’ “Then they all began to beg off, one after another making excuses…
The servant went back and told the master what had happened. He was outraged and told the servant, ‘Quickly, get out into the city streets and alleys. Collect all who look like they need a square meal, all the misfits and homeless and wretched you can lay your hands on, and bring them here.'”
 (Luke 14:15-21)

This scene is probably a radical departure from your notion of heaven. If it is, I suggest that you radically depart from your previous notions, and begin to replace the pictures in your head with the ones that Jesus had in his head.

That’s how we accomplish the odd-sounding thing called putting on the mind of Christ:

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind… (Romans 12:2)

Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus… (Philippians 2:5)

…but we have the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:16)

“Putting on the mind of Christ” sounds more mysterious than it is. All you have to do is think of your mind as a photo album, where your outlook on things is stored.

As you read the Bible, compare the pictures in your head with the pictures inside Jesus’ head. When yours are the same, keep them!

But when they differ, throw them out and replace your way of seeing things with Jesus’ way of seeing things. You can start today–by comparing your “photograph” of heaven with the picture Jesus showed us.

It’s really a lot of fun to sit right next to Jesus and compare photo albums! You will get to know the Bible better; you will get to know Jesus better; and you’ll even get to know yourself better in the process!

So begin to lose the pictures of heaven that you might have had before. Lose the harps, the halos, the cub scouts, the merit badges…

Replace that picture with the one we see in Jesus’ album: a bunch of misfits from the wrong side of the tracks who did nothing more than accept the King’s invitation.

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only a few?

(by Pastor Joe)

The Word for Today:
Luke 13:18-35

mark this: Luke 13:23
And someone said to Him, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?”

This is a difficult but fair question.
I don’t think that this “someone” was looking for percentages or demographic charts or statistical probabilities. I think his concerns were much more personal. Who gets in? Who does not? What are the criteria? Do I have a chance?

Franklyn & I have a running joke about the most exclusive church we’ve yet to find. You may have heard of certain sects or cults or denominations that claim to be the sole recipients of salvation, but a church of 50 people in Oklahoma takes the cake. Their website reads:

“If you are involved with the kind of Christianity that views Protestantism, or Catholicism, or the Orthodox church, or the “church of Christ,” or Billy Graham, or Rick Warren, or Joel Osteen, or James Dobson, or Pat Robertson, or John MacArthur, or Tony Evans, or Greg Laurie, or Charles Stanley, or Chuck Smith, or Fred Price, or J. Vernon McGee, or Charles Blake, or Chuck Swindoll, or Gene Scott, or Harold Camping (Family Radio), or John Piper, or T. D. Jakes, or David Jeremiah, or Charles Spurgeon, or Dave Hunt, or Marvin J. Rosenthal, or David W. Cloud, or Perry F Rockwood, or Neil Anderson, or Robert Schuller, or Jack Hayford, or Benny Hinn, or Miles McPherson, or Ray Comfort, or Jim Cobrae, or Ron Luce, or Chuck Colson, or C. S. Lewis, or Hank Hanegraaff, or Paul Chappell, or any of the like (or any of the likes on “Christian” TV or radio) as godly, you are not saved.”

That’s very sad, but what is even sadder is found in their FAQ page:

“Q- Are you the only true church/believers?
 A- …We have not yet, as of this date, found another church that is in the truth and we have been to many.”

For them “only a few are going to be saved” and they are the “only.” In all the 2000 years or so since Christ came, I guess He died only for a few dozen people in Oklahoma.

But this riduculous example brings up a bigger question: “How do we come to grips with the fact that Jesus Christ repeatedly makes claims of exclusivity?” Contrary to popular opinion, not all dogs go to heaven. Otherwise, why would Jesus warn any of us about the narrow way, about people being thrown out, about weeping and gnashing of teeth?

Jesus Christ is, at the same time, the most inclusive and the most exclusive being in all existence.

In the Gospels, we are amazed at His love and acceptance of all people, especially the most marginalized of His day. Yet, no one speaks more concerning Hell in the entire Bible. He just a few chapters ago said, “He who is not with me is against me (1).” But even earlier He said, “He who is not against us is for us (2).” How do we come to terms with this apparent contradiction?

What it boils down to is the exact same thing that Jesus said in His conversation with Nicodemus. Here also we have the greatest openness and inclusiveness:
“Whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” and “Whoever believes in him is not condemned.”

But at the same time He issues words of unequivocal exclusion:
“Whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son (3).”

It all comes down to the very instrument that was used to cruelly kill Jesus.
The cross, itself a collision and contradiction, becomes to each person the ultimate point of decision. What side of the cross makes all the difference. To some it becomes the very ladder to Heaven (4), to others, a gallows. The question then becomes not “Will only a few be saved?” but rather “On which side of the cross do you stand?

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(1) Luke 11:23
(2) Mark 9:40 (see also Luke 9:50)
(3) John 3:16 & 3:18
(4) John 1:51

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guilty of being God


The Word for today:

Luke 13:1-17

mark this: Luke 13:12-14
“Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.” Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God. Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue ruler said to the people, “There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.”

Q. What put Jesus on the cross?
A. In a general sense, it was “enmity,” the inherent hatred that evil has for good:
“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” (Genesis 3:15)

But in a specific sense, the one thing–more than any other–which put Jesus on the cross was healing.

Q. Healing?
A. Yes, healing on the Sabbath. The Pharisees were looking for any excuse to string him up, so they seized on Sabbath-breaking.

Q. He was crucified for healing? Isn’t that ironic?
A. I would say so! But life, and scripture, abounds with irony. Sometimes there seems to be more irony than not.

Q. Did Jesus actually break the Sabbath laws?
A. No. Jesus broke the Pharisees’ interpretation of Sabbath law, but he did not transgress the law of God. The picky, fussy, anal, self-serving Pharisaic interpretation of the Sabbath laws would not permit such “work” on the Sabbath. But Jesus clarified God’s law for them:
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? And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?” 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. (Luke 13:15-17)

Q. Do churches today perpetuate any ‘picky, fussy, anal, self-serving interpretations?’
A. Indeed we do. For an example, you won’t have to look any further than yesterday’s blog, which pointed out the false choices presented by our baptismal traditions. Whether or not to sprinkle, pour, or immerse has obscured the real choice to be made between the baptism of fire or the baptism of the Spirit. Our traditions have buried baptism’s meaning–which is intended to point to the meaning of the cross itself. We are buried under an avalanche of traditions and flawed interpretations which have compounded over time, leaving us–in ways we aren’t even aware of–blind and cold beneath the drifts.

***

Between the lines of today’s passage lies one of the most radical and seminal of all scriptural concepts:
God doesn’t keep the law, he IS the law.

Embedded within God’s covenant name (I AM THAT I AM) is this startling reality:
God doesn’t correspond to a standard known as “right.” Instead, “right” corresponds to whatever God IS.

These are far-reaching concepts, so we’ll boil it all down:
Jesus was nailed to the cross because he was guilty of being God  (1).

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(1) see John 5:18

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one way or another

The Word for today:
Luke 12:35-59

mark this: Luke 12:49-50
I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled! I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished!

Most of the churches I’ve attended hold baptism services once or twice per year.  Those are my favorite Sundays.  I beseech those of you who believe in Jesus Christ to neither eat nor drink nor take another breath until you’ve arranged to take the plunge.

But whether you’ve made the arrangements or not, whether you believe in Jesus or not, you are still going to be baptized, one way or another.

One way or another. John the Baptist put it this way:
“I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” (Luke 3:16)

Jesus said it this way:
I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled! I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished! (Luke 12:49-50)

The old-time churches placed great importance on their methods of baptism. They could argue into the night about immersion or sprinkling or pouring.

I don’t want to step on any denominational toes, but the Bible doesn’t see much difference between the various means of water baptism. So go ahead and get dunked, doused, inundated, deluged, hosed, sprayed, sprinkled–or all of the above. All of those methods are indicative of the inner baptism in the Holy Spirit.

***

The crucial choice is between Spirit baptism and fire baptism. Spirit baptism is to be identified / immersed with God’s grace and forgiveness. Fire baptism is to be identified / immersed with God’s judgment of sin.

And the only way to avoid fire baptism is to trust that Jesus underwent the baptism of fire for you! Your sins are going through fire, one way or another. They can be borne by Jesus in your stead, or they can remain on your ledger.

So remember:

Everybody’s going to get baptized, one way or another,

whether we know it or not, whether we like it or not,

with the Holy Spirit, or with fire.

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