Advent Day 12: Read: Luke 12

As I reflect on this chapter, the overwhelming question that comes to mind is this: On whom or what do I depend? Where do I turn when life is chaotic?

Jesus challenges his listeners to consider the trajectory of their lives. Dependence on self and what I can accomplish will, in the end, not be enough. Whether I depend on myself to defend the gospel or to provide for my daily needs, it will not be sufficient. It will seem wise, but ultimately fall short of the richness of the life promised by Jesus.

These phrases catch my attention today:

  1. for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what needs to be said. v 12
  2. Life is not measured by how much you own…a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God. vv 15, 21
  3. Seek the kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need. v 31
  4. You must be ready all the time, for the Son of Man will come when least expected. v 40
  5. You fools! You know how to interpret the weather signs of the earth and sky, but you don’t know how to interpret the present times. v 56

On whom do I DEPEND? May my dependence be more and more on the One who truly is dependable.

Advent Day 11: Read: Luke 11

Jesus was invited to the house of a Pharisee for dinner. Some of those in attendance were also religious teachers. A Pharisee was one part of the Jewish population who emphasized following the law to the most minute detail often forgetting about the intention of the law in the process. Jesus often clashed with the Pharisees for this reason.

Jesus wasn’t the best dinner guest by social standards. Read verses 37-53 to see for yourself. One of the religious leaders even spoke up, telling Jesus that he had offended them. Probably because they were responsible to teach the law and Jesus said they were getting it wrong. Essentially, he told them they were learning the words of the law but forgetting about the heart of the law.

As I read this, I wonder what Jesus would say if he was a dinner guest in my home. Of course, I want to believe that he would praise me for offering hospitality and thank me for giving selflessly of my time and resources. But, would he?

Here is what always draws me up short…Jesus spoke the harshest words to the religious people of the day. He showed the most compassion to those the religious establishments pushed away and called unclean. I have to ask myself – where do I fall? Am I easing the burdens of the people I encounter or am I weighing down others with burdens that would be impossible to bear? Do I have a check list of criteria others must meet or do I receive them with open arms just as they are?

It’s an important question for me to answer. I bet it is for you too.

Advent Day 10: Read: Luke 10 (or at least verses 38-42)

This chapter concludes with Jesus’ visit to the home of Martha and Mary. It appears that Martha was the one who extended the invitation to Jesus and his disciples to come and eat in her home. When Jesus arrived, Martha busied herself preparing the meal while Mary sat with Jesus and his disciples to listen to Jesus’ teaching.

In my mind, I imagine the scene. Honestly, I would be Martha working hard in the kitchen, all the while wanting to be sitting at Jesus’ feet. But I would feel responsible for making sure the meal was well prepared and presented with precision.

Our family likes to have a dinner together at least once a month. I confess that on more than one occasion, I found myself seriously frustrated. Why? The children and their spouses came and grabbed an appetizer and/or drink and went to the living room to play with our granddaughters and chat about their lives. I was in the kitchen busily finishing meal preparation, completely missing out on the fun conversation that was happening. I found myself saying right along with Martha, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister (read children) just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her (them) to come and help me.” Luke 10:40

After several of these frustrating events, I changed my approach and did one of two things. Either I worked really hard in advance to have the meal prepped and mostly ready so I could join my family in the living room. Or I divided the meal responsibility with my children and we prepared the meal together. This moved the friendly banter and catching up to the kitchen.

When I read about Mary and Martha, I can’t help but think about holiday gatherings that will take place over the next number of weeks. Perhaps the lesson I learn from Jesus’ admonition is to place value on what is truly important. Connecting with family and friends is more important than what we eat. I have to ask myself how I can make the food simpler so I don’t miss important conversations.

This seems really practical and yet it is this kind of conflict that ruins a gathering of great a potential.

But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details. There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Luke 10:41-42

How about you? Do you relate best with Martha or Mary? What can you do to make your holiday gatherings the best they can be?

Advent Day 9: Read: Luke 9

I want to draw your attention to verses 23-25 in this chapter of the Gospel of Luke. Jesus says in order to be his follower we must turn away from our selfish ways. There is no benefit to gain the whole world and yet lose our soul.

Henri Nouwen puts it a little differently. He says in order to live a life of compassion, we have to die to our neighbor. By this he means that we die to what they think about us, how they might judge us, giving up measuring our worth and value by the yardstick of others.

So, how are these two similar? If we are constantly concerned about what others think about us, if we measure ourselves by the achievements of others, if we stand in judgment of others, we are enslaved to them. If we die to them, and ultimately to our own ideas of what is good, we are free to live for Christ. We are free to show compassion in world changing ways. If only we die to our neighbors and our self at the same time.

How do you need to die to your neighbor today (dying to yourself and taking up your cross in the process) and live for Jesus? What keeps you from letting go of the yardstick of the world?

Advent Day 8: Read: Luke 8

Jesus and his disciples decided to cross the Sea of Galilee one afternoon. The lake is situated in such a way that the winds come down upon it in sudden, unexpected ways creating dangerous storms. And that is what happened this day, except Jesus was taking a nap. Fearing for their lives, the disciples wake Jesus. After all, it would be cruel to let a sleeping man die in a storm. Jesus rebuked the wind and waves and the sea became calm. Turning to the disciples he asked them, “Where is your faith?”

Where is your faith? Have you misplaced it, lost it among the debris of every day living? Some days I fly about as if there is no God in heaven and I desperately strive to do all of life on my own, as if I have misplaced my faith. If only I could find it.

Where is your faith? Do you even know what you trust in? Some days, I trust myself and what I can do more than I trust God. I don’t consult him, I don’t confide in him, I don’t confess his name. If only my faith didn’t waver.

I love the song by Bethel Music, “It is Well.” There is a phrase in the song that says, “The waves and wind still know his name!” I turn here time and time again to renew my faith in the God who never fails.

It’s worth taking 6 minutes to listen here!

May your Sunday be filled with faith-filled moments and a renewal of your trust in the One who still commands the wind and waves!

Advent Day 7: Read: Luke 7

Compassion. Jesus’ compassion is remarkable and stand out in this chapter. I want to draw your attention to two verses.

The chapter begins with a Roman officer asking Jesus to come and heal his slave. The respected Jewish leaders appealed to Jesus’ sense of justice saying the man “deserved” to have his servant healed.

But Jesus doesn’t heal based on what we deserve. He heals the slave because the Roman officer had faith.

Fast forward to the end of the chapter and you find Jesus eating dinner in the home of a Pharisee. An immoral woman comes and begins to wash his feet, wiping them with her hair and anointing him with expensive perfume. The host is appalled that Jesus would let her touch him. After all, she doesn’t “deserve” his attention.

Jesus turns it upside down, telling the host a story to emphasize that forgiveness isn’t based on what one deserves. He forgives the woman because of her faith.

Perhaps you are in a place where you don’t feel like you ‘deserve’ attention from Jesus. If you evaluate yourself according to the criteria of the world, you are probably right. But then, none of us deserve the kindness and compassion of the God of the universe. But Jesus doesn’t respond according to the criteria of the world. He has his own criteria and there is only one thing on his list – is there faith or not?

And that’s it folks!

Advent Day 6: Read: Luke 6

This is a powerhouse chapter! But I am limiting myself to one observation, so this is it!

Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven. 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. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.”

Luke 6:37-38

When I read this today, I heard: you get what you give.

If I am liberal in judgment about others and stingy with forgiveness, that is what I will get in return. But if I withhold judgment, thinking the best instead; and I am generous with forgiveness, even without being asked – I will receive the same in return. But not in the same measure that I gave. I will receive in abundance, pressed down, shaken together, running over.

Yes siree! I will take that!

How about you? Do you experience judgment and grudges or acceptance and forgiveness? Maybe it needs to start in our own hearts toward others before we receive it ourselves.

Just a thought!

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, for the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted

Isaiah 61:1

Advent – Day 5: Read: Luke 5

Today I became reaquainted with the term “compassion fatigue.” It is what happens when you spend a large portion of time focusing on the needs of others and, as a result, become desensitized to the needs around you. I admit, that is my paraphrase.

It seems Jesus would have experienced compassion fatigue. There were so many people clamoring to get close, even going to the extremes of cutting through a roof.

But he doesn’t. I am stirred by his response to the leper in chapter 5. The text tells us that the man had “an advanced case of leprosy.” As leprosy advances, the afflicted person loses fingers and toes, and becomes disfigured in the face and body.

As Jesus approached the leper, the text says he bowed his head to the ground and asked Jesus to heal him. Did he bow in reverence or to hide his disfigured face? How often was he humiliated for being in a public place? How long had it been since he had been touched by anyone?

But Jesus TOUCHED HIM! He did the thing no one else would do, and he reached out and touched the man. He didn’t need to touch him to heal him. He only needed to speak the words which he did. Perhaps it is his words that healed the man’s body, but his touch healed the man’s spirit.

Do you feel untouchable? Ostracized? Alienated? Brokenhearted? Cry out to Jesus. His touch will heal your broken heart. He longs to gather you into his arms and comfort you with his love.

Oh yes, one last thought. I believe the reason Jesus didn’t experience compassion fatigue is because he exercised good self-care. Scripture tells us he often withdrew to solitary places for prayer. He knew the value of solitude and lonely places. If you are weary of the needs surrounding you, perhaps you need to step away and practice good self-care.

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, for the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed. He has sent me to tell those who mourn that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.

Isaiah 61:1-2

Advent – Day 4: Read: Luke 4

Wow! This is a powerful chapter. Where does one begin? Since I am limiting myself to one observation, I am going to summarize this chapter with the word power!

In 4:1 it says, Jesus came from the Jordan River full of the Holy Spirit where he was led into the desert. In the desert, the enemy tempts him to shortcut his mission on earth – just like he did Adam and Eve – but Jesus overcomes because he was full of the power of the Holy Spirit.

In 4:14, Jesus goes to Galilee from the desert filled with the Holy Spirit. Here he encounters opposition from his hometown friends, but that doesn’t stop him from declaring his mission loud and proud. And he can do that because he spent time with the Holy Spirit and is filled with power!

In 4:42, Jesus goes off alone to a solitary place. So solitary, in fact, that the people have a hard time finding him. Whenever Jesus is off by himself in a solitary place it is to pray, to be filled with power from the Holy Spirit.

Jesus began his public ministry filled with power, he proclaimed truth with power and he knew he had to stay close to his Father to remain powerful.

Well, I’m not doing a great job. Too often I think I can catch a bit of the Holy Spirit on the way, missing out on the fullness of what he wants for me if only I stop in that solitary place.

How about you? What stands out to you in this chapter? Do you find it difficult to stop in quietness to be refreshed by the Spirit of God so you can go out filled with power?

But in that day, the branch of the Lord will be beautiful and glorious;

Isaiah 4:2a

Advent – Day 3: Read: Luke 3

As I read this chapter, it seems to me it can be summarized in one word: preparation.

John the Baptist is preparing the way for the Messiah preaching repentance from sins and baptizing with water.

The crowds are preparing their hearts through repentance and baptism, but also by asking, “What should we do?” John’s instructions are so practical: share with the poor, be honest in business, be content with your pay.

Jesus prepares for ministry by submitting to water baptism and receiving the anointing of the Holy Spirit.

Is preparing my heart for Jesus much more practical than I thought? Perhaps the thing I lack is generosity, integrity and contentment in abundance. Generosity with my time, talents and resources; integrity in the use of these resources and contentment in spite of my limitations.

How are you preparing so you don’t miss the coming of the Lord this Advent season? How would you answer the question: “What must I do?”

Note on the picture: this is my brother in-law being baptized in the Jordan River a few weeks ago. The rainbow just appeared in the picture – a beautiful sign of the presence of God.