“Aw man, I was just about to say Amen too!”

Growing up, the good old-fashioned “Amen!” was common place in our church and others.  You can imagine the scene…strong preaching and sturdy words of affirmation working together in harmony. I guess it’s more a part of me than I realize, because I catch myself wanting to “amen” things I like. For example, if I’m not careful, I’ll “amen” a menu suggestion from a server and throw them totally off. I mean, I don’t look anything like a traveling evangelist (don’t have the right hair) and everyone knows only they can pull off a proper “amen” in a public setting. With that being said, I still “amen” a lot…but I keep it to myself. 

Recently, I was continuing to work through Luke’s Gospel. As I recalled the encouraging words at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount (The Beatitudes and “Woes” on the self-serving), I could feel the attitude of agreement inside. You know…the “amen” feeling. However, when I got to 6:27, it was like the sound of a record player needle being slid off of vinyl, 

“But, I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,” 

Then I’m thinking, “Oh yeah…I forgot that was in there.” I stopped for a moment, reread verses 27-36 and thought, “Wow, Jesus really meant those words.” Consider what He said:

27“But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you.  29To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either. 30Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back.  31And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise. 32“But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive back, what credit is that to you? For even sinners lend to sinners to receive as much back. 35But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. 36Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful. 

Suddenly, the “amen” feeling seemed very shallow indeed. Studying it further, reveals three basic questions that help put it in perspective, while offering hope to those of us with a hair-trigger “amen”! 

I. What’s He telling us to do? 

Clearly, He said what He meant, but how do we sum it up? Well, He told us in verse 36…imitate the Father. Show love and mercy. When He tells us to do kind things to those who TOTALLY don’t deserve it, He’s saying do what He has done to US…to ME…to YOU! We struggle with pride, rebellion and selfishness toward God, even as believers. He not only showed great kindness in offering us redemption, but continues to show kindness daily. Each day, we are to reciprocate that love toward others…period. That leads to the next question: 

II. Why does He tell us to? 

We are members of His Royal Staff. 2 Corinthians 5:18-20 says we’ve been given the ministry of reconciliation as His ambassadors. Paul says God is pleading through us to those who need Christ. He strongly desires for them to be reconciled and we are the ones placed in the service to communicate it. 

In Matthew’s account, Jesus calls us “salt and light”. When we encounter the wounded, the saltiness of Christ in us may burn a little at first as the healing begins and when we encounter darkness, the pure light of Christ in us, may bring some discomfort to eyes accustomed to the shadows. We need to be patient with people as He was in His ministry…which leads to the last question: 

III. How do we do it? 

Romans 5:5 says “…the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” Only in the love of Christ through the Person of the Holy Spirit can I do it. It’s not natural to love those who hate us. It’s not easy to be kind to those who spitefully use us. Pastor and commentator Warren Wiersbe describes it as an inner disposition. Paul says in Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” In many different ways, Paul repeated the theme of Christ-in-him as his strength. He said in 2 Corinthians 12:10 “…when I am weak, then I am strong”. 

If you think it’s tough…it is. Hey, I’m right there with you struggling some days, but we must keep going. The bottom line is this; as followers of Christ we’re in a foreign land representing Him to those who don’t know any other way yet, so let’s pray for His leading and put our best foot forward. Can I get an “Amen?”

Series: “Thoughts on Luke”-Luke 6:27-36

Are you settling for less than God’s best?

Occasionally, it’s good to be reminded of what God has shown us (as was the case with me recently).  This story comes from the 2004 archives. That year, I was struggling with direction in my life and the life of our young family. God graciously led us then and has always proved Himself faithful. I’m so thankful He did and still does. I’ve shared this a few times before and feel led to now…

PLANS

One night I lay in bed, mentally recalling the events of the day. Nothing really unusual or exciting, just wrapping it all up. Thoughts drifted in and out; family, work and to-do lists. Once I made all the mental rounds, sleep came. 

I dreamed I was walking along a beautiful street as someone graciously said; “Welcome!” I asked, “Where am I?” He replied, “You’ve been granted a rare gift…a chance to see a small part of the inner workings of Heaven.” We then entered a large building with ornate furnishings. People were hurrying about their business and I asked the Host, “What is this place?” He said, “This is our Planning and Building Department.” I looked around and saw thousands of work-stations full of drawings, calendars and messages, with workers intently focused on their projects. 

“Who are they?” I asked quickly.

“They’re angels”, He said.

“I don’t see any wings!”

“Actually, angels don’t have wings”, He answered with a grin; “It’s a common mistake.” “Well what about this building we’re standing in, what exactly do they do here?” I questioned.

 “This building is what you were brought here to see.” He said. “This is where the Father has His plans for you drawn up and tracked by His staff. He has a Master Plan for every one of His children. His angels monitor things as you grow, and then make changes as necessary.” 

“There are changes?” I asked. 

“Yes, changes,” He answered. 

I wondered, “Why are His plans changed?” 

“Well, many times His children don’t like His plans and they choose to settle for something less, so when that happens we make changes reflecting it in the overall picture.” He explained. 

“Does that happen often?” I questioned. 

“Unfortunately, yes. I’ve seen wonderful plans full of color and abundance, reduced to simple black and white drawings with only the barest of markings. Thankfully there are others willing to trust His plan. When they do, something so magnificent happens that we stop for a moment and celebrate the beauty of His work…a child completed.” 

Just then, I noticed a particular workstation. The name on top and the elements in the picture seemed familiar. It was a strange connection to something words couldn’t describe, but my heart understood. The language was foreign, but somehow I could read it. There were old marks, new marks, and items labeled “Waiting for Response”. Up in the corner was a copy of the original drawing and the actual one on the table was me. By comparison it was very pale next to the richness of the original and full of things not supposed to be there. 

I looked at the Host and tearfully asked, “Is it too late for my life to look like the original plan?” He put his arm around me and quietly said, “No, that’s what the Father has been wanting all along. He’s provided everything you need for it to happen!” 

Immediately I woke and was back in bed. I knelt to the floor and prayed “Father forgive me. Please work your Master Plan in my life and strengthen me to never settle for anything less than your best!” Amen   

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11   NIV

Dealing with Political Correctness

Bullies are a fact of life. We’ve all encountered people who use intimidation as a method for getting what they want. An easy one-size-fits-all answer would be handy (like the good ole “5 across the lip”), but unfortunately it isn’t that simple. In studying Luke, I’ve noticed several occasions where Jesus dealt with bullies disguised as “concerned citizens”. They were the gatekeepers on acceptable speech and actions in public…the editors of the “Jerusalem Times” you might say. Their official title was “The Pharisees” and in Luke 6:1-11 Jesus chose to challenge them directly over the Sabbath. Let’s look at His model of approach to such people. 

  • The Contexts of the Encounters – In verses 1-5, He and His disciples are accused of eating grain unlawfully out of a field because their picking and eating was viewed as “harvesting, threshing and winnowing”. In verses 6-11, He was accused of doing unnecessary medical work on the Sabbath by healing a man with a withered hand. 
  • Their Expectations – The Pharisees devoted themselves to a life of keeping the “Traditions of the Elders”, which was a compilation of rules built around and on top of the Law given to Moses. The Jewish leaders had completely erased the lines between instructions given by God and ones they had originated. Naturally, they didn’t see this as a problem and expected the Messiah to embrace and affirm them. 
  • The Problem – Jesus didn’t do things hap hazardously. He had purpose in His teaching and rebukes. He chose these two occasions to address wrong thinking regarding a huge part of Jewish life-the Sabbath. The Sabbath had become a burden. It was no longer a day of worship and refreshment as God had designed it to be, but a heavy burden, so He took action. 
  • The Confrontation – In both encounters, it’s important to note that Jesus didn’t violate any part of the Law given to Moses. His violations were of the “Tradition of the Elders”. Even regarding working on Sunday, He simply spoke and the man was healed when he responded by “stretching out his hand”. In the illustration He gives of David (verses 3-4) and the question He asks (verse 9) points back to the original Law. In effect, He took the occasion to cut through the politically correct rubbish and point out the beauty of what was given originally. From the beginning, Jesus kept the Law and became the only one ever to fulfill it (Matt. 5:17). His collisions were with the harmful corruptions of it. 
  • Our Battles – We are faced increasingly with choices to do battle in the area of political correctness regarding speech, actions and beliefs (inside and outside of the church). Our decisions must be based on scripture and by asking this question, “What is Godly Correct and what is Politically Correct?” Sometimes it’s a clear cut answer, sometimes not. Based on Jesus’ example, here are three questions to consider when deciding a course of action: 
  1. Is it the right fight? In other words, is it the right place and time, or would another occasion or venue be better. Pride can cause much destruction and as followers of Christ, we must be careful not to be goaded into the wrong fight.
  2. Are my motives pure? Issues of right and wrong should be the driver, not preferences or differences of opinion.
  3. Have I prayed for God’s leadership? Jesus prayed often and when He spoke, it was under God’s authority. The most important part of any conversation of this type (spoken or written) is the time I spend with the Lord beforehand. 

Series: Thoughts on Luke – Luke 6:1-11

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