Faith in Jesus Part 68: Becoming a Little Child Luke 18:15-17

People were also bringing babies to Jesus for him to place his hands on them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”

The prevailing attitude in first century Judaism towards children was similar to the one in our American culture leading up to and beyond WWII. “Children should be seen, not heard.” In other words, they were lesser than even women in the mindset of everyone. The attitude of the disciples was the attitude of the day. “Hey, don’t bring your kids here, Jesus doesn’t have time for them.”

And think about it. Kids are kids. They are loud, obnoxious, often smelly, always underfoot. Early on they are very self-centered. It’s a good policy. So, imagine the stunned expressions on each face when Jesus said “let the little children come to Me.” I think there are three reasons He said that. First, there is an innocence about children, a curiosity about life as they grow. Second, kids are quick to say “I’m sorry.” Third,, and I think an even more important reason, children know how to trust their parents. 

Jesus shows us that to be a part of His kingdom, which we have already seen is very counter-cultural and counter-intuitive, we need to come as children, with trust and with repentance in our hearts. We will probably act like children, but maybe more so out of innocence. And, if we do come to Him, He will take us into His kingdom. 

Lord, help me/us have the faith of a little child. Help us let go of those things that entangles us, to give them up to You, and become innocent an clean and trusting. In Your holy name, Amen.

Until next time,

TO THE GLORY OF GOD! 

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Faith in Jesus Part 67: Just Who Do I Pray To? Luke 18:9-14

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Jesus couldn’t have picked two more opposite members of society than the Pharisee and the tax collector. The Pharisees were looked upon, by themselves and pretty much everyone else in Judaism, as the crème de la crème. And that attitude comes across loud and clear in Jesus’ story. 

Look at who this guy is praying to. His prayer is a recitation of all that he has done for God. “I, I , I, I, . . . I did this. I did that. I do everything right. You know, God, you’re pretty lucky I am on Your side.” Thirty-three words used to extol himself. Not a single word of regret, remorse, or repentance.

Contrast that with the tax collector’s simple prayer, only seven words long, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” And look at the posture of each man. The Pharisee is surely standing in a prominent place so everybody can see him. The tax collector doesn’t care who sees him as he beats upon his breast in complete repentance. 

The telling words of Jesus rings through the ages: It’s the tax collector, the one who humbly approached God, that is justified. The Pharisee, although he doesn’t know it, is still very much lost in his sins. And those who are last, who are humble and repentant, will be first and the self-righteous,, prideful ones, will be last. 

I love this story because I can look back on my life and see myself in both characters. I, too, have played the Pharisee, self-righteous and proud. Thinking I am secure in life based on my performance, on my being a good Christian. But, more often than not, I am the tax collector, beating on my breast, asking God to forgive me. And it’s the tax collector’s simple prayer that I pray today.

“God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

Until next time,

 

TO THE GLORY OF GOD!

Faith in Jesus Persistent Prayer Part 66: Luke 18:1-8

Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’

“For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’”

 And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”

This story pictures a woman, a widow who has been abused in some way by a person, probably a man, in a town. In that town resided a judge who had jurisdiction over legal matters. He didn’t care about God, and, the implication is, he didn’t care so much about justice unless it somehow lined his pockets. The only thing that made him grant her justice was her persistence in asking, almost harassing, him day after day.

Her persistence pays off. Jesus uses this woman as an example in how His disciples should pray. With persistence. Not that God doesn’t want to do the right thing and give His people justice, but that the people need to remember to come continually to the heavenly Father in prayer. Although the judge in the story doesn’t care about God or people, the creator God does. And, Jesus says, He will see that justice is forthcoming in a timely manner.

The story ends with a daunting question. “When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” I think that persistent prayer is a sign of faith. So many times I think we get caught up in the trap of praying for something once or twice, or even three times. Surely that’s enough, right? I don’t think so.

The greatest answer to prayer in the life of my family, at least that we know about, is our daughter, Anna. We prayed seven years to have another child. And if you know Anna at all you know she truly is an answer to prayer. She loves and serves the Lord. She cares about others. She truly is an answer to persistent prayer.

“Lord, thank you so much for allowing us the privilege of praying to You. We know that you hear an answer. Help us to be persistent in our prayer life. In Jesus name, Amen.”

Until next time,

TO THE GLORY OF GOD!

Faith in Jesus  Part 65: Be Ready! Luke 17:26-37

“Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man. People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all.

 “It was the same in the days of Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all.

 “It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed. On that day no one who is on the housetop, with possessions inside, should go down to get them. Likewise, no one in the field should go back for anything. 

 Remember Lot’s wife! Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it. I tell you, on that night two people will be in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding grain together; one will be taken and the other left.” 

 “Where, Lord?” they asked.

He replied, “Where there is a dead body, there the vultures will gather.”

Jesus continues to talk about the End Times. Nowhere does He lay out a plan that can help us determine when this will happen. He points to two Old Testament stories to emphasize the fact that life will be going on as usual. Eating, drinking, getting married, buying and selling, planting and building, life as usual. 

Then the unexpected happens. In Noah’s case, a major flood occurs. Everyone had ample warning. Noah warned everybody about this. He called people to repentance. But they didn’t listen. In Lot’s day, again the warning is given, this time by two angels and Lot, yet people refused to heed the warning. Even Lot’s wife didn’t understand it or want it to happen. 

People cling to this life tenaciously, often to their own destruction. And that’s the message here, not so much a way to predict when, but to warn us that it will happen, and suddenly. So be ready. The disciples still don’t get it. They question Jesus. “Where?” His response has to do with judgment. Vultures are always there to clean up a dead body. This, I think, is true spiritually as well. So this serves as a warning to the believer to stay faithful until the end. It also serves as a word of encouragement to witness to those around us about the certain destruction that awaits those who do not believe. 

If we truly love our neighbors and our enemies, we should be willing to share this good news, just like Noah, to at least give them a chance to change.

Lord, thank you for giving us life in your Name. Show us who to share the good news with and give us a sense of urgency since we do not know the day or the hour of Your return. In Your precious Name, Amen.

Until next time,

TO THE GLORY OF GOD!
 

Faith in Jesus Part 64: The Coming of the Son of Man Luke 17:22-25

Then he said to his disciples, “The time is coming when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, but you will not see it. People will tell you, ‘There he is!’ or ‘Here he is!’ Do not go running off after them. For the Son of Man in his day will be like the lightning, which flashes and lights up the sky from one end to the other. But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.

Jesus continues His teaching on the kingdom of God, but His focus changes to Himself and His favorite self-designation, the Son of Man. He’s talking about the near future. The people who have been following Him will be on the constant lookout for His coming. 

Jesus is letting them in on a couple of things that will happen. First, the warning that there will be many so-called sightings of His coming. This is reminiscent of Matthew 24 where Jesus warns of false Messiahs. He doesn’t want His followers to be fooled by cheap imitations who might look like the real deal. When Jesus returns, it seems His coming will be accompanied by natural phenomena. But it will also happen so suddenly and Jesus wants His people to be ready.

Yet something else will happen, must happen, before His return. “He must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.” Jesus’ teaching continues to be a consistent one. His suffering at the hands of wicked men is a necessity. He has been teaching the disciples this for quite a while. It is necessary for without the suffering on the cross His purpose would not be fulfilled. 

Jesus’ warning holds true for us today. There are many charlatans in our day who profess they have the way of truth. Do not, I repeat, do not follow them. They will take you down the wrong path. This is why it is so important to be involved in a local body, for fellowship, for purity, for obedience, for fidelity with Christ. 

Lord, we await your return. Please open our eyes to the proverbial wolves in sheep’s clothing. People who abuse and mislead. Help us to stay true to You until You do return. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Until next time,

TO THE GLORY OF GOD!

Faith in Jesus Part 63: Where is the Kingdom of God? Luke 17:20-21

Once, on being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst.”

Sometimes I wonder how the Pharisees got it so messed up. They keep asking Jesus to prove Himself. He does, But they don’t believe it or Him. 

In this passage, they are asking for signs of the coming of the kingdom of God. Of course, they were looking for something quite different than what Jesus teaches about. They expect an earthly kingdom that would restore the glory of Israel, and, in the process, promote them to places of power, wealth, and influence.

Jesus’ response, “the kingdom is in your midst,” can be taken two ways. And they are both valid. The first is, I think, Jesus referring to Himself as the manifestation of the kingdom of God. He is the King of the kingdom and where the king is the kingdom is also. 

The second is laid out throughout the rest of the New Testament. The kingdom of God is in our midst, even today, since the Holy Spirit resides in us, the Church. We are the temple of God, and the King’s Spirit lives in us and works through us. 

But this kingdom is unlike any other in the history of the world. It is an eternal kingdom. It is a sacrificial kingdom. It is a suffering kingdom. It is a triumphal kingdom that truly changes everything.

Father, thank You for calling me to be a part of Your kingdom. Help me to live by Your kingdom principles, showing love, grace and mercy; extending hospitality and compassion to those around me. In Jesus name, Amen.

Until next time,

TO THE GLORY OF GOD!

Faith in Jesus Part 62: “Your Faith has Made You Well” Luke 17:11-19

Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”

 When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.

 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.

 Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”

Leprosy is a nasty disease. Leprosy typically first appears as patches of discolored skin with a loss of sensation at the affected area. When nerves in the arm are affected, small muscles become paralyzed, leading to curling of the fingers. In the legs, the patient may lose sensation in the feet. Unable to feel pain, the patient may suffer deformation of his or her feet as a result of continued injury and infection. If the facial nerves are affected, a person may lose the blinking reflex of the eye, which can lead to dryness, ulceration, and ultimately blindness. Bacilli at the mucous lining of the nose can cause internal damage and scarring which, in time, causes the nose to collapse.
https://embraceavillage.org/faq/?gclid=Cj0KCQjwg73kBRDVARIsAF-kEH8AdjQsp7rRaI7FT18VFPKJqCjg6ooWLjRr39r_EJUnkC0LjOPf-dAaAjM-EALw_wcB#fal

People who were lepers were forced away from their families and often lived together in colonies. In a leper colony, there were no class or race divisions, as is seen in this story when ten lepers approach Jesus. One is a Samaritan, but the other nine, Jews, didn’t seem to be concerned about the guy’s nationality. 

These ten lepers cry out to Jesus for pity. And Jesus does what only Jesus can do, he speaks and heals them. He tells them to go the priest to be declared clean. On the way, they are all healed, but only the Samaritan comes back to thank Him. Why?

It could be that the nine, once they found they were healed, reverted back to their Jewish customs. Or it could be they were overcome with happiness that they displaced a priority to be grateful. We really don’t know. But it is clear, once again, that Jesus is showing that a Samaritan often has more gratitude for a gift from God than a Jew did. Maybe the Jews expected the healing, feeling it was something they deserved. 

The Samaritan comes back to thank Jesus. And Jesus tells him, “Go for your faith has healed you.” But the other nine were healed as well, right? Maybe the Samaritan’s healing was more than just a physical one. Maybe he was healed from the inside out as well. Something that the Jews needed too but didn’t recognize it.

Something that we, too, need. Whatever it is that ails you, whether it be physical sickness or spiritual maladies, take them to Jesus. And show gratitude.

Lord, you know how sick in spirit I was before I came to you. That even remains to some degree to this day. But you have healed me from my sin. You also know about my constant battle with Bipolar, but you are there each and every day, providing healing and comfort. Thank you, Lord.

Until next time,

TO THE GLORY OF GOD!