Archive for the ‘Luke’ Category

Christmas standards: Peace and Goodwill

December 10th, 2017 by Maureen

Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace and goodwill toward humankind. Luke 2:14

God stated His attitude and intentions toward humankind in the angelic message that accompanied Jesus’ birth: peace and goodwill. This is God’s heart for His creation. This is His endgame. Sadly, human beings sometimes inflict guilt, exert control, manipulate outcomes, create conflict, and even start wars (sometimes distorting or misrepresenting God’s attitude and intentions in the process.) Bringing God’s peace and goodwill into an interaction does just the opposite. Imagine a season in which every interaction in homes, workplaces, schools and worship centers; at events, gatherings, and parties; on roadways, at stores, and in airports; between families, friends, neighbors, and even enemies; across cultural, social, racial, gender, political, and religious lines could start from an attitude and intention of peace and goodwill.

Lord, help me to speak and respond out of Your peace and goodwill in every circumstance, even the ones that try my patience.

The inevitable glitches of Christmas

December 9th, 2017 by Maureen

She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them. Luke 2:7
That first Christmas did not come neatly wrapped with a red bow on top and it’s likely this one won’t either. In the course of the Christmas story Mary and Joseph face whispers and raised eyebrows from relatives and townspeople, have to travel in Mary’s ninth month of pregnancy, find the inn overbooked, and end up having a baby in a barn. Basically Hallmark channel plot twists… until they later have to flee the country to escape a crazy monarch.The inevitable Christmas glitches don’t matter.
Lord, help me minimize my responses to Christmas glitches and maximize Christmas love, joy, and peace.

Is Christ archetype or stereotype?

December 7th, 2017 by Maureen

The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger. Luke 2:11-12

Archetypes are the original model or ideal example for things of the same type. Stereotypes are simplified images accepted as common by a particular group. Jesus didn’t fit the Messiah stereotype the Jews had constructed. Their Messiah story called for a king, a warrior,  a superhero, a recognizable deity who would improve their earthly circumstances and crush their enemies. Instead they got a baby in a manger. Some adjusted their thinking to the archetypical story God was telling through Christ, but others reinterpreted Him to fit their paradigms.  We can choose to receive Christ as archetype of Savior God with open-hands, open-minds, and open-hearts or we can insist on forcing our stereotypes of what constitutes a Savior God into His story.

Lord, thank You for the manager, the cross, the empty tomb, and the rest of the redeeming story You are telling through Jesus Christ.

Deep thoughts about Christmas joy

December 3rd, 2017 by Maureen

This child is destined to cause many in Israel to fall, but he will be a joy to many others. He has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose him. As a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.” Luke 2:34-35

The story hangs on what we do with Jesus. He is the hero of the Christmas story. He tells the Redemption  Story for the world and He is also a personal agent of change for each one, destined to be our joy in each of our individual stories. His joy is found in receiving and repenting (definition of repent – changing our minds) and letting the story He is telling deepen in our minds. Insisting on making Jesus fit into our paradigms is a study in frustration.

Lord, reveal and revise my deepest thoughts. Tell me a better story than I can tell myself.

Fear not, the news is really that great

December 1st, 2017 by Maureen

Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Fear not,” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. Luke 2:9

It seemed that just about everybody involved in Jesus birth needed a  “Fear not” at some point. Experiencing God’s radiant glory has not been the norm in human experience. Honestly, neither has joy and good news. These seem like fleeting, precious moments in the human experience. And yet, something in us responds so powerfully to glory and joy. Christ really is good news of great joy. He is our bliss and His joy and glory is the state in which we are meant to exist. The incredible permanence of God’s love and goodwill toward us seems too good to be true. Fear not. It is. Receive the glory and joy.

Lord, thank you for flashes of sudden fearless glory and joy in my life.

Lavish and unbalanced and okay with it

November 25th, 2017 by Maureen

But the [prodigal son’s ] father said, “Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.” Luke 15:22

Could participating in rampant materialism and consumerism cheapen “the true meaning of Christmas?” Could an attitude of Christmas minimalism smack of self-righteous? Should there be a balance?

The prodigal son’s father showered him with gifts to restore and reconnect him to his home and family. Lavishing gifts on those we love is a storied tradition, especially at Christmas. According to Matthew, the Magi don’t go cheap with their gifts either. When Scrooge and the Grinch figure out Christmas, they go lavish. Clark Griswold goes mega-lavish with the lights. Jesus is, after all, God’s lavish, material, in-the-flesh gift to the world, the simple circumstances of His birth notwithstanding.

Maybe it’s not about the stuff or the effort, but it’s not about abstaining from the stuff and effort either. Maybe this year we can enjoy lavishing love and doing as much as we enjoy. If we come off as a little unbalanced, we’re in good company.

Lord help me make this season about lavish love and lavish joy.

Prayers for healing

October 4th, 2017 by Maureen

But Jesus said, “Someone deliberately touched me, for I felt healing power go out from me.” Luke 8:46

Once a sick lady in a crowd reached out and touched the hem of Christ’s robe. She wasn’t trying to find a process for healing, she just trusted the person of Christ to meet her need. She deliberately acted on her belief and received healing. That doesn’t mean we have figure out how to sneak up behind Jesus and grab His robe.
Too often we try to figure out the formula for getting God to give us what we want.
Sometimes we try to duplicate someone else’s experience with God in hopes we’ll get the same results they got. 
Some people feel inspired to engage in some kind of prayer ritual that is meaningful to them.
This doesn’t mean God expects that of everyone.

Faith isn’t a performance to be judged. Having our needs or desires met isn’t something we win because we performed well or prayed correctly. Our Father loves us. It’s a relationship. We have conversations. We tell Him even though He already knows. We can always always trust His love.

Lord, there are several people I know who could use some of Your healing power. You know who they are. I trust Your love for them.

Swim with the current

September 1st, 2017 by Maureen

Give, and it shall be given to you; good measure, pressed, and shaken, and running over will fall into your lap; with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. Luke 6:39

When we pour love, grace, generosity, and justice out into the world we experience abundance. I don’t think what we gain from giving is a reward for doing good. Or karma. Doing something just so we get back seems kind of self-serving and not at all like Jesus. Perhaps, instead, giving is participation in Who God Is. When we become aware of His love and grace, when we choose to swim with the current of the love that caused the Father to send His Son, our spirits will naturally be swept into the experience of His abundance and bounty. When we see ourselves as the source of what we give it’s easy to become stingy and worry about running out. When we are in Christ and He in us, we are part of an infinite flow of resources coming from Him.

Lord, if Your love is an ocean, I want to go where the current takes me.

Jesus in the house

July 28th, 2017 by Maureen

By the time Jesus reached Jericho he had developed quite a reputation as a teacher. Though He was just passing through, people were gathering to see him anyway. (You have to consider the limited entertainment options available in the 1st century.) Zacchaeus, the chief tax collector was a short guy so he climbed a tree for a better view. When Jesus got to Zacchaeus’ tree He looked up and said, “Come on down, I’m inviting myself to your house!” (This would be like being invited to hang with a touring rock band.) Zacchaeus quickly climbed down and took Jesus to his house in great excitement and joy. Many in the crowd were annoyed, “He’s staying with that sinful man, that tax-collector (It wasn’t just the IRS back then, tax collectors were personally considered social pariahs.) Luke 19:1-7

Zacchaeus was completely jazzed that Jesus was coming to his house. He wasn’t thinking about whether the house was clean or the pantry was stocked. He wasn’t worried about who else might show up. Maybe Jesus didn’t pick one of the self-righteous crowd because they would have stressed about proving themselves worthy, making themselves and their houses look perfect, or groveling about how they didn’t deserve the honor. Maybe joy and excitement made for a better vibe.
Later at his house, Zacchaeus told Jesus that he wanted to donate to the poor and make it right with anyone he had cheated. For Zacchaeus this was a response to being with Jesus. Jesus had already chosen to come to Zacchaeus’s house when this happened.  Jesus didn’t make a deal that He would only come to Zacchaeus’ house if he would clean up his act and Zacchaeus didn’t try to bribe Jesus with such promises. That’s not how it works. We kill the joy and excitement of being with Jesus when we try to make it work like that.

Lord, thanks for not just visiting the house, but for living here even though it gets messy sometimes.

The search for misplaced treasure

July 27th, 2017 by Maureen

A woman who has 10 silver coins loses one. She doesn’t stop to light a lamp or sweep. She focuses on finding that coin. When she finally finds it she calls all her neighbors together and rejoices because she found the lost coin. Angels rejoice like that when someone’s outlook is transformed* because of Christ. Luke 15:8-10

Personally I think turning on the lights and sweeping might have helped her find the coin, but I am very experienced at looking for lost stuff. If I could get back all the time spent looking for keys alone I’d have several months.
Unless an item has been utterly destroyed every lost thing exists somewhere in some form. So really, lost things are actually misplaced. Keep looking long enough and carefully enough and they will eventually turn up.
Imagine the Mona Lisa is missing. It’s valued at $790 million dollars but it’s priceless because there is only one Mona Lisa.  The flurry of searching for the Mona Lisa is nothing compared to the intensity with which God values us and persists in looking for ways to show Himself to us so that our minds can get to the place where we know Who He is in us and who we are in Him.

Lord, thank you for persisting until you find all that is misplaced and for restoring all that is worn ragged from being misplaced.

*metanoia – traditionally translated “repent or regret.” At the time “metanoia” was used in this writing it was understood to mean “a change of mind or thinking.”  The focus is not on all the ways we’ve been wrong but on discovering and receiving the treasures God lays before us because He loves us. If you’re going to spend your time looking for something, let it be something beautiful and valuable.

Is forgiveness more life changing than healing?

July 24th, 2017 by Maureen

It’s a decent-sized space, but so full there is barely standing room. Pharisees and law teachers from surrounding area as well as a bunch of locals have come in to hear Jesus. Among them is a paralyzed man. Wheelchairs hadn’t been invented yet so people who couldn’t walk had to be carried on stretchers with handles by friends or family. Having heard that Jesus was a healer his friends wanted to put him in front of Jesus but there was no way through the crowd. They went up on the roof, moved some tiles, and lowered him down to Jesus.
Jesus recognized the faith and determination the man’s friends were showing in taking on this project and said, “Your sins are forgiven.”
The guy on the stretcher is probably thinking, “I sorta came about my legs.”
Jesus was dealing with two situations here. He wasn’t trying to mess with the guy on the stretcher and his friends. He was all about responding to their act of faith. But this moment was also an opportunity to make a point about his overall mission.
“He can’t say that. The law says its blasphemy to say that. Only God can forgive sins!” The scribes and Pharisees were well versed in the scripture and were shocked that Jesus would say something like that.
Jesus knows what they are thinking, “Why are you questioning in your hearts? Is it easier to say ‘Your sins are forgiven’ or ‘Get up and walk’?”
Not all the religious leaders had made up their minds about Jesus. For some in the crowd this was their first encounter.
“I said that so all of you know that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sin,”
Then Jesus turns to the man on the stretcher, “Get up and walk. Take your stretcher,and go home.”
The man got up, picked up his stretcher and went home praising God.
“That’s incredible!” Gripped by astonishment and awe at what had just happened, everyone began to glorify God. Crediting and thanking God is the appropriate response to a miracle. Jesus does what it takes to get them there, after giving them a big hint about His identity and mission. Could Jesus also have been saying that forgiveness is a bigger deal than healing?
Healing is a big deal in this temporal world. It changes and encourages the lives of many people when it happens.
Forgiveness has impact not only on our own psyches, on our relationships, on our health, and on our lifestyles in this present physical realm but its impact extends into the eternal and spiritual realm as well.

Lord, thank you for forgiveness.

A brief history of the Sabbath

July 23rd, 2017 by Maureen

One Sabbath Jesus met a man whose right hand was withered. The Pharisees were watching to see if Jesus would violate Sabbath laws by healing him. Jesus was aware.
Jesus asked the man to stand in front of him and asked him, “So, is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath? Is it lawful to save life or destroy it?”
Jesus was referencing something that would later be called Pikuach nefesh, which says that preservation of human life overrides religious considerations. The Pharisees were aware of this argument, supported by some rabbis at the time. It was later official adopted into the Talmud.
Jesus looked around at the Pharisees and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.”
The man did and his hand was healed.
The Pharisees were furious and discussed how to address the situation in such a way as to counter Jesus and be able to say he violated the Sabbath.
This is the face of legalism.
God rested on the seventh day. (Gen. 2)
So Moses told the Hebrews to gather manna for two days on Friday and rest on the Sabbath. (Ex. 16).
Four chapters later all sorts of restrictions about the Sabbath are imposed.
By Deuteronomy formal religious observances had been added to the proscribed “rest.” So it wasn’t just rest anymore.
As time went on religious leaders assumed and abused the responsibility for deciding what constitutes “rest” and “work,” what it means to keep or violate the Sabbath, and how to punish offenders.
By the book of Numbers violating the Sabbath laws was being punished by death.
By Jesus time legalism, including Sabbath legalism, was the Pharisee’s primary method for retaining status and control.
Through the years, in different times and places, citizens were compelled by law and punishment to attend church.
Today 40% of those polled say they attend church regularly. About 25% actually show up three out of four Sundays. Apparently people still feel compelled enough by perceived expectations concerning religious observance that they will lie about it in anonymous polls.
Legalism works through adherence to laws and practices, fear of punishment, and control through fear and guilt.
Jesus works through transformation, rest, and freedom.

Jesus knows physics. Jesus knows fishing. Jesus knows you.

July 22nd, 2017 by Maureen

There was big crowd milling around waiting to hear Jesus speak on the shores of Lake Gennesaret. Four fishermen were cleaning their nets nearby where their two boats were docked. Jesus asked one of them, Peter, to take him out a little ways so he could address the crowd. He stood in the boat and gave His talk.
Jesus knew His physics. Sound travels well on water. Sound  bounces upward as it hits the warmer air on shore. So the people standing in the back where the shore inclines can hear just as well as the people in front. Speaking from the boat creates a natural amphitheater. So, if Jesus wants to give a Ted Talk, it’s a great venue.
But why stop with a talk; Jesus goes full theater.
He turns to Peter, “Put the nets out into deep water and get ready for a catch.”
This is awkward for Peter, the professional fisherman. Jesus is a great teacher, no doubt, but Peter knows fishing. He doesn’t want to embarrass Jesus in front his audience so Peter answers softly, “Uhhh, Jesus, We’ve fished all night long and caught nothing, but if you say so…”
A little bit later the nets were so full they were in danger of breaking. Peter had to call his partners in the other boat out to help with the catch.
It dawns on Peter that Jesus is more than a great teacher and he falls to his knees in awe.
“Chill, Peter, don’t be afraid,” says Jesus, “from now on you’ll be fishing for men.”
Jesus gave his audience a short drama, a live-action parable, to punctuate a message:
Just because you put all your effort and knowledge into a goal doesn’t mean it is going to succeed. But if Jesus inspires you to do things a different way or to take an unknown path, even if you have serious doubts, you can trust Him for abundant results. Jesus is an expert at everything.
After that the fishermen, Peter, Andrew, James, and John, took another leap of faith, closed their business, left everything behind, and followed Jesus. Luke 5:1-11

Lord, I trust You with my journey. Help me to recognize and respond to Your voice, especially when the unexpected or the unorthodox seems like the way to go.

Illustration from All Church Sound.

Compassion can be messy

April 20th, 2017 by Maureen

Compassion is a theme in the gospels. Jesus had compassion (Matt. 9:36, Matt 14:14, Mark 1:41, Mark 6:34, Luke 7:13, Luke 10:33) and said “be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.” Luke 6:36.

It’s really easy to figure out how our troubles, or someone else’s, are a result of poor choices . Compassion is seldom convenient and frequently misinterpreted. Somehow compassion can be associated with excusing, endorsing, or enabling destructive behavior, but compassion is a restorative rather than a punitive reaction. Crawling out of a bad patch is messy for the person crawling out and for the compassionate people helping and supporting that person. Compassion is a core motivation in God’s interactions with us and a healing force in our interactions with one another.

Lord, hold my arms out and open when I feel the impulse to cross them and judge.

Good morning, beauty

March 30th, 2017 by Maureen

Consider the lilies, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet Solomon in all his glory was never arrayed like one of these. Luke 12:27

God made the lilies beautiful and fragrant and suited for their environment. Lilies do not strive to be lilies, they simply are. And God enjoys in them. We put so much unnecessary toiling and spinning upon ourselves as if we can make ourselves lilies or somehow attain greater “lilyship.” Jesus goes on to say “If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, how much more will He clothe you?” We are beautifully arrayed in God’s great love and grace. That is what makes us His pleasure, His joy, His children.

Lord, help me to be more aware of who I am, made by You and not so focused on what I am trying to make myself.

Contents may shift but the bag is still full

January 2nd, 2017 by Maureen

Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. For what measure you measure, it will be measured in return to you. Luke 6:38

Anyone who has opened a new bag of chips knows that contents shifts so that while the content of the bag measured in ounces is considered full, the bag can look half empty. How we measure our resources and how we perceive that measurement determines whether we experience what we have, and what we think we have to give, as abundance or lack. And…that pressing and shaking going on in our lives might just be contents shifting to make room for more. What if the abundant life Christ has for us really is all that and a bag of chips – and the bag is bottomless?

 Lord, help me to measure by Your limitless abundance.

Bring the merry, Mary

December 22nd, 2016 by Maureen

My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. Luke 1:46

“Congratulations, kid, it’s a Messiah.”  When an unmarried, pregnant young woman uttered this song of praise, the blessing of being chosen was taking its toll on Mary’s relationship with her fiance and her standing in her community. That whole thing about giving birth in a stable probably wasn’t on Mary’s bucket list either. Christmas is going to have its inconvenient and awkward moments. Like Mary we can choose to embrace the absolute wonder of “getting to” participate in celebrating God’s truly good news of love and goodwill,or we choose an attitude of “having to” endure the inconveniences and disruption. Hint: “getting to” keeps the Merry in Christmas.

My soul magnifies the Lord!

You can’t “fix” Christmas…and you don’t need to

December 21st, 2016 by Maureen

Glory in the highest to God, and on earth peace, among men — good will. Luke 2:14 (YLT)

So many Christians feel a specific obligation to “fix” Christmas and to “fix” the people we see at Christmas. This very attitude can rob us and the people around us of peace and goodwill. If Jesus is the reason for the season and God sent angels to announce His birth as a message of God’s peace and good will, how does criticizing secular Christmas entertainment, decorations, or traditions, resenting the winter holidays of other religions, bemoaning the commercialization of Christmas, or insisting on a “purist” position that challenges the authenticity or appropriateness of celebrating Christmas at all promote peace and goodwill? I’m still trying to wrap my head around that one preacher who went to a mall and told little children who were in line to see Santa that Santa isn’t real.  Dear, well-meaning fellow Christians. Stop it. Just adore Him. Peace, love, Christmas.

Glory to You, O Lord, show us how to greet this time of year with Your peace and goodwill toward others. All others.

the wonders of Christmas go to 11

December 14th, 2016 by Maureen

Simeon to Mary: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” Luke 2:33

Jesus is often misunderstood and misrepresented. His message, meaning, motives, His divinity and humanity, and the implications of Jesus as Savior does not fit well with human egos and agendas. His free restorative grace upsets the human desire for justice and retribution. His free gift of salvation upsets the human desire to be self-sufficient and to prove our own worth. His love is sometimes twisted, resisted, or rejected because of our perspectives and presuppositions. Yet, wonder of Christmas wonders, the power of His love, joy, and peace so reflects our deepest needs and desires, that we declare a season to celebrate those ideas even though many of us may not yet consciously interact with God, the Source of all these good things.

Lord, turn our hearts and thoughts to Your perspective and Your joys.

Peace is the 8th wonder of Christmas

December 8th, 2016 by Maureen

Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace. Luke 1:78

Peace can seem elusive. Our nagging concerns, our serious issues, our great sorrows can rob us of sleep and assurance and even cast shadows on what should be happy times. Even with all we face, most of us live pretty comfortable lives. It is easy to forget that elsewhere on earth people live in what must seem like a constant state of fear and darkness. This the stuff that Jesus came to overcome. In His bright arms there is no shadow, only peace and rest. Our situations might not immediately change (or ever change) but things get better because we experience His light and peace.

Lord, let Your light break upon all of us. Show us how to use our arms, our words, our love,  and our prayers to envelop those in dark places with Your light and peace.