Friday, October 25, 6:00-8:00 p.m.
Sunday, October 13, 2019
God’s love is a truly amazing thing! In response to His love He expects His children to love others. Of all of the ways we can demonstrate His love to others there is, perhaps, no stronger testimony to His power than the way that we use our money for others: for the kingdom.
GOD LOVES THE LOST
Seeing the ‘sinners and tax collectors’ gathering around Jesus, the religious rulers believed that Jesus had to compromise The Law. “Righteous people do not hang out with those people,” they may have exclaimed (Luke 15:1-2).
It is at this point that Jesus tells the story of the lost sheep (Luke 15:3-7), the lost coin (Luke 15:8-10) and the lost son (Luke 15:11-24) to show that attending to the lost and keeping the Law are in perfect harmony. Jesus, then, challenges the Pharisees to look at their own hearts as He tells them the story of the older brother. In the story, his father ‘pleaded’ with him to join the celebration (Luke 15:25-32).
THE USE OF MONEY
At the beginning of Luke 16 Jesus tells the parable of the shrewd manager who uses his former employer’s money to secure his own future. Jesus seems to be encouraging us to use the money that God gives us to make friends to encourage them to secure their eternal future as well as our own (Luke 16:1-9).
Managing God’s wealth well means that we will be entrusted with more responsibility. Conversely, there are negative consequences when we use His wealth selfishly for ourselves (Luke 16:10-12). To try to straddle the fence between worshiping God or money is futile because it is an either/or proposition (Luke 16:13).
FOR THE LOVE OF MONEY
At this point the religious rulers begin to ‘sneer’ at Jesus, prompting his convicting accusation: “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of others, but God knows your hearts. What people value highly is detestable in God’s sight” (Luke 16:15).
Their disdain for Jesus’ love for the lost is now coupled with their love of money. They, themselves, are the ones compromising the Law when they use the wealth that God had given them for their own selfish purposes. Jesus says to them:
“The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John. Since that time, the good news of the kingdom of God is being preached, and everyone is forcing their way into it.”Luke 16:16 (NIV)
If Jesus was quoting the religious rulers then He could be mocking them as if to say, ‘Everything was just fine until John the Baptist and Jesus showed up! Now everyone thinks they can enter the kingdom of God!” Or it could be that Jesus is simply observing that the Law and the Prophets have now been realized with the good news of the kingdom of God.
Either way, Jesus’ point is clear, love for the lost and our use of money in response to God’s love for us is consistent with the Law and the Prophets. In fact, Jesus affirms, ” It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the least stroke of a pen to drop out of the Law” (Luke 16:17).
To illustrate this point, Jesus boldly wades right into the hotly debated controversy of marriage and divorce. This was an issue with which the religious elite were embroiled in first-century Israel (see Matthew 19:1-9). “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery” (Luke 16:18). It is as if to say, “There is no controversy here except where you religious rulers have chosen to compromise The Law to your own advantage.”
For those who practice this kind of mental gymnastics, Jesus warns them of their fate in the story of The Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31).
The final words of Moses in the story point to a prophetic truth that will be realized in the death, burial and resurrection of Christ Himself: ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead’ (Luke 16:31, NIV).
This observation was as true then as it is now, today. Believe in the Law and the Prophets! Believe in the one who has risen from the dead! Listen to the story, know Christ, and use the money God has given you for His purposes!
Sunday, October 6, 2019 – Dean Wolf
Romans 7:14-25 (MSG)
We struggle to do what is right and to avoid doing what is wrong. Then we find ourselves doing what is wrong and avoiding what is right! The answer is Jesus!
If the solution to our dilemma is found in Jesus then we are set free to live our lives in Christ to the full. Pursue Christ!
PLACE YOUR LIFE BEFORE GOD
What does the pursuit of Christ look like? He transforms everything in our lives! Everything!
Sunday, September 29, 2019
In the first half of Luke 16 Jesus tells the parable of the rich man and his shrewdly dishonest manager (Luke 16:1-8). At the conclusion of the story (Luke 16:9-13) Jesus extracts principles about the use of money, trustworthiness and responsibility (vss. 9-12). He concludes with a pretty stark pronouncement:
“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”Luke 16:13 (NIV)
MONEY, PEOPLE OF THE WORLD/LIGHT
On the surface, one might conclude that Jesus is only talking about money. In truth, money’s value is only relative to importance we assign to it. Give it too much influence in one’s life and we are at risk of thinking that it is all-important. However, it won’t be worth very much when our heart stops beating.
Conversely, among the people of the light, it is to be used to accomplish kingdom purposes: making forever friends in God’s forever family. This kind of stewardship reaps benefits both here, in the making of friends, and in eternity.
WEALTH IS A GIFT
Our wealth is a gift from God that provides each person an opportunity for stewardship. The emphasis here is upon how we care for the gifts God gives to us.
PREVIEW OF “MONEY” – PART 2
Our next lesson in Luke will focus upon the second half of chapter 16 with Jesus emphasizing that He is capable of both caring for “sinners and tax collectors” (Luke 15:1-2) and remaining faithful to the Law (Luke 16:16-18). This is boldly illustrated in the story of “The Rich Man and Lazarus” in Luke 16:19-31.
At the beginning of the lesson we viewed the following video from DanStevers.com.
Sunday, September 22, 2019
HE’S FOUND WITH WHOM?!
“Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”, the Pharisees had asked Jesus’ disciples (Luke 5:30). In their world, true men of God would not compromise the Law by associating with people who did not obey it’s commandments. Jesus’ answer to them was to the point: “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:31). Doctors don’t visit the healthy! God visits those who know they are broken and scarred; in need of His mercy!
Jesus reveals the heart of His Father to men who exclude others based upon a twisted view of the Law, it’s regulations and its commands. What had been delivered through Abraham (Genesis 17:4) and the Law, through Moses (Deuteronomy 4:5-7; Isaiah 60:3) was intended to bless the nations that surrounded them. Instead, slavish obedience to the Law and it’s nuances had created an association of legalists who, alone, felt the sole right to the blessings of God.
YES, TAX COLLECTORS AND SINNERS!
In Luke 15:1-2, their question remains. So, Jesus illustrates for everyone His Father’s love for His lost children in three unique stories found only in Luke’s gospel. The parables of the lost sheep (vss. 3-7), the lost coin (vss. 8-10) and the lost son (vss. 11-24) give us a glimpse of heaven’s celebration when one sinner repents. It is in the third story of the lost son that Jesus gives us more detail to illustrate His Father’s watching for, running to, and embracing of, His broken children when they come home.
WHY DON’T YOU UNDERSTAND?
Finally, Jesus turns from the crowds to address the Pharisees directly in the parable of the older brother (Luke 15:25-32). Here Jesus describes the Father who comes to his older son as well, “entreats him” (rather than commands him), calls him his “child” who is always with him and reminds him that all He has available to His son. It is a touching scene as the father pleads with his son to come join in the festivities…. Will he enter the house or will he choose, rather, to stay outside and pout.
As Jesus looks at the Pharisees, we are left to wonder, too: Will they surrender their distorted view of God as a Divine Master lording over His obedient slaves? Or will they hear Jesus’ loving appeal on behalf of His Father? After all, God is their Father, too, Who desires to bring everyone home to celebrate at His table…even the hypocrites.
For this lesson, I am particularly indebted to the insights of John Piper – “Desiring God” Website: A Tender Word to Pharisees.
Sunday, September 15, 2019
In the gospel of Luke the crowds play an important part as different groups of people strive to understand Jesus, who He Is and what is His mission. By Luke 14:25 the crowds are traveling with Him and His disciples. It is time to challenge them all to start thinking about what it means to be one of Jesus’ disciples. So, Jesus clearly states His demands.
LOVE HIM MORE
Jesus insists that His followers–His true disciples–must love Him so much that, in comparison, their love for father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters–even one’s own life–looks like hatred (vs. 26). Love for Him is supreme, beyond anyone else; even one’s self.
YOU MUST DIE TO SELF
Before anyone could grasp Jesus’ own understanding of His upcoming death on a cross, everyone understood the horrors of crucifixion. As frightening as this torturous execution might be, Jesus uses it to convey the depths of commitment required of a disciple. It’s like carrying your own cross for crucifixion. You are a dead person walking. This is how Jesus characterized His disciples.
RENOUNCE YOUR POSSESSIONS
Nothing is excluded from Jesus’ demands. Nothing. No hoarding among kingdom people. Packing away keepsakes makes no sense. When the call comes to let it go, the disciple does not worry about losing anything. All of those things were given up when they decided to follow Christ.
I suspect that Jesus’ pronouncements about discipleship thinned out the crowd a bit. At the least it led people to think about their walk with God and the importance of Jesus’ words.
There can be little doubt that many would still hang around for a free meal, a healing, an exorcism or a good word or two. But, I think people had trouble shaking the totality of Jesus’ demands for those who would follow Him and become a disciple.
Indeed, counting the cost would take on a whole new meaning for those who would take Him seriously. Just like it provokes you and I to wonder if I have truly handed it all over to Him….
Sunday, September 8, 2019
Benjamin Franklin once observed that “A man all wrapped up in himself makes a very small bundle.” While this quotation has been expressed in many different ways, we all understand it’s truth.
JESUS CAME TO DINNER
In our study in Luke 14 we see Jesus addressing this tendency of ours from three different perspectives. This all takes place in the leader of the Pharisees’ home at a singular event: the banquet.
THE SET UP (Luke 14:1-6)
First, to make a point the religious leaders invite Jesus to dinner, watching Him closely. They want to make a point to show that Jesus is a fraud. To do this they select a man whose limbs are painfully swollen from, possibly, heart, kidney, liver or other disease. While everyone is watching, they set this poor man in front of Jesus to see what Jesus would do.
Jesus rhetorically asks the obvious question in the minds of His hosts, heals the man and sends him on his way. In their arrogance, the religious rulers knew Jesus could heal the man and that they could not. So, they just blow by this evidence of God’s power and sit silently as Jesus demonstrates His authority to do good.
Kingdom people do not make victims of poor, sick and broken people. They always do the right thing towards them, even when it is in challenging circumstances.
THE OBSERVATION (Luke 14:7-14)
Second, as Jesus is preparing to tell the parable of the Great Banquet, He observes people competing for the prime seats at the head table. The scene must have been rather obvious–perhaps even a bit humorous–as people challenge each other’s position, edging into tight places. Imagine the scowls, the rolling eyes, and the exasperated sighs.
Jesus pauses to give practical advice that contributes to our understanding of the culture of God’s Kingdom people. Take the lower seat and the way of humility and God will lift you up. Seek to exalt yourself, Jesus says, and you will be humbled (vs. 11).
Furthermore, Jesus speaks to the man who had invited Him to dinner:
“When you put on a luncheon or a banquet,” he said, “don’t invite your friends, brothers, relatives, and rich neighbors. For they will invite you back, and that will be your only reward. Instead, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. Then at the resurrection of the righteous, God will reward you for inviting those who could not repay you.”Luke 14:12-14 (NLT)
With authority Jesus instructed His host to shift his guest list to the outcasts and nobodies. The reason? Because they cannot reciprocate the favor, God will recognize his generosity.
THE GREAT BANQUET
Finally, Jesus tells a parable about a Grand Banquet. The man’s prime invitations to the dinner meet with flimsy excuses that 1) do not recognize the significance of the feast and 2) defer their energies to things they believe to be of more importance. Their refusal to join the man for his banquet enfuriates him.
Will the Pharisees hear the implication about the banquet in the kingdom of God? The advice Jesus has just given to them in verses 12-14 is based upon a generous God who seeks to fill His banquet table with anyone who desires to be there through the invitation of His Son.
Blowing past the flimsy excuses of the first invitees, the man has his servants scour the neighborhood for anyone who is hungry for a meal at his table.
“The servant returned and told his master what they had said. His master was furious and said, ‘Go quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and invite the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.’ After the servant had done this, he reported, ‘There is still room for more.’ So his master said, ‘Go out into the country lanes and behind the hedges and urge anyone you find to come, so that the house will be full. For none of those I first invited will get even the smallest taste of my banquet.’”Luke 14:21-24 (NLT)
THE GRAND BANQUET OF THE KING
People who know Jesus act differently than those who need to impress others of their importance. Kingdom people know they are hungry, blind, crippled, poor, homeless, burdened and broken. When Kingdom people hear the invitation, they come running to the Master’s feast!
September 1, 2019
RELATIONSHIP, NOT RELIGION
So much of life is made up of choices. People of the kingdom of God have made a choice to follow Jesus that goes beyond religion!
Jesus did not come to found a new religion! Jesus came to form relationships with you and me.
Religion tells us we must go to church as though it were a ‘minimum requirement’ duty to perform. Show up and we will count you as present in the ‘Book of Life’ attendance database.
Religious people may think that they are giving something to God by showing up on a relatively regular basis. It is as though God needed them and their support to satisfy something He desires.
WHO IS GOING TO BE KING?
There are those who reject Jesus and walk away, actively avoiding Him. Like King Herod, they may wonder who Jesus is but they do not want to give up their kingdom to follow Him. So, they reject Him and His ‘religion’.
Others have evaluated Jesus by their perception of people who call themselves Christians and do religious things but have not yet sold out to follow Jesus. Like the crowds, they ‘hang out’ with Jesus but never really commit their hearts to follow Him. Looking for another free meal, a new magic trick or a new catchphrase for the day, they are fickle. As long as they are getting what they want, they show up. Disappoint them and…well…they have other things to do.
Then there are those who make the commitment to Jesus and spend their lives getting ready to meet Him. Like the disciples, they struggle because it is a narrow door filled with challenges, risks and hazards. But, they know where the party is and they are always ready to go!
Like others, they, too, make mistakes and errors in judgement. They know that following Jesus is hard and that they are broken. They also know that following Jesus is more than just ‘being religious.’ It’s a commitment to grow in knowing Jesus, becoming more like Him and following Him even when it does not make sense.
THE NARROW DOOR
Jesus’ illustration of ‘striving to enter through the narrow door’ is not about some type of works righteousness where our good deeds outweigh our bad deeds. Because of what God did for us through Jesus Christ, we strive to do good deeds because He has declared us to be righteous! We strive to live up to that to which we have been called. So, we strive to be ready for service when He opens the door.
Sunday, August 25, 2019
There are times when things happen to us that had nothing to do with the choices we make. At the beginning of Luke 13, Jesus and the disciples discuss two specific, historical incidences that happened in which many people were killed. They were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Whether their deaths were an act of God or not is not significant from Jesus’ perspective. His point is that everyone needs to repent and be ready.
On the heels of a discussion of about the bad things that can happen, Luke introduces us to the story of a fig tree that bore no fruit and a crippled woman who went to worship one Saturday. Freedom comes with being ready to meet Jesus!
JUST ANOTHER SATURDAY
Years before she had known a normal childhood in Israel. She grew up to be a young woman. And then it started. It became increasingly difficult to stand up and to walk. Perhaps scoliosis or some other osteoarthritis began to shape her spine, contract her muscles and leave her permanently bent over. No longer able to talk to her friends face-to-face, she would spend the next 18 years of her life talking to the tops of people’s feet.
People would see her hobbling down the street and look away or move to the side to avoid her swaying shoulders and tightly gripped walking stick. Having a conversation with her was challenging because the ground would absorb the sound of her words as her compressed lungs would pause to draw in air between sentences. It was easier to simply avoid her.
For 18 years she had lived with this crippling disease, faithfully attending the weekly Saturday Sabbath service to refresh her faith through worship among God’s people. This was the one place where people looked for her, greeted her and helped her find a place to sit.
THEN SHE MET JESUS
Today, things would be different. Entering the synagogue in her usual way, she was surprised to hear a new and different voice call out to her to walk towards him. Perhaps he had reserved a special seat for her. She moved towards the voice and opened her palm in hopes that he would give her some money with which to buy food.
Then, she heard the words: “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.” She felt the warmth of a hand gently placed on the back of her head. Suddenly, she felt the rejuvenation of her spine and the loosening of her muscles as she began to slowly, painlessly, straighten up to look into the eyes of her healer, who smiled.
Upon realizing what had just happened the woman breaks out in praise. Only God could have released her from her bondage and set her free. For her, today had started out as a usual Sabbath day. But, this one ended with the touch of the hand of Jesus.
HAVE I MET JESUS?
I seriously doubt that she heard much of the conversation the followed as the indignant leader of the synagogue told everyone else, “There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.” Nor do I suspect that she heard much of what Jesus had to say in response until she heard Jesus say, “should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?”
The transforming power of meeting Jesus and allowing Him to touch us where we hurt brings a freedom like we have never known.
Sunday, August 18, 2019
Listen to two small children who are playing with toys and in a short matter of time one or both of them will exclaim: “Mine!” It doesn’t matter whether or not a specific toy is, indeed, one child’s or the other’s. Often it doesn’t even matter whether or not anyone is playing with a particular toy. The fact that another child is reaching for a toy can lead the other to exclaim “Mine!” What is being said is, “I want that toy and I don’t want you to have it. I don’t care whose toy it happens to be and I don’t care whether or not I’m playing with it at the time. You can’t have it because I unilaterally claim it to be mine! It’s not yours!”
HIS STUFF VERSUS MY STUFF
The truth is that anything and everything in our universe is the sole possession of the God who created them. This includes you and me. God looks at us and says, “Mine!” and it is a true statement, whether or not we believe it.
Rather than basking in the glory of being His possession, however, we fool ourselves into thinking that we can make His stuff into our stuff. His stuff is still His stuff. That will never change. What has changed is that we have rebelled against being His possession. When anyone makes the mistake of hoarding God’s stuff and calling it their own, Jesus says, they become fools.
The miracles of God’s creation are so common and predictable in our average day that we hardly think of it. From the farmer’s seed in prepared, nutrient-rich soil to the come and go of the seasons we mark our calendars and plan our vacations months–even years–in advance.
The Psalmist exclaims: “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands” (Psalms 19:1). Yet there are days when we hardly give it a second thought.
And so, it is easy to slide into thinking that these things are mine and those things are yours. The truth is that it is all God’s. Just as God gives the soil, rain and sun for the farmer to manage the seed’s bounty, so, also, God gives us what we have for a reason. As He has been generous with us, so also, He tells us to be generous towards others (2 Corinthians 9:6-15). The work of a fool, Jesus says, is to gather what God has generously provided to us and to declare: “Mine!”