JOY

Luke and The Lost and Found

What brings pure joy to our lives? Is it winning a prize, paying off debt, or accomplishing a challenging task? These will bring personal joy, but is it a joy to be shared with others? How will others respond to our joy? How do we respond to the joy of others when they have succeeded in life?

Now, let’s go a step farther in our evaluative thinking. Are we truly joyful when a lot of effort and time is spent trying to lead others to find and follow Jesus? Are we jealous when parties of joy are thrown when the vilest of sinners come to know the Lord? Do we celebrate with all our heart and soul? Or do we hold back our joy and allow our minds to suspiciously wonder how long their salvation will last for they did not grow up like you did in the church with knowing all the commandments and rules.

The Parable of the Lost Coin is one of the parables of Jesus. In it, a woman searches for a lost coin, finds it, and rejoices. It is a member of a trilogy on redemption that Jesus tells after the Pharisees and religious leaders accuse him of welcoming and eating with “sinners.”

In this second “lost and found” parable, we find Jesus explaining that His salvation will be for all mankind. All sinners are in need of a Savior and He will provide the Way to redemption. What is their response? Joy? No, the Pharisees were not at all pleased. They murmured (gossiped) among themselves. They were disgusted at Jesus welcoming the “least of these” and giving to them what they thought they were entitled to alone because of their heritage. Their grumbling triggered this second story….

Luke 15 lost coin found

Luke 15, The Message
The Story of the Lost Coin
8-10 “Or imagine a woman who has ten coins and loses one. Won’t she light a lamp and scour the house, looking in every nook and cranny until she finds it? And when she finds it you can be sure she’ll call her friends and neighbors: ‘Celebrate with me! I found my lost coin!’ Count on it—that’s the kind of party God’s angels throw every time one lost soul turns to God.”

What is Jesus trying to tell the religious of his day? And our day?
–Celebrate WITH Me! The lost are being found and saved by Me, says Jesus.
–The silver coin represents a lost soul plunged into the dirt of the world. It shouldn’t just stay there. It must be found!
–Great pains were taken to recover the lost coin. She lights a candle to look in all the dark places, behind the door, under the table, and in the dirt floor of her cottage. She does not give up until she finds it.
–God does not give up on us. He uses various means and methods to bring lost souls home to himself. The candle is the light of His gospel to show us the way back to Him. He sweeps our hearts clean. He calls all of heaven to join him in a celebration of joy that we cannot imagine. Joy unspeakable and full of glory.
–The worst sinner who is finally found produces the greatest joy in heaven!
–This is not a time to be jealous or suspicious of the “found” but a time to rejoice with Jesus.
–From Matthew Henry, “While there is life there is hope, and the worst of sinners, if they repent and turn, shall find mercy. Yet this is not all, God will delight to show them mercy, will reckon their conversion a return for all the expense he has spent upon them. There is always joy in heaven. God rejoices in all his works, but particularly in the works of his grace. He rejoices to do good to penitent sinners, with his whole heart and his whole soul.”

Mm….Now if there is such joy in heaven, for the conversion of sinners, then the Pharisees were very much strangers to a heavenly spirit, who did all they could to hinder it and were grieved by it. They were exasperated at Christ when he was doing a piece of work that was, by all others, most grateful to Heaven.

Do we hinder the spirit with our attitudes about the lost being found? Do we truly celebrate with all our hearts, minds and souls when the worst of sinners comes to accept the grace of our Lord? Do we growl and grumble at the dollars and time spent on the lost? Are we more concerned with maintenance of the building, the grounds, the parking lot, keeping the traditions of each holiday intact no matter what it costs, the carpet color, the buffing of the floor and the paint on the walls? OR do are we concerned deeply and passionately about the saving and restoration of souls? All souls.

Dear Heavenly Father, It is good to take stock and evaluate our own thinking, attitudes and behavior. Most of us cry tears of joy and celebrate with applause when the lost are saved by you. Help us to always avoid the Pharisee-like grumbling when it comes to time and effort spent on helping the lost find You. Cleanse us, O Lord. Sweep out all the dark places of our thinking. We celebrate with You!
In Jesus Name, Amen

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RESCUED

Luke and The Lost

There seemed to be millions of cars and trucks speeding past on the expressway from Oklahoma City to Shawnee that day. We had received a frantic call that Randy’s grandmother was taken to the emergency room and it didn’t look good. We were young parents with toddlers at the time. We jumped up, grabbed what we thought we might need quickly, strapped down our kiddos and took off in our old Nova.

About halfway there, the car sputtered, slowed, ready to quit running so Randy pulled it over on the shoulder of the highway. Out of gas. We didn’t check the gas gauge before leaving. We didn’t think of that in the rush. We needed a rescue.

Back in the day before cell phones, there was this invention called a CB radio. We had one. Randy called out for help. Truckers are on them all the time so we knew someone might hear us. I prayed. No help was coming. I know this is going to sound weird, but I asked Randy to let me try. A woman’s voice might get more action. It did. A car full of suspicious looking characters, in our eyes, pulled over immediately. “Need gas?” they said. “We can drive you to the next station to get gas and bring you right back.” Randy left us and got in their car. Now, my prayers were stronger and more intense. “Lord, keep him safe and bring him back.”

What seemed like hours, but just minutes, Randy was back with a gallon of fuel for the car. We were rescued. What a relief! I could breathe again. We were elated. The kids clapped to have daddy back with us! We thanked our rescuers over and over again. We thanked God who sent them. We were back to our mission of getting to the hospital. That is one of numerous times God provided a rescue for us, both physically and spiritually. God always has a heart for lost people. God provides a rescue.

God sent Jesus, who was suspicious in his looks and nature to religious leaders, to seek and to rescue those lost without hope, salvation, redemption, joy. Jesus left the walls of the synagogue and meeting places to find them. He left the “sheep herd” who said they knew God, to find those who didn’t know God and were lost in the world. After a few rescues, lost people began to hang out with Him, Jesus Christ, Son of God, because they were now found. Those precious souls, of suspicious nature and looks, were rescued and they knew it. They brought other lost people to Him!

Jesus shares three “lost” stories to explain to the religious elite at the time what being lost and found, rescued and redeemed looks like and what it means to God. Read on…measure every word with thought about today’s world. This is “lost” story number one.

Luke 15 rejoice

Luke 15, The Message
The Story of the Lost Sheep
1-3 By this time a lot of men and women of doubtful reputation were hanging around Jesus, listening intently. The Pharisees and religion scholars were not pleased, not at all pleased. They growled, “He takes in sinners and eats meals with them, treating them like old friends.” Their grumbling triggered this story.

4-7 “Suppose one of you had a hundred sheep and lost one. Wouldn’t you leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the lost one until you found it? When found, you can be sure you would put it across your shoulders, rejoicing, and when you got home call in your friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Celebrate with me! I’ve found my lost sheep!’ Count on it—there’s more joy in heaven over one sinner’s rescued life than over ninety-nine good people in no need of rescue.

Think about it…
–Heaven rejoices and praises God every time a lost one is found. Every. Time.
–Hanging around Jesus in thought, hearing His Words, accepting His Truth, learning to think like him will cause you to take part in the rescue of pointing others to Christ, the Rescuer.
–Jesus saves. We just point people in the right direction toward Him….not us.
–We who are rescued bring others who need rescued to Him.
–Don’t be obstinate sheep!

Dear Heavenly Father, 
Thank you, thank you, thank you for rescuing me. When I was lost and wandering, you found me, threw me on your shoulders and you won’t let me go. Now help me to point others in your direction with my testimony and Your Truth. 
In Jesus Name, Amen

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WALKING ALONG WITH JESUS…

Luke and The Lost

What would it have been like to physically walk along the road behind or beside Jesus? Imagine it. You are there because there is something about Him that draws you to follow Him. You don’t want to miss a word of what He is saying. You wonder what He will say next. You lean in to make sure it is Jesus who is talking. You hang on every word and take it in like a starved child.

Sometimes Jesus says things you don’t understand completely, so you ask questions for clarity. He is more than willing to explain and He does it with stories that give examples of how to live life here on earth. He looks right into your eyes and talks to your heart, mind and soul, as if you are the only one standing there. But you are not, there is a crowd around you walking along with Jesus, too. Many want to hear Jesus and follow Him.

So, Jesus takes this opportunity, in the middle of walking along the road, to tell the crowd of individuals what it will mean to forever follow Him. He gives another story example to get the point across. “Are you listening?”, Jesus says…”Really listening?”

Luke 14 along the road with Jesus

Luke 14, The Message
Figure the Cost
25-27 One day when large groups of people were walking along with him, Jesus turned and told them, “Anyone who comes to me but refuses to let go of father, mother, spouse, children, brothers, sisters—yes, even one’s own self!—can’t be my disciple. Anyone who won’t shoulder his own cross and follow behind me can’t be my disciple.

28-30 “Is there anyone here who, planning to build a new house, doesn’t first sit down and figure the cost so you’ll know if you can complete it? If you only get the foundation laid and then run out of money, you’re going to look pretty foolish. Everyone passing by will poke fun at you: ‘He started something he couldn’t finish.’

31-32 “Or can you imagine a king going into battle against another king without first deciding whether it is possible with his ten thousand troops to face the twenty thousand troops of the other? And if he decides he can’t, won’t he send an emissary and work out a truce?

33 “Simply put, if you’re not willing to take what is dearest to you, whether plans or people, and kiss it good-bye, you can’t be my disciple.

34 “Salt is excellent. But if the salt goes flat, it’s useless, good for nothing.

“Are you listening to this? Really listening?”

Going deeper…Counting the cost…
–We must be okay when our own parents, brothers, sisters, cousins make fun of us or even disown us because of our faith in Jesus.
–We have to be willing to not only take it but let go of them and keep following Jesus.
–Count the cost realistically knowing that what we hold dearest to our hearts we must let go and place in His Hands.
–How tasty is our faith? Are we salty follower who point people to Jesus?
–Are we walking along the road of this life, hanging on to every word of Jesus?
–Are we really listening? This is serious. Jesus is serious. We are either following Him completely….or not.
–God is our strength when we fully rely on Him.

“The eyes of the Lord search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.” 
2 Chronicles 16:9

Dear Heavenly Father, 
Thank you for your salvation through Jesus. Thank you for teaching us how to live life. Talk with us as we walk along this road with You today. We are listening.
In Jesus Name, Amen

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THERE’S STILL ROOM!

Luke and The Lost

“How fortunate the one who gets to eat dinner in God’s Kingdom!”

Luke 14, The Message

The Story of the Dinner Party
15 That triggered a response from one of the guests: “How fortunate the one who gets to eat dinner in God’s kingdom!”

16-17 Jesus followed up. “Yes. For there was once a man who threw a great dinner party and invited many. When it was time for dinner, he sent out his servant to the invited guests, saying, ‘Come on in; the food’s on the table.’

18 “Then they all began to beg off, one after another making excuses. The first said, ‘I bought a piece of property and need to look it over. Send my regrets.’

19 “Another said, ‘I just bought five teams of oxen, and I really need to check them out. Send my regrets.’

20 “And yet another said, ‘I just got married and need to get home to my wife.’

21 “The servant went back and told the master what had happened. He was outraged and told the servant, ‘Quickly, get out into the city streets and alleys. Collect all who look like they need a square meal, all the misfits and homeless and wretched you can lay your hands on, and bring them here.’

22 “The servant reported back, ‘Master, I did what you commanded—and there’s still room.’

23-24 “The master said, ‘Then go to the country roads. Whoever you find, drag them in. I want my house full! Let me tell you, not one of those originally invited is going to get so much as a bite at my dinner party.’”

Luke 14 15 dinner party

What do you think??? There’s still room!

Dear Heavenly Father,
All who are reading this might not know they are invited to Your table of mercy, grace and unconditional love. We also think of those we love who are living without you. Invite them again today. Use us, if necessary, to point them to You. Then let’s party like never before and revel in your salvation!
In Jesus Name, Amen

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BE A BLESSING

Luke and The Lost

Momma, thought it was time for me to sing a solo at church. We came from a very musical family. Grandpa led worship at our church. Either mom or Aunt Edith played the piano. Family gatherings always ended with all of us at the piano singing old favorites and trying new songs for church.

But I was scared silly. We practiced together at home for what seemed like hours to a ten year old. She played the piano as I tried to unloose my nervous voice to sing the song she chose. As an alto by nature, the song had high notes, but I sang it because it was mom’s favorite…”Make Me a Blessing”.

This song wasn’t about asking God to bless me but to use me to be a blessing to someone else. I still can picture her hands at the piano in my childhood home. I still hear the music in my ears and now fully understand the meaning of the song.

I don’t remember much about my debut as a soloist except for the loving grandparents and others who encourage and affirmed me after church. I didn’t hit all the notes and the song was not exactly belted out with gusto but in a soft whisper. They gathered around with loving hugs to bless me.

This is what comes to mind when I read Luke 14. You will see why when you read the entire passage. Jesus has been invited to the prestigious home of one of the top religious leaders of the Pharisees for a grand Sabbath meal. It seems to be an awkward moment as all eyes are on His every move. (Kind of like singing a solo for the first time!) Right before him is a man who needs healing. These very men of power have rebuked Jesus earlier for healing on the Sabbath. I wonder if the man was even planted there just to see what Jesus would do. Mm.

Before healing, Jesus makes the Pharisees think about the last time and brings them to this moment to see what they have learned from the last encounter. The only thing they learned is to not argue with Jesus…to His face. Here’s a funny thought, they think He doesn’t know what they are thinking! Ridiculous, isn’t it?

Jesus heals the man and tells another story. I love it! Jesus, who doesn’t miss anything or any thought of man, teaches those gathered at the big meal about being a blessing instead of expecting to be blessed and honored as children of God. Let’s listen in…and learn.

Luke 14 exalted

Luke 14, The Message
7-9 He went on to tell a story to the guests around the table. Noticing how each had tried to elbow into the place of honor, he said, “When someone invites you to dinner, don’t take the place of honor. Somebody more important than you might have been invited by the host. Then he’ll come and call out in front of everybody, ‘You’re in the wrong place. The place of honor belongs to this man.’ Red-faced, you’ll have to make your way to the very last table, the only place left.

10-11 “When you’re invited to dinner, go and sit at the last place. Then when the host comes he may very well say, ‘Friend, come up to the front.’ That will give the dinner guests something to talk about! What I’m saying is, If you walk around with your nose in the air, you’re going to end up flat on your face. But if you’re content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself.”

12-14 Then he turned to the host. “The next time you put on a dinner, don’t just invite your friends and family and rich neighbors, the kind of people who will return the favor. Invite some people who never get invited out, the misfits from the wrong side of the tracks. You’ll be—and experience—a blessing. They won’t be able to return the favor, but the favor will be returned—oh, how it will be returned!—at the resurrection of God’s people.”

What do we learn? 
–BE with Jesus. Then BE a blessing.

And I’m singing…(to myself)

Out in the highways and byways of life,
many are weary and sad;
are weary and sad
Carry the sunshine where darkness is rife
making the sorrowing glad.

Refrain:
Make me a blessing,
Make me a blessing,
Out of my life
out of my life
May Jesus shine;
Make me a blessing, O savior, I pray,
I pray Thee, my Savior,
Make me a blessing to someone today.

Tell the sweet story of Christ and His love;
Tell of His pow’r to forgive;
His pow’r to forgive.
Others will trust Him if only you prove
true ev’ry moment you live.

Refrain:

Give as ’twas given to you in your need;
Love as the Master loved you;
Be to the helpless a helper indeed;
Unto your mission be true.
Refrain

Help us remember that you have blessed us with all we need to be blessings even today.
In Jesus Name, I pray. Amen

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JESUS CONFIDENCE

Luke and The Lost

Confidence. We all want it. We want our children and grandchildren to have it. We know confident, unwavering people are successful in what they do. But what does confidence really mean? I looked it up…It is the feeling or belief that one can rely on someone or something; firm trust. Example: “we had every confidence in the staff”. Synonyms: trust, belief, faith, credence, conviction. Example: “I have little confidence in these figures”

It is the state of feeling certain about the truth of something. Example: “it is not possible to say with confidence how much of the increase in sea levels is due to melting glaciers”. It is a feeling of self-assurance arising from one’s appreciation of one’s own abilities or qualities. Example: “she’s brimming with confidence”.

What are we confident or sure of these days? Who do we listen to most and often? Who do we have confidence in and believe in? Do we live with this confidence? Do we have JESUS confidence?

Why all this talk about confidence? As we come to the end of Luke 13, we see Jesus Christ answering drama with full confidence because He is Truth! He confides to the Pharisees, who shout, “run for your life, Herod’s out to kill you!” with His mission statement. He reminds those around Him (including those who should KNOW the Scripture) of what the prophets have said about Him. Nothing rattles Jesus. He is the Son of God! Blessed is He who comes in the Name of God!

Luke 31 Jesus confidence

Luke 13, The Message
31 Just then some Pharisees came up and said, “Run for your life! Herod’s on the hunt. He’s out to kill you!”

32-35 Jesus said, “Tell that fox that I’ve no time for him right now. Today and tomorrow I’m busy clearing out the demons and healing the sick; the third day I’m wrapping things up. Besides, it’s not proper for a prophet to come to a bad end outside Jerusalem.

Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killer of prophets,
abuser of the messengers of God!
How often I’ve longed to gather your children,
gather your children like a hen,
Her brood safe under her wings—
but you refused and turned away!
And now it’s too late: You won’t see me again
until the day you say,
‘Blessed is he
who comes in
the name of God.’”

Think about Truth and the Promises of God so we can build a confidence that cannot be shaken…
–Tell evil you have no time for him.
–Ask Jesus to defeat the foe within you that continuously pokes holes in your confidence in Christ, in Jesus Name. And He will!
–Remember the Truth and invite Truth to live in You.
–Our confidence is in Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives in those who believe.
–Promises of confidence: (Just a few to get you started!)
“The LORD is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with
you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be
dismayed.” Deuteronomy 31:8

“Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about
you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help
you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”
Isaiah 41:10

“I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angles, nor
principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor
powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will
be able to separate us for the love of God, which is in Christ
Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39

“You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them,
because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is
in the world.” I John 4:4

“This is the CONFIDENCE which we have before Him, that, if
we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.”
I John 5:14

Thy will be done! 
In Jesus Name, Amen! I believe.

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HOW CAN I PICTURE GOD’S KINGDOM?

Luke and The Lost

It was a grand weekend of listening to a powerful, spirit led speaker and worship music that filled our souls with praise for God. I was one of the organizers, helped in the kitchen, helped lead worship, and made the speaker comfortable. I had also invited my best friend who had not accepted Christ…yet. In the busyness, I noticed that the Holy Spirit was softening my friends heart with the messages. There were tears in her eyes as we lined up for lunch. I went to her and was about to talk with her about Jesus when details called me away. Missed opportunity. I will regret it for the rest of my life. God gave me another opportunity with her later, but I will always regret THAT one.

Jesus is teaching in the meeting place. He sees a woman who needs His touch. He stops what He is doing and heals her. The church leaders go wild with anger saying he disobeyed God’s law of no work on the Sabbath. Jesus refocuses their thoughts and actions on what the Kingdom of God is really supposed to be.

Each day is filled with possibilities and opportunities to help others find and follow Jesus. This is the picture of Kingdom living God’s way. If we focus less on the details and stay tenaciously focused on Jesus, He will show us these times to stop and offer His love to someone else. It might be just a smile to a face twisted and lined with worry over a challenging situation. It might saying “you’re doing a great work here” to a store associate just trying to eek out a living. It might be showing patience and kindness to others who are angry as they stand in line to wait. It might be praying with a woman at Sam’s Club because she broke down to tell you she is going through a divorce while admiring jackets on sale. (Yep, that happened last week.) Start with the day to day and then God will move us on to more intense Kingdom work. God will lead us. God will bless the small stuff. His Holy Spirit will always give us the words to say at the right time. To God be the glory for Kingdom living!

“How can I picture God’s Kingdom”, says Jesus to all of us. It might make us late to church but save the life of someone in distress. It might help us to see the world through HIS eyes. Kingdom living might make us more compassionate as we pray, “Lord, break my heart of those things that break yours.” Kingdom living is more concerned about living abundant and free from sin that entangles us and helping others to break free as well.

How can we picture God’s Kingdom? Love God. Love Others. Do this with all our heart, mind and soul. The rest of life falls into place as we serve in His ways.

Luke 13, The Message
Healing on the Sabbath
10-13 He was teaching in one of the meeting places on the Sabbath. There was a woman present, so twisted and bent over with arthritis that she couldn’t even look up. She had been afflicted with this for eighteen years. When Jesus saw her, he called her over. “Woman, you’re free!” He laid hands on her and suddenly she was standing straight and tall, giving glory to God.

14 The meeting-place president, furious because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, said to the congregation, “Six days have been defined as work days. Come on one of the six if you want to be healed, but not on the seventh, the Sabbath.”

15-16 But Jesus shot back, “You frauds! Each Sabbath every one of you regularly unties your cow or donkey from its stall, leads it out for water, and thinks nothing of it. So why isn’t it all right for me to untie this daughter of Abraham and lead her from the stall where Satan has had her tied these eighteen years?”

17 When he put it that way, his critics were left looking quite silly and red-faced. The congregation was delighted and cheered him on.

The Way to God
18-19 Then he said, “How can I picture God’s kingdom for you? What kind of story can I use? It’s like a pine nut that a man plants in his front yard. It grows into a huge pine tree with thick branches, and eagles build nests in it.”

20-21 He tried again. “How can I picture God’s kingdom? It’s like yeast that a woman works into enough dough for three loaves of bread—and waits while the dough rises.”

22 He went on teaching from town to village, village to town, but keeping on a steady course toward Jerusalem.

23-25 A bystander said, “Master, will only a few be saved?”

He said, “Whether few or many is none of your business. Put your mind on your life with God. The way to life—to God!—is vigorous and requires your total attention. A lot of you are going to assume that you’ll sit down to God’s salvation banquet just because you’ve been hanging around the neighborhood all your lives. Well, one day you’re going to be banging on the door, wanting to get in, but you’ll find the door locked and the Master saying, ‘Sorry, you’re not on my guest list.’

26-27 “You’ll protest, ‘But we’ve known you all our lives!’ only to be interrupted with his abrupt, ‘Your kind of knowing can hardly be called knowing. You don’t know the first thing about me.’

28-30 “That’s when you’ll find yourselves out in the cold, strangers to grace. You’ll watch Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all the prophets march into God’s kingdom. You’ll watch outsiders stream in from east, west, north, and south and sit down at the table of God’s kingdom. And all the time you’ll be outside looking in—and wondering what happened. This is the Great Reversal: the last in line put at the head of the line, and the so-called first ending up last.”

Luke 13 Kingdom goals

 

Think about it….
–How do you picture God’s Kingdom?
–Are we the yeast of this age, working Kingdom living into the dough and fiber of society?
–Be a difference. Love unconditionally like God loves us.

Dear Heavenly Father, You have taught us, reminded us, now help us live Your Kingdom, Your way. 
In Jesus Name, Amen

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