From the Cutting Room: Luke 4

We are currently working our way through the book of Luke at my church. This past Sunday we dove into Luke 4. The problem was that there was too much information that I wanted to share so I had to cut a bunch of stuff from my message! Here’s a little bit that didn’t make the cut:

As we dive into Luke four, we get this amazing snapshot of the temptation of Jesus Christ. Jesus was tempted. He was really and truly tempted! That tells us that temptation itself is not a sin. Satan has lied to some of us and we’ve believed that just because we’ve been tempted, we’re already defeated. That’s not true! Jesus was tempted and did not sin. We too can face temptation and experience victory instead of defeat.

Thomas Brooks, a Puritan author, wrote a book called Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices. What a great name for a book! I’m thinking I should write a book called Precious Remedies for Church Planters Facing Discouragement. Anyways- Brooks uses this amazing analogy. He says that temptation is nothing more than bait on a hook. All the fisherman out there will get this! When you are fishing, the goal is to reel that fish in. You will use whatever bait that you think will work the best to catch that fish.

Satan will come to you as he came to Jesus and he will bait your hook with whatever it is that will be the most tempting to you: food, sex, money, security, comfort, whatever it might be. Whatever it is, he’ll use it to bait his hook. His entire goal is to give you whatever you so desperately want so that you take a big bite of the bait, so that the hook gets embedded in your mouth. Then the the Devil can reel you in toward death. The problem is that people ignore the hook and only focus on the bait.

See, Satan, if he came to you and said, “I would like you to experience divorce or gluttony or obesity or drunkenness or drug addiction or ruined family relationships due to gossip or bitterness,” no one would bite down on that hook! No way! But our enemy is crafty. He finds ways to bait those hooks with whatever it takes to get us to take a bite. 

Satan will use use things that all of us would agree are “good things” as bait. We can guess from the tactics that the devil uses that perhaps Jesus is struggling with what it means to do God’s will and bring about His purposes. The first temptation is not only personal but has a social justice slant: Will Jesus’ ministry be one of turning stones to bread to meet people’s physical needs? That’s a good thing, right? Feeding people and taking care of their physical needs?

The second temptation has a political angle. Will Jesus submit to the rulers of the world in order to achieve good for the people of this world? Don’t the ends justify the means? It MUST be ok to overlook a politician’s character flaws because they promise to help move forward our political agenda, right?

The third temptation is religious. Will Jesus win over Jerusalem and the Jewish people by works and miracles, thus avoiding the terrible scandal of death on the cross? It would be a whole lot easier to avoid all that blood and substitutionary atonement talk! A good religious show is much easier to market! 

The devil will often tempt us with good things that get in the way of our true purpose. Feeding hungry people and meeting people’s physical needs? That’s great! Bringing justice through political religious coalitions- good stuff! Supernatural signs- great! But all were distractions from Jesus’ primary purpose. He came to live the life we could not live, to die the death we should have died, to pay the price we owed so that we can be saved from the CURSE of sin and welcomed into a COVENANT relationship with God our CREATOR.

The serpent didn’t temp Eve in the garden with the temptation to be like the devil. The serpent tempted Eve with the offer to be like GOD.

Are there good things that the devil is using in your life to distract you from your true purpose? Are there things that the devil is using as bait to get you to swallow a hook that he will use to reel you in to certain death?

With Jesus’ help- you can RESIST temptation! You can experience victory and freedom!

Building Legos, Building Children

I sat on the floor with my three year old son, surrounded my thousands and thousands of little LEGO pieces.  “Wow!”, I thought to myself, “this is a pretty daunting task!” We were attempting to rebuild my X-Wing LEGO starfighter from 1999.  The problem was that the X-Wing pieces had been mixed in with thousands and thousands of other loose pieces.  Bummer.

It requires a LOT of patience to build something like that!  You need to keep your eye on the instruction book while at the same time keep an eye on what you are building and never lose focus of the end result- that you are trying to build something special.

As we tried to put that spaceship back together, I realized something.  Raising kids takes a lot of patience too! As my wife and I parent Joshua and Rebecca, we need to keep our eyes on our instruction book (the Bible) and also keep an eye on the unique children we are raising.  We also need to remember that we are doing something special here: we aren’t just trying to raise good, moral kids.  We want to raise kids that become adults who are passionate followers of Jesus.  Adults who are empowered by the Holy Spirit to do Kingdom work.  Adults who use their gifts and talents to help make disciples who make disciples.  Adults who become godly parents themselves someday and continue this great heritage of faith that my wife and I inherited from our parents.

But today, its enough to acknowledge that raising kids takes a TON of patience!  We may not have all the pieces… but its OK.  God is helping us form and shape these little angels/monsters into beautiful works of art.

Its enough for today.

Success! We did it!

Success! We did it!

Someday, Someday

401813_10150746296727790_734632789_11388704_1686303331_nThis world is not our home.  I’m reminded of that whenever I or someone close to me experiences pain and trouble.  Things aren’t the way they are supposed to be.

But someday…someday…God is going to right every wrong.  Someday, all the poor and powerless will be invited to sit down at a great feast in the presence of God.  Someday, every tear will be wiped away and we no longer experience pain and suffering and loss.

Normally, I do my devotional Bible reading in the ESV version.  But this week, I’ve also been doing some reading in the Message version.  I love how Eugene Peterson translates Psalm 22:25-29-

Here in this great gathering for worship
I have discovered this praise-life.
And I’ll do what I promised right here
in front of the God-worshipers.
Down-and-outers sit at God’s table
and eat their fill.
Everyone on the hunt for God
is here, praising him.
“Live it up, from head to toe.
Don’t ever quit!”

From the four corners of the earth
people are coming to their senses,
are running back to God.
Long-lost families
are falling on their faces before him.
God has taken charge;
from now on he has the last word.

All the power-mongers are before him
All the poor and powerless, too
Along with those who never got it together

Amen!  God will have the last word.  Someday, someday, we will find our true home.

Reflections on the Psalms: Psalm 23 Part 3

These past two weeks I’ve shared some thoughts on Psalm 23.  Today, I want to look at the final section of this great song of David.

psalm-23Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever. –Psalm 23:5-6 (KJV)

There’s something very poetic about the way the King James Version translates the Psalms.  However, I also really enjoy the way the Message (Eugene Peterson) translates these great thoughts:

Your beauty and love chase after me
 every day of my life.
 I’m back home in the house of God
 for the rest of my life. -Psalm 23:6 (Message)

In section one of this psalm, we saw that the LORD is our Shepherd.  In section two, we saw that the LORD is our Guide.  In this final section, David wants us to see that the LORD is also our Good Host.

The LORD is the host at a banquet prepared for his child.  Before entering the banquet hall, the host would anoint the honored guest with oil  (Luke 7:46) made by adding perfumes to olive oil.

God is pictured as caring for my needs in the midst of the evil forces that attempt to destroy my life and my soul.

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?…No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. -Romans 8:31, 37-39 (ESV)

The good news is that there is room for all of us at God’s table.  And he freely shares with all.  I may eat at the LORD’s table in faith, fully at peace and protected by the shed blood and broken body of the Good Shepherd Jesus.

The talk of a feast anticipates a victory celebration, where the enemies are present as captives; or an accession feast with defeated rivals as reluctant guests.

But the prospect is better than just a feast!  In the Old Testament world, to eat and drink at someone’s table created a bond of mutual loyalty and could be the culminating token of a covenant (Exodus 24:8-12 and 1 Cor. 11:25).

Jesus invites us into that covenant relationship with him.  Not on the basis of what we have done, but because of what he has done for us.  Jesus laid down his life so that we could enter into covenant with God.  Despite all our failures and despite everything we face in this world, we are invited to join Jesus at his Father’s table.

Here’s the good news for us: 

Its about being more than just God’s acquaintance, invited to come for the day.  It is to LIVE with Him.  It is the end of a long pilgrimage.  A coming home.

Reflections on the Psalms: Psalm 23 Part 2

psalm-23I love the Psalms.  They are such rich, authentic prayers by real, broken people.  Last week, I shared some reflections on the first part of Psalm 23.  Today, I want to look at the middle section of Psalm 23.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. –Psalm 23:4 (KJV)

1.) In times of trouble, God wants us to go from talking about him to praying to him.

At this crucial moment of terror in the valley of the shadow, David turns to God and instead of speaking about God, he prays directly to him. God- its your rod and its your staff that comfort me.

Its so easy to talk about our problems to other people and to forget to actually turn to God in prayer, and share with him our fears and worries.  God wants us to be in relationship with him and to trust him.  This starts with being open and honest with God.

2.) The Dark Valleys are a part of God’s Plan

As I reflected on this part of the Psalm, I’ve realized that the the dark valley is as much a part of God’s “right paths” as are the green pastures.  Just because we find ourselves in a uncertain and scary time of life, it doesn’t mean that we are out of God’s will.  Our loving shepherd is right there beside us- even when we face darkness and trouble. I pray that this gives you (and me!) comfort when we find ourselves in tough times.

A friend recently pointed out to me the story in Matthew 14 where Jesus sends his disciples into the storm.  They found themselves in a very scary situation- where the waves were tossing them and they were uncertain about what was going on.  However- Jesus sent them there so that they could witness his glory when he walked on water and calmed the storm.  Sometimes, Jesus sends us into the storm so that we can learn to trust him more and so that he can be glorified.

3.) God’s rod and staff comfort

David, who was a shepherd in his younger years, uses shepherd imagery quite well. Typically, a shepherd had a couple of tools at his disposal.  The “rod” is a short club that is a weapon of defense or discipline; a cudgel worn at the belt.  It symbolizes God’s strength, power, and authority.

The “staff” is a long slender stick with a hook on one end.  It is used to draw a sheep close the the Shepherd, guide it in the right way or rescue it from trouble.  God’s rod and staff reassure us of God’s love and guidance in our lives. They were used to walk with and to round up the flock.

God both disciplines and guides those he loves.  We can be confident that Jesus, the Good Shepherd, knows what is best for us.

Whatever you’re facing today- talk to God about it.  And remember that just because you are in the valley, it doesn’t mean that you are outside of where God wants you to be.  He is with you.  There is no reason to fear. He is with you.

He is with you.

Reflections on the Psalms: 23rd Psalm

slide-02The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Psalm 23:1-3 (KJV)

This is probably the most well known chapter in the Bible.  John 3:16 takes the prize for the most well known verse, but when you are talking about a whole chapter, almost everyone is familiar with Psalms 23.  Even in scary movies, they will quote it: yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil…

I love that this chapter has troubles and goodness in the same passage.
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