Category: Luke

Lessons From A Fig Tree

Storyteller-Series-Week6This week we concluded our series called ‘Storyteller.’ This has been a wonderful 6 weeks considering some of the parables of Jesus. Now we finish with a short story about a little fig tree found in Luke chapter 13:6-9. It is a story about repentance, about turning from our old ways and deciding to follow Jesus Christ. It’s about second chances. It’s about the grace that is given to us all in our second, third, fourth, or whatever chance you are on today.

But there’s another part to this story. We’ve heard stories about the owner, gardener, and the fig tree. But what about the soil, what about the manure that is mentioned here? Where are you planted? I know that physically, you are planted within a community. You may be planted on a farm, in town, a house or an apartment. But where are you planted spiritually? Where is your spiritual life grounded? In family, friends, in a relationship with Jesus Christ? Where?

In our story, the fig tree is planted in the vineyard. It was not planted in the Judean wilderness, not in the desert where almost nothing grew. It was planted in fertile soil, a place where grapevines flourished. This fig tree had ample resources for growth, for producing fruit, yet it still was barren.

Where are you planted? What kind of soil surrounds your roots? Many of you are planted in a church family. You are surrounded by people of strong faith and solid beliefs. You are like the fig tree planted in the vineyard. But some of you are still not bearing fruit, like the fig tree. Some of you are struggling in your faith. Some of you are uncertain of where you stand in your relationship with Jesus. This parable has a message for those of us in this place. It’s not too late. God offers us a second chance, but it is through the gardener who wants to fertilize us. He wants to spread manure. Sounds inviting. I know, just what my life needs, a little more manure.

So, I guess we really should look at what this manure could be. It is fertilizer, and what does fertilizer do? It makes things grow and flourish. What makes us grow and flourish in our spiritual lives? A relationship with Jesus Christ and a devotion to the spiritual disciplines. Jesus Christ, the gardener, wants to help us grow but we must be participating in our spiritual disciplines if this is going to happen.

We need to be spending time in prayer, studying the scriptures, and meditation. This is your 15 minutes alone with God. But there’s more to it. We can also add worship, confession, service, and celebration, especially in the sacraments. This is John Wesley’s view of the means of grace, those things we should be participating in to grow in our faith and our relationship with God.

Where are you planted? Are you firmly planted in your relationship with Jesus Christ or do you need a little manure to help you grow? It all begins with your 15 minutes. That time you dedicate to spending alone with your personal Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I know I talk a lot about this, but it is that important. You need to have that time. It is foundational to all your other relationships. Don’t shortchange yourself by skimping on this time.

Think of this time as getting rooted where you are planted, allowing this time to fertilize your relationship with Jesus Christ. Grow and flourish in the grace of God. Produce fruit that is pleasing to him through your life. Amen.

The Kingdom of God; Part 2

kingdom_concept1Last week we began talking about the Kingdom of God, what it is and where it is. You remember that it was talked about throughout scripture, not just in this passage in Luke, but also many passages in Matthew. You remember the list I gave last week of all the places we find “The kingdom of God is like…”

I finished last week by saying the Kingdom of God is here as well as there, it is now and in the future, it is already and not yet.

In Luke 4:21-30 we find Jesus teaching, and in the matter of only a few verses, we find the crowd amazed and overjoyed at Jesus’ teaching, to driving him out of the synagogue to the cliff on the edge of town, trying to throw him over that cliff! Why? What could be so dramatic to cause this kind of change of heart? What could bring them to such hatred that they would want to kill Jesus?

We find the reason in two case studies. Within three verses of scripture, we find the reason why they became so angry with Jesus. Now the bigger question for us, is would we find this message just as enraging.

In these three verses, Jesus talks about Elijah and Elisha, two prophets from Israel who were told to go and heal and offer comfort to a widow in Zarephath and Naaman, a commander in the army of Syria. This healing and comfort went to people outside of the
nation of Israel, outside of the chosen people. This meant that the message of the gospel was designed for all people, not just the chosen nation of Israel.

God’s good news reached out beyond the Israelites into Gentile territory. God’s good news healed people that were not the “chosen” ones. God’s good news includes more than just the Jewish people of Israel. God’s good news was for all people.

This is what made the people angry with Jesus. They thought they were the chosen ones and that God was only on their side. They thought God only had plans for them, that God would save only them, that God cared and loved only them. Jesus just gave them a message they didn’t want to hear.

The Kingdom of God is for all people, regardless of where they lived or what country they belonged to. Jesus Christ was about to begin his ministry, the ministry of bringing the Kingdom of God near, of bringing the Kingdom of God close, of bringing the Kingdom of God right here.
So I ask you this morning, are you ready for the Kingdom of God to come near, to come close, to come right here? If you are, do you know what that will require?

It will require us to be the church Jesus Christ calls us to be, open, welcoming, caring, nurturing, supporting, inviting, and to be the body of Christ, helping to restore relationships with Christ. Helping to bring the Kingdom of God near.

This message is not for just those of us inside this building. This message is for all people, regardless of what they look like, how they act, where they were born, how much money they have or don’t have, what color skin they have, if they have an accent, all people.

Maybe this catches us off guard a bit today, I hope and pray that it doesn’t. But if it does, be aware that this is what Jesus Christ is calling us to be. We are to be in mission, making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, the world.

This requires us to be outside of these walls, reaching those who need to hear the gospel
message, those who need to know they are loved, those who need to know they are wanted. Those who are the poor, the captive, the blind, the oppressed.

Those who are the lonely, the lost, the hurting, the hungry, the ones in pain, the ones who are giving up, the ones who feel left behind or abandoned, the ones who’ve never met Jesus Christ, the ones who’ve rejected him over and over again, the ones Jesus has not forgotten but just needs us to go, into the world and seek them out, speaking truth into their lives, showing them that we care and we love, as Jesus loves.

The Kingdom of God…

Thy Kingdom Come; Pt.1


“Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing”

The scripture passage I want to look at today comes from Luke 4:14-30. We will look at the first half this week and finish with the second half next week.I want to look at these verses in relation to the Kingdom of God, what it is, where it is, and what it really has to do with us.

Now, I have to admit, that growing up and hearing this scripture, I thought, wow! Jesus just laid it down for these people. Some might understand when I say that this sounds like a “mic drop” occasion. Jesus stands up, reads this short passage from two different places in Isaiah, sits down and says; “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Bam! The people were happy with him, some even surprised, and then Jesus kept talking and opinions changed, but that’s next week. Let’s focus on what Jesus proclaimed in the synagogue that day.

But really, Jesus reads the scripture and then sits down, not to signify that he is done, but that the time for teaching is beginning. The time for discussion, study, and reflection is upon them and it is now time to search for meaning.

The passage quoted from the scroll of Isaiah in this passage is speaking about the Kingdom of God. It is giving us a picture of what this kingdom will look like and what will happen there. But what is the Kingdom of God? Are we talking about heaven here? These are difficult questions and ones that require a lot of thought and reflection.

Let me say this, I believe that the Kingdom of God or Heaven, is both here and now as well as in the future, when Christ comes again in glory with the re-creation of this earth. It is not just the place we go after we die. Scripture is full of imagery of this earth being recreated at the end of the age. What we know here will change, as it is recreated into the place it was designed to be, God’s kingdom.

So what does the Kingdom of God look like? Jesus gives us five attributes in this passage today.

  1. Good news to the poor.
  2. Liberty to the captives.
  3. Sight for the blind.
  4. Liberty for the oppressed.
  5. Year of the Lord’s favor.

We find this in Revelation; there will be no more sorrow, no more pain, no more tears. There will be no more poor, no more blind, no more oppressed, because we will live into God’s will for this creation, all of us.

We are called to help the poor and the less fortunate, free those who are in chains of addiction, oppression, abuse, or even loneliness. This is what it’s like to be living in the Kingdom of God.

So let me emphasize that this Kingdom is here and it is there, ahead of us. It is near and far, it is already and not yet. But this is what we pray for, this is what we hope for, this is what we strive for, every time we share together the Lord’s Prayer. “Thy Kingdom come, they will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

With this prayer, we ask not to escape this world, not to just be transported to heaven, but for us to be part of God’s plan to transform this world! God has asked us to “make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of this world.” Not just the transformation of heaven, because I don’t think we have that much power. But we can influence and transform this world by our actions, our words, our prayers, and our love.

Mary of Nazareth

Mary-of-Nazareth-Nativity“Can anything good come out of Nazareth?

This past Sunday we focused on Mary of Nazareth, who she was, where she came from, and what God was calling her to do.

Mary, a young, 13 year old girl, not married yet, from Nazareth, not much in the world’s eyes, especially for this time and place. You could consider her lowly, poor, insignificant, but then again, that’s how God seems to like us.

Enter the angel, or the messenger with a big announcement. Actually, it’s the second announcement. The first announcement came to Zechariah, regarding the birth of John the Baptist. This first announcement comes to Zechariah and Elizabeth, much older than Mary and barren, you see, they can’t have children, at least that’s what they thought. Zechariah is a priest in the area of Judea so he has more social and political stature than many, and certainly more than Mary.

But the second announcement, the birth of the Son of God, this incredibly important announcement, comes to Mary, this lowly, 13 year old girl from a no name town, according to the world, an insignificant nobody. What does this messenger, Gabriel, have to say to her?

“Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” She was chosen by God for this task. Was she excited, overjoyed at this visit? No, by all means she was scared out of her mind, she was confused, what could all of this mean. Gabriel spoke peace to her soul when he said, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.”

Now I think most of us know the rest of the story, if not, here’s a brief synopsis. Gabriel follows this “do not be afraid” message with the rest of the story. Mary will become pregnant, by the power of the Holy Spirit, and she will name him Jesus who will become the Son of the Most High and he will rule forevermore. Nothing major, just a basic message that will change her life and our lives, forever.

But what I really want to look at this morning is this whole idea of “finding favor with God.” Let’s take a look into what this means and what is going to be required of Mary because she “found favor.”

Let me preface this, like many other topics discussed in the Bible, it’s not what you think. Many times, we think in the ways of this world and how we are trained by the culture around us. We think that finding favor with God would be similar to finding favor with our bosses, our spouses, our parents, or anyone else we are trying to live in relationship with.

So it is with the world, social status, health, and wealth. But this is not the message that was brought by Gabriel to Mary.

This message brought with it a great deal of social criticism. What would happen if others found out that she was pregnant, and not married? It’s not like our day, when this has become an almost everyday occurrence, in Mary’s day, if she was found to be pregnant outside of marriage, worse yet, engaged, she ran the risk of being stoned, to death. This was the custom.

Although she did not know it at the time, this message brought with it a life of traumatic experiences. She was going to raise her son, not to just learn a trade, get married, and have a family of his own, but it was going to be life filled with ridicule from religious and political leaders. She was going to have to watch her son be arrested, face a public trial, be condemned, flogged and ultimately crucified on a Roman cross, even though he didn’t deserve it.

This was not going to be an easy life. This was not going to be a comfortable life. Is this what it means to “find favor” with God? Is this what we want from our lives? Do we want God to “find favor” with us too? Mary had to have big dreams for her life and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t this.

Maybe we have hopes and dreams of that perfect life, shaking the dust of this town, seeing the world, building things, building our lives, living the life we can see in our mind’s eye. But then God sends a messenger. Holy interruptions many times come at the most inopportune time.

God is calling each and every one of us to his plan for our lives. Like Mary’s, this calling, this messenger, brings the news of God’s call on our lives. This call is sometimes difficult.

After taking all of this in, this messenger and the message from God, what was Mary’s response? We find it in verse 38; “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” Humbled by God’s message, Mary accepts this holy calling in her life to be the mother of the Son of God, even if it is going to be incredibly difficult.