A Little Solid Ground in the Shifting Marriage Debate

In the past couple of years, the conversation about gay marriage has taken several turns. First there was mass criticism of Kirk Cameron and Dan Cathy of Chick-fil-A, followed by a string of dust-ups and legal battles. With the steady stream of noise, the conversation seems to be shifting almost daily; so if you need a little solid ground to rest on for a minute, remember:

  • God’s way is best-Instead of getting trapped in the quicksand of an “equality” debate, consider how Biblical marriage is superior to counterfeit models. God formed Eve specifically to complete Adam. A man and woman fit together in every way. Physically, emotionally, and psychologically, God designed us to complement each other. It doesn’t take much observation to see how boys and girls are wired different. We augment each other’s weaknesses, and keep one another’s extremes in check. It’s an amazing process of two lives merging together into something greater than the sum of two parts. Anything else; pre-marital intimacy, living together outside of marriage, or same-sex relations, fall short of God’s design. He made us “male and female” (Genesis 2:27), and declared; “a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24). It’s an earthly picture of a heavenly truth; Christ and His Bride, the Church.
  • Discernment is key- Our core problem as humans is struggling against God’s authority. The attempt to recalibrate His design is actually rebellion and the desire for peer validation is a symptom, not the “end-all”. As followers of Jesus, we need to discuss sin in the full context of scripture, not selectively. There are no special categories of sin or sinners. Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” While some sins have far greater consequences, we all need God’s grace and forgiveness equally. The truth of scripture should be spoken in authentic love at Spirit-led times. There is forgiveness and acceptance to any who trust Christ as Lord (Romans 5:8 & 8:1, II Corinthians 5:17), resulting in a changed life.
  • It helps to relax-When Jesus said in Matthew 28:18, “…all authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” He actually meant it. Mark 16:19 says that Jesus sat down at the right hand of God, meaning He’s there now with absolutely nothing happening beyond His sight and awareness. Think about what it means; no person, group or political force will ever be able to strong-arm their way to ultimate victory. It may appear so at times, but our King has already won.
  • Prayer isn’t a small thing-don’t forget the most precious resource we have; the ability to enter His throne room. There we can share our hearts, ask for forgiveness & strength, get guidance and have our thoughts reset. What’s happening around us is spiritual in nature and prayer should always be part of the process…always. Pray to understand scripture, pray before sharing, pray before posting, and pray for those who need Christ. As Paul said:

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” -Philippians 4:6-7

3 Quick Reminders from the Seed Parable

One of the cool things about the seed parable is that Jesus explained it. Found in Luke 8:4-15, it describes 4 different results of seed falling onto the ground. A combining of the story & explanation produces these pictures:

  • The Hard Soil-no fruit at all (seed stolen by the devil)
  • The Rocky Soil-grows quick, but soon withers (fell away during testing from lack of roots)
  • The Thorny Soil-growth choked out by thorns (the cares & pleasures of this world preventing maturity)
  • The Good Soil-growth, maturity and fruit (a heart desiring to hear, do and endure)

Here are 3 quick reminders:

  1. The seed contains life-Jesus emphasized the seed (the Word) and the soil receiving it, not the sower. The seed itself produces life, not the one handling it or the clever use of it.
  2. The results aren’t up to me-It’s not productive to attempt forcing growth where it’s not happening, nor is it right to claim credit when it does (1 Cor. 3:6-7).
  3. Time is the test-Eventually, the nature of the soil and the response to the truth will become clear; be prayerfully patient.

I encourage you to be a sower. Whether it’s spoken, written, emailed or tweeted; God’s Word is life-giving. Share it today!

Series: “Thoughts on Luke” – Luke 8:4-15

Women’s Liberation and Jesus’ Ministry

Bible stories are unvarnished. Heroes of the faith are presented as they really were, including their struggles. Instead of glossing over faults, we get the true picture. When considering the Gospel narratives of Jesus’ ministry, we should take note of who is mentioned and what we can learn from them…including the women. Since Jesus’ ministry contrasted 1st Century norms by including females, did that make Him a champion of women’s liberation? Well, in a word-yes; however, it wasn’t about rights; it was about freedom…true freedom. Jesus was (and is) in the liberation business. He said of Himself:

“Therefore, if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” – Matthew 8:36 

In Luke 7:36-50 we see a beautiful display of worship by a lady party-crasher. The scene is at Simon the Pharisee’s house and the woman is unnamed. She comes in and with many tears; washes Jesus’ feet, wipes them with her hair and anoints them with fragrant oil. The scripture tells us Simon mentally focused on her sinner’s past, but Jesus verbally notes her forgiven future. I am amazed at the lessons to be learned from the women surrounding Jesus. Time and again they stood taller than the men in their boldness to follow Christ. To be honest, it can still be true today. So what can we learn from her example? Let’s consider:

  • Her Brokenness – She saw herself in the pure light of Jesus’ presence. Unlike the Pharisee who sensed no need for the Lord’s forgiveness, she realized her soul’s need. There were many tears and an outpouring of gratitude to Him. In the process, she not only received forgiveness, she also heard the Master say, “Go in peace.” Many look for peace through various pursuits, but only Jesus can deliver real lasting peace.
  • Her Humility – By lowering her hair for use as a makeshift towel, she gave up any remaining pretense of dignity (women’s hair represented their glory as a woman). It was a humble act and evidence of a contrite heart (Psalm 51:17).
  • Her Boldness – By crashing Simon’s banquet, she risked further talk around town of her lacking character. What would they say? How would Jesus respond? She didn’t know how it would all work out, but she went ahead anyway and demonstrated her love.
  • Her Gift – By providing the fragrant oil, she gave of what she had. Like the women followers mentioned in the verses afterwards (Luke 8:1-3), the woman at Simon’s house displayed a grateful heart and gave to Jesus out of her substance. It’s no coincidence that the word “give” is in the middle of “forgiveness” – it’s central to what the word means.
  • Her Take-away – When she left Simon’s house, she carried with her the most valuable and precious treasure ever acquired – eternal life. Jesus told her, “Your faith has saved you…”, but Simon received nothing. He was close in proximity, but tragically distant in spirit. 

James 2:26 tells us that faith without works is dead. I don’t know Simon’s reasons for inviting Jesus to his house. Perhaps he was truly interested, but his lack of hospitality suggests otherwise. In the end, the woman was the one with faith in action. For those of us who have trusted Christ, we have received much. We can learn a lot from the women who followed Christ. They were grateful, bold and willing to tell of His love. 

Think about it, the Samaritan woman-at-the-well saw a whole village changed by simply telling of her encounter with Christ. How about us? As a guy, I’m ready to fight, but am I ready to give? Am I ready to be humble? Am I ready to tell? Ouch, I think I just got pinched by the truth. I guess it’s time to step it up! 

Series – “Thoughts on Luke” – Luke 7:36-8:3

When Doubt Creeps In

John the Baptist was rugged, bold and popular. Imagine what the hipsters at Jerusalem U. were posting about him on FaceScroll; with the camel hair clothes and “Brood of vipers!” preaching! OK, maybe it wasn’t EXACTLY like that, but John was a firebrand. He exploded onto the scene and preached hard truth as he introduced Jesus as the coming Messiah…then we read this startling verse in Luke 7:20: 

“John the Baptist has sent us to You, saying, ‘Are you the Coming One, or do we look for another?’” 

Suddenly, in a single verse, the image changes. John proved to be human. Not in a sinful, fall-from-grace kind of way, but in a real life, faith-in-motion kind of way. At this point John was in prison and had faithfully executed what God commissioned him to do, but doubt crept in. That’s the way it is, you’re going along doing what you know to do, and the path begins to feel strange and unfamiliar. Ever found yourself there? I have, and doubt is a very intrusive guest indeed. So let’s take a quick look at John’s question and Jesus’ awesome answers: 

John’s perspective – It’s important to note what message John had preached and what he would have expected to be happening – “Judgment”, “The Kingdom”, and “The Lamb of God Taking-Away-the-Sin-of-the-World” were his themes. However, so far that picture wasn’t happening (as far as it appeared) – the Romans were still in charge, the Jewish leaders were still bullies and no sacrifice had been made. So naturally, as one who received his message directly from God, his question seems legitimate. So what does Jesus do?

He redirects the conversation – As was His method often, Jesus pointed the conversation back to scripture. By instructing them to return and tell what they had witnessed; “The blind seeing, the lame walking…etc.” (v.22), He is referencing Isaiah’s prophecy (Is. 35:5-6 & others) to reassure John that he was right. He then made a statement:

“…blessed is he who is not caused to stumble because of Me.” – Luke 7:23

So, how do we not “stumble because of Him”? Well, after Jesus addresses the crowd concerning John and those present, He finished with:

“But wisdom is proved right by all her children.” Luke 7:35 NIV

This tells us wisdom is the key. Wisdom is seeing things from God’s perspective. John wasn’t lacking in faith, but he was having a hard time fitting the pieces together. What he knew to be true and what has happening in real time around him didn’t make sense. Since wisdom is the key, what wisdom did he impart? Let’s consider:

Jesus’ perspective on John (v.24-28) – He asked the crowd if they went out to see a soft guy or a prophet. He then answers His own question- a prophet; and the greatest of all prophets born of women. John was great, but those coming after him (born into the Kingdom) would be even greater.

Jesus’ perspective on the Pharisees (v.31-34) – He compares them to whiny children who complain about no one playing with them. Unlike the people who proved God right by accepting John’s message (v.29), the Pharisees rejected God’s will (v.30). This is the difference between “hearing” and “not hearing”.

He also says they were beyond being satisfied (v.33-34). It didn’t matter if He and John ate fine food or refrained, the leaders would have still rejected them. How liberating that is! To know that trying to impress self-appointed people is a worthless pursuit…so give it up! 

In all of this, I can’t help but think of a Pharisee who was trying to figure it out. In John chapter 3 Nicodemus comes to Jesus by night asking questions. He wasn’t sure about what He was witnessing and was trying to fit the pieces together. Nicodemus feared God, but he had a hard time in the process. In John 19:39 we see Nicodemus again; boldly taking the body of our Lord, anointing it with a large amount of expensive oil, personally helping Joseph dress it and then helping to place it in the tomb. Nicodemus had come out of the shadows and into the light. Three days later, he would be fully affirmed by the resurrection, but not that day. Answers would come later, but in the meantime, he still acted on his faith. 

For them – At the end of Luke’s Gospel, Jesus appears to the disciples. They are afraid and He asks, “…why do doubts arise in your hearts?” A few moments later in 24:35 Luke says, “And He opened their understanding, so that they might comprehend the Scriptures.” – (Then they saw from His perspective) 

For us – James 1:5 tells us, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives liberally and without reproach and it will be given to him.” – (Then we can see from His perspective) 

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” – Phil. 4:6-7 

Series: “Thoughts on Luke” – Luke 7:18-35

Just in case you ever wonder if Jesus cares…

Jesus was busy. There’s no doubt about it, the gospels show Jesus’ ministry years to be very demanding. With daily ministering and traveling, there was little down time. If we’re not careful, we can let that mental image influence our view of His personal interest in us. So, does Jesus take an interest in our daily affairs? I mean, He’s still busy right? Does He really care whether my day was bad or my level of faith is strong? Based on the scripture, I say yes. 

In Luke 7:1-17 we see two amazing stories of Him in action. One has to do with a Roman Centurion’s concern for his servant and the other was Jesus’ unsolicited intervention at a funeral. In both cases we see Jesus very interested in people and their circumstances. Consider:

Jesus Observed – In each case, we see Him keenly observing. For the Centurion, He observed strong faith (v.9); at the funeral of the widow’s only son, He took notice of sorrow and had compassion on her (v.13). The Bible tells us that God is aware and watching.

“For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him.” – 2 Chronicles 16:9a 

What an awesome thought. God is looking for opportunities to strengthen us if we are committed to Him. 

Jesus Responded – At the Centurion’s request to heal his servant, Jesus alters His schedule and heads toward the Centurion’s home. On the way, the Centurion sent friends to ask Jesus not to come into his house because he felt unworthy, but asked Him to just speak the word of healing. Jesus did and the servant was healed. 

With the Widow’s son, He walks over without being asked, interrupts their processional, and takes direct action (raising the son back to life). After the son sat up and talked, Jesus personally presented him to his mother and a great celebration took place! 

Jesus Supplied – In both encounters, He supplied their needs according to His resources (like Philippians 4:19). He gave healing and life, but also supplied:

  • Validation for the Centurion (declared as one having great faith (v.9))
  • Encouragement and provision for the Widow (she was without hope, alone, and facing an uncertain future as a single woman in the 1st century)

So how do these two stories help us? Well, for those of us who’ve placed our trust in Christ, Romans 8:26-27 describes how the Holy Spirit searches our hearts and intercedes for us with unspoken groanings. We can be confident that He’s interested in our daily life and that the Holy Spirit will speak on our behalf when words fail. 

Additionally, He modeled the way for us to follow. His affirming of the Centurion tells me I’m to take requests to Jesus on others’ behalf and believe that He is able and willing. In the widow’s case, He acts at times simply out of compassion and we should too…even unsolicited at times. 

That’s our Savior and what a Savior He is indeed! 

Series: “Thoughts on Luke” – Luke 7:1-17

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