BLESSINGS

Luke and The Lost

“Count your many blessings, name them one by one” so the old hymn goes. I remember this song as one of my mom’s favorite songs. It had a great alto tag that built a beautiful harmony in the chorus. But what does “being blessed” mean? How deep do we go? What are we counting?

Jesus has the answer. (He always does!) He explains being blessed well…

Luke 6, The Message

You’re Blessed
17-21 Coming down off the mountain with them, he stood on a plain surrounded by disciples, and was soon joined by a huge congregation from all over Judea and Jerusalem, even from the seaside towns of Tyre and Sidon. They had come both to hear him and to be cured of their ailments. Those disturbed by evil spirits were healed. Everyone was trying to touch him—so much energy surging from him, so many people healed! Then he spoke:

You’re blessed when you’ve lost it all.
God’s kingdom is there for the finding.

You’re blessed when you’re ravenously hungry.
Then you’re ready for the Messianic meal.

You’re blessed when the tears flow freely.
Joy comes with the morning.

22-23 “Count yourself blessed every time someone cuts you down or throws you out, every time someone smears or blackens your name to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and that that person is uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—skip like a lamb, if you like!—for even though they don’t like it, I do . . . and all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company; my preachers and witnesses have always been treated like this.

Luke blessed 2

 

What do we learn?

We are blessed when God has us right where He wants us…humbly repentant, fully committed, determinedly devoted, and tenaciously trusting in Him with all that is in us.

Dear Heavenly Father,
Counting…and still counting. We ARE blessed! Because You live in us. Tears are only for a little while until we realize Who You are once again. I am Your servant. I am listening.
In Jesus Name, Amen

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DRIVEN BY PRAYER

Luke and The Lost

Are you perplexed? Are you wondering where God is in all the confusing activities around you? Breathe. Just breathe as the songs goes by the same title. But I am reminded of a chorus of my childhood and young adult years that impacted my life so much that I still remember it today. Here are the lyrics of A QUIET PLACE…

There is a quiet place, far from the rapid pace
Where God can soothe my troubled mind

Sheltered by tree and flower
There in my quiet hour with Him, my cares are left behind

Whether a garden small, or on a mountain tall
New strength and courage there I find

Then from this quiet place I go to prepare to face
A new day with love for all mankind

Whether a garden small, or on a mountain tall
New strength and courage there I find

Then from this quiet place I go to prepare to face
A new day with love for all mankind.

Another chorus equally beneficial, but so old I can’t find it anymore…

My quiet hour with God to get to know Him better
My quiet hour with God to get to know more.
Not a quick hello or a cry for help.
Just to get to know Him more.

These words quiet my heart yet today and calm my restlessness of indecision and ponderings of what might be next. The choruses settle my soul and send me to that quiet place of prayer where I am…still. I know I must give all to God, listen and wait for Him to answer. “Be still and know that I am God” the Psalmist writes.

I have learned that if I am willing to listen and prepared to obey, the answers come. But it is in these quiet hours of time with Him that His Light seeps in, burning off the fog that clouds my mind, allowing me to see the next step in the journey with Him. He organizes my thoughts and pulls them together to make sense, which is a process of changing my heart’s desires to match His. He prioritizes the urgent that lead to purpose and pushes away the busyness activities that lead to complacency.

Be still and know. In our next passage of Luke we read that Jesus, the Son of God, who never sinned, prayed. He went off by himself to pray before doing anything of importance. Before choosing his leadership team, He prayed. ALL night. He prayed and listened. Then He did what the Father told Him to do.
“I don’t speak on my own authority. The Father who sent me has commanded me what to say and how to say it,” says Jesus. (John 12:49) “So Jesus explained, “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does.” (John 5:19)

So why don’t we? Be still. Pray. Listen. Obey. Repeat.

Luke 6, The Message

Luke 6 Jesus chooses

The Twelve Apostles
12-16 At about that same time he climbed a mountain to pray. He was there all night in prayer before God. The next day he summoned his disciples; from them he selected twelve he designated as apostles:

Simon, whom he named Peter,
Andrew, his brother,
James,
John,
Philip,
Bartholomew,
Matthew,
Thomas,
James, son of Alphaeus,
Simon, called the Zealot,
Judas, son of James,
Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

Dear Heavenly Father,
Here we are again to study YOU for it is all about YOU. Thank you for all you have done, are doing and will do in our lives, individually and collectively. I’m ready to listen, trust, and obey. There is no other way. 
In Jesus Name, Amen

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CRITICS

Luke and The Lost

It happens most when what you have been given to do is going well. You are at the pinnacle of the mission of ministry with others, people are coming to Christ in a mighty miraculous way and the critics emerge. “Why are you doing it this way?” “We’ve never done it this way before.” “Your style of clothing isn’t what we are used to for people our age.” “We don’t think the microphones are working properly.” “The room is too cold (or hot) for us to worship.” “The donuts are stale today.” “You seem to have too much fun.” “Why are you smiling?” “You teach too much.” “There were no tea bags on the coffee table.” “You are discriminating against tea drinkers!” “The chairs are not arranged properly.” “Do you read your Bible every day, because I don’t think you are, or you would change the order of service back to the way it was.”

The statements blindside you because you are so in love with Jesus and love what He is doing in the lives of others like you. When your focus in the right place that is actually when the critics get to you in the worst way. Know that it will happen prepares you. But know where it really is coming from. It is not the flesh and blood in your face, it is satan. Know your enemy, satan, who will consistently fuel the fire of hearts who only see the organization of religiosity without having a consistent relationship with Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. Then pray for them. Pray that they might see Jesus.

Jesus, Son of God, was bombarded by sarcastic, religious critics with every miraculous act He did for others. It begins now in our next passage of Luke 5 (“Who does He think He is?”) and will continue until He is placed on the cross for our sins…and theirs. Jesus knows best how to deal with critics. Let’s allow Him to do that work for us…still…don’t fight back. Don’t criticize. Stay focused on the race to win the prize, as Paul relates. We are heaven bound, not earth bound. Stay focused on Christ.

Luke 5 and 6, The Message
33 They asked him, “John’s disciples are well-known for keeping fasts and saying prayers. Also the Pharisees. But you seem to spend most of your time at parties. Why?”

34-35 Jesus said, “When you’re celebrating a wedding, you don’t skimp on the cake and wine. You feast. Later you may need to pull in your belt, but this isn’t the time. As long as the bride and groom are with you, you have a good time. When the groom is gone, the fasting can begin. No one throws cold water on a friendly bonfire. This is Kingdom Come!

36-39 “No one cuts up a fine silk scarf to patch old work clothes; you want fabrics that match. And you don’t put wine in old, cracked bottles; you get strong, clean bottles for your fresh vintage wine. And no one who has ever tasted fine aged wine prefers unaged wine.”

In Charge of the Sabbath
6 1-2 On a certain Sabbath Jesus was walking through a field of ripe grain. His disciples were pulling off heads of grain, rubbing them in their hands to get rid of the chaff, and eating them. Some Pharisees said, “Why are you doing that, breaking a Sabbath rule?”

3-4 But Jesus stood up for them. “Have you never read what David and those with him did when they were hungry? How he entered the sanctuary and ate fresh bread off the altar, bread that no one but priests were allowed to eat? He also handed it out to his companions.”

5 Then he said, “The Son of Man is no slave to the Sabbath; he’s in charge.”

6-8 On another Sabbath he went to the meeting place and taught. There was a man there with a crippled right hand. The religion scholars and Pharisees had their eye on Jesus to see if he would heal the man, hoping to catch him in a Sabbath infraction. He knew what they were up to and spoke to the man with the crippled hand: “Get up and stand here before us.” He did.

9 Then Jesus addressed them, “Let me ask you something: What kind of action suits the Sabbath best? Doing good or doing evil? Helping people or leaving them helpless?”

10-11 He looked around, looked each one in the eye. He said to the man, “Hold out your hand.” He held it out—it was as good as new! They were beside themselves with anger, and started plotting how they might get even with him.

Luke 5 critics in ministry

What do we learn?
–Jesus deals with critics in the best way for He is God.
–We are not God, so we need to ask Jesus to take care of the critics and ask Him to transform us.
–Pray for your critics that they might see Jesus.
–Don’t stop ministry because of critics.
–Keep doing what God has asked you to do with enthusiasm, for you are doing it for God with a humble heart to please Him.
–Discern what is truth and what is just critical thinking. God’s Holy Spirit will help us.
–Think higher thoughts.

Dear Heavenly Father, 
Your critics were driven by thoughts of insecurity and fear of loss of power. These thoughts are placed in hearts by Your opponent to all that is good. Evil does not like it when You work in and through us in Your Name. We see the enemy for who he is and look to You for Who You are and will forever be. You are our Father, Savior and Lord and Helper. You are God, Jesus Christ and Holy Spirit. The Three-in-One will always defeat the demons. Thank you, dear Lord for helping us always. Show us Your will and plan just for today.
In Jesus Name, Amen

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TRANSFORMATION

Luke and The Lost

For a classroom of first graders to experience the change that a “worm” goes through to become something completely different is fun to watch. Their eyes are wide open as they watch the butterfly emerge from the woven cocoon that it made for itself while in transformation. There are many oohs and ahs as the butterfly now works to free itself from the cage designed to hold it in the classroom. Then the day comes to release this new creature into the world. Fully transformed with instincts to do what it knows it was created to do…to fly!

Throughout Jesus’ ministry he does not wave and hand over crowds of people and say, “You’re healed”. He had the power to do that, but He didn’t. Why? Because He sees one person at a time, acknowledges who they are, knows them by name and meets specific needs for that individual. Jesus still does that. He heals, saves, transforms each one of us, one at a time, from the inside out and sends us to be who were created to be.

Is it time we “get up and walk”? Is it time to praise God for what He has done, is doing and will do in our lives? YES!

Luke 5 purpose

Luke 5, The Message

17 One day as he was teaching, Pharisees and religion teachers were sitting around. They had come from nearly every village in Galilee and Judea, even as far away as Jerusalem, to be there. The healing power of God was on him.

18-20 Some men arrived carrying a paraplegic on a stretcher. They were looking for a way to get into the house and set him before Jesus. When they couldn’t find a way in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof, removed some tiles, and let him down in the middle of everyone, right in front of Jesus. Impressed by their bold belief, he said, “Friend, I forgive your sins.”

21 That set the religion scholars and Pharisees buzzing. “Who does he think he is? That’s blasphemous talk! God and only God can forgive sins.”

22-26 Jesus knew exactly what they were thinking and said, “Why all this gossipy whispering? Which is simpler: to say ‘I forgive your sins,’ or to say ‘Get up and start walking’? Well, just so it’s clear that I’m the Son of Man and authorized to do either, or both. . . .” He now spoke directly to the paraplegic: “Get up. Take your bedroll and go home.” Without a moment’s hesitation, he did it—got up, took his blanket, and left for home, giving glory to God all the way. The people rubbed their eyes, incredulous—and then also gave glory to God. Awestruck, they said, “We’ve never seen anything like that!”

27-28 After this he went out and saw a man named Levi at his work collecting taxes. Jesus said, “Come along with me.” And he did—walked away from everything and went with him.

29-30 Levi gave a large dinner at his home for Jesus. Everybody was there, tax men and other disreputable characters as guests at the dinner. The Pharisees and their religion scholars came to his disciples greatly offended. “What is he doing eating and drinking with crooks and ‘sinners’?”

31-32 Jesus heard about it and spoke up, “Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick? I’m here inviting outsiders, not insiders—an invitation to a changed life, changed inside and out.”

CHANGED from the inside out. It’s time to walk, run, and fly! Whatever God asks, wherever He sends, be and do, trust and obey. It all begins by accepting the invitation, repenting of the past, and allowing Jesus to transform our lives as we walk with Him. Don’t look back to the cocoon, fly into the arms of Jesus!

“I’m here inviting outsiders, not insiders–an invitation to a changed life, changed inside and out.” –Jesus

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THE INVITATION

Luke and The Lost

What would absolutely thrill you more today? What would give lasting results in the healing of your broken heart, troubled mind and aching soul? Is it a quick prayer for help? What is it that helps others to be gracious under pressure? What is it that others have when that keeps them smiling when you know they have as many troubles in life as you have? What is the difference?

Jesus. Jesus invites us to change our hearts, minds and souls. He invites us to turn around, repent, do a full 180 degrees with our faces turned toward Him. It is seeking His heart’s desire for us and trusting Him with our whole life. This is an invitation to life change. This change means He is in charge. He is Lord, not just our Savior. We lean into his guidance and direction. “Your cleansed and obedient life, not your words, will bear witness to what I have done”, says Jesus. May our lives bear witness today. Say yes to the invitation of Jesus Christ, our Savior and our Lord to be cleansed from the past. Turn around.

Luke 5 invitation

Luke 5, The Message
Invitation to a Changed Life
12 One day in one of the villages there was a man covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus he fell down before him in prayer and said, “If you want to, you can cleanse me.”

13 Jesus put out his hand, touched him, and said, “I want to. Be clean.” Then and there his skin was smooth, the leprosy gone.

14-16 Jesus instructed him, “Don’t talk about this all over town. Just quietly present your healed self to the priest, along with the offering ordered by Moses. Your cleansed and obedient life, not your words, will bear witness to what I have done.” But the man couldn’t keep it to himself, and the word got out. Soon a large crowd of people had gathered to listen and be healed of their ailments. As often as possible Jesus withdrew to out-of-the-way places for prayer.

After repentance, withdraw as often as possible to a place for prayer. Jesus did. Jesus’s example of continuous communication to Our Father in heaven is vital to our life change and continuous growth. Ask “what do you want, Father?” He will answer.

In Jesus Name, Amen

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DEEP WATERS

Luke and The Lost

I have lived long enough to know the Truth of this next episode of Jesus, Son of God, because of what He has done in my own life. When He says “push out farther into deep water” we must obey for it is in the obedience that we are blessed beyond all measure. The process of obedience might be hard to explain, but easy to testify. Like Peter, knee deep in fish, we fall to our knees in praise for the One and Only, Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

Read and be blessed. Think about all the times you followed without hesitation and were blessed by our Lord. Does the feeling of humility return, like Peter? Can we “handle the holiness” who comes into our lives with something better to be and to do than we could possibly think or imagine for ourselves?

Luke 5 fishing

Luke 5, The Message
Push Out into Deep Water
5 1-3 Once when he was standing on the shore of Lake Gennesaret, the crowd was pushing in on him to better hear the Word of God. He noticed two boats tied up. The fishermen had just left them and were out scrubbing their nets. He climbed into the boat that was Simon’s and asked him to put out a little from the shore. Sitting there, using the boat for a pulpit, he taught the crowd.

4 When he finished teaching, he said to Simon, “Push out into deep water and let your nets out for a catch.”

5-7 Simon said, “Master, we’ve been fishing hard all night and haven’t caught even a minnow. But if you say so, I’ll let out the nets.” It was no sooner said than done—a huge haul of fish, straining the nets past capacity. They waved to their partners in the other boat to come help them. They filled both boats, nearly swamping them with the catch.

8-10 Simon Peter, when he saw it, fell to his knees before Jesus. “Master, leave. I’m a sinner and can’t handle this holiness. Leave me to myself.” When they pulled in that catch of fish, awe overwhelmed Simon and everyone with him. It was the same with James and John, Zebedee’s sons, coworkers with Simon.

10-11 Jesus said to Simon, “There is nothing to fear. From now on you’ll be fishing for men and women.” They pulled their boats up on the beach, left them, nets and all, and followed him.

Our prayer…pray with me….
May all that we think or do today be in Jesus Name. If it is not, then stop thinking it or doing it.

“There is nothing to fear” — Jesus.

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MISSION DECLARED

Luke and The Lost

Randy and I were teachers by profession. All the rest of our hours were spent at church volunteering in various ways from Sunday School teacher, leading youth ministries, to cleaning the church and mowing the lawn. We were also raising a family. The picture is probably pretty familiar to all of you who read this. Then something changed…in a large way. God changed our call. God rocked our world.

Our home church, where we grew from infants to adults, needed a pastor. Randy felt the call of God on him to fill this empty slot. Randy obeyed. I agreed to help because I felt God calling him, too. It was scarily exciting. This meant speaking to people who knew all your mistakes, failures, and personality flaws as well as your achievements. “You can’t go back home” as said by many is partially true. Randy was advised not to pastor the church where we grew up, but God called and we obeyed. This was a special circumstance. Randy knew it would be temporary until God sent someone else. Randy “temporarily” pastored this church for about nine years. It wasn’t easy but doable. He was occasionally reminded of his past mistakes by members, but the mission to obey God trumped what others said.

Jesus knows how Randy felt. Jesus’ ministry takes him back to his hometown “church”, the meeting place in the community where he grew up. It is here where he declares the mission God, the Father, has given Him to complete on earth. The home town folks are rude then hateful, ready to kill him before the mission grows. The mission, in spite of what others thought, continued…praise God! Jesus’ ministry begins as God leads. Jesus heals, restores, throws demons from their strongholds in others and tells ALL people who God really is and the love He wants to give. Jesus teaches with authority…no debate. Only Truth. Let us begin to humbly learn from The Master, Jesus as we read the gospel of Luke.

Luke 4, The Message
To Set the Burdened Free
14-15 Jesus returned to Galilee powerful in the Spirit. News that he was back spread through the countryside. He taught in their meeting places to everyone’s acclaim and pleasure.

16-21 He came to Nazareth where he had been reared. As he always did on the Sabbath, he went to the meeting place. When he stood up to read, he was handed the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. Unrolling the scroll, he found the place where it was written,

God’s Spirit is on me;
he’s chosen me to preach the Message of good news to the poor,
Sent me to announce pardon to prisoners and
recovery of sight to the blind,
To set the burdened and battered free,
to announce, “This is God’s year to act!”
He rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the assistant, and sat down. Every eye in the place was on him, intent. Then he started in, “You’ve just heard Scripture make history. It came true just now in this place.”

22 All who were there, watching and listening, were surprised at how well he spoke. But they also said, “Isn’t this Joseph’s son, the one we’ve known since he was a youngster?”

23-27 He answered, “I suppose you’re going to quote the proverb, ‘Doctor, go heal yourself. Do here in your hometown what we heard you did in Capernaum.’ Well, let me tell you something: No prophet is ever welcomed in his hometown. Isn’t it a fact that there were many widows in Israel at the time of Elijah during that three and a half years of drought when famine devastated the land, but the only widow to whom Elijah was sent was in Sarepta in Sidon? And there were many lepers in Israel at the time of the prophet Elisha but the only one cleansed was Naaman the Syrian.”

28-30 That set everyone in the meeting place seething with anger. They threw him out, banishing him from the village, then took him to a mountain cliff at the edge of the village to throw him to his doom, but he gave them the slip and was on his way.

31-32 He went down to Capernaum, a village in Galilee. He was teaching the people on the Sabbath. They were surprised and impressed—his teaching was so forthright, so confident, so authoritative, not the quibbling and quoting they were used to.

33-34 In the meeting place that day there was a man demonically disturbed. He screamed, “Ho! What business do you have here with us, Jesus? Nazarene! I know what you’re up to. You’re the Holy One of God and you’ve come to destroy us!”

35 Jesus shut him up: “Quiet! Get out of him!” The demonic spirit threw the man down in front of them all and left. The demon didn’t hurt him.

36-37 That set everyone back on their heels, whispering and wondering, “What’s going on here? Someone whose words make things happen? Someone who orders demonic spirits to get out and they go?” Jesus was the talk of the town.

He Healed Them All
38-39 He left the meeting place and went to Simon’s house. Simon’s mother-in-law was running a high fever and they asked him to do something for her. He stood over her, told the fever to leave—and it left. Before they knew it, she was up getting dinner for them.

40-41 When the sun went down, everyone who had anyone sick with some ailment or other brought them to him. One by one he placed his hands on them and healed them. Demons left in droves, screaming, “Son of God! You’re the Son of God!” But he shut them up, refusing to let them speak because they knew too much, knew him to be the Messiah.

42-44 He left the next day for open country. But the crowds went looking and, when they found him, clung to him so he couldn’t go on. He told them, “Don’t you realize that there are yet other villages where I have to tell the Message of God’s kingdom, that this is the work God sent me to do?” Meanwhile he continued preaching in the meeting places of Galilee.

Luke 4 Jesus reading

What do we learn?
–The scroll with the prophecy of Isaiah had a profound last thought…”This is God’s year to act!”. Jesus, The Messiah, whom they had all been waiting for was right there among them. Imagine it!
–It this God’s year to act with a new mission in our lives? Let’s ask God for what HE wants this year!

Dear Heavenly Father, We love reading about You, how You work in and through us, how You are in control of every situation and we fall down in humble praise to You. Continue to be with us on our separate journeys. Show us Your will for You are God and we are not. We need you every hour. Defeat the foe within us and all around us. Help us to see only You above all else.
In Jesus Name, Amen

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