Luke

We Have Access

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I know I'm not the only one, but I must confess that there are too many days in my life where I overlook the incredible privilege of having access to the Creator of the universe. I have been given the freedom to come to him with all my cares and concerns, and yet I don't. 

There's a story that Jesus once told about a woman's persistence, and in that story he gives us a profound perspective on the kind of freedom that we have in coming to God. He said: 

“In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’”

And then Jesus ends this story with the following teaching point:

“Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night?"

You see, like the persistent widow in the story, we have been given an open invitation to bother God with our prayers. Persistence in prayer that is coming from a heart that is pure is something that pleases God, and it also honors him as the Sovereign Authority over all everything that happens in this life. 

However, in our persistence, we must also remember who we are approaching each time that we pray and then approach him with the kind of posture that is appropriate. I think sometimes we can view our open invitation as something that we have earned in some way. I think sometimes we point to a decision that we have made or the kind of life that we are living and assume that we have reached a level of spirituality that warrants God's attention.

We need to remember that we only have access because we've been given a credential. 

Our free access to God has not been granted because of who we are or something that we have done; it has been granted to us because of who Christ is and what he has done.

If I tried to walk into Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland by myself, it wouldn't take long before I was stopped and escorted back outside. But if I walked in with Lebron James, it would be a different story. I would be granted free access because of who Lebron is, and what he has accomplished. My relationship with Lebron would give me a credential to the arena in Cleveland.      

In the same way, Christ is the required credential for entering into the presence of God. We have an open invitation to bother the Creator but only because of our relationship with Christ.  

So lets approach God persistently but lets make sure to mix in the appropriate amount of humility. And lets rejoice in the freedom that we have in prayer but lets remember why we have it.

 

Thanks-Giving

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There's a story in Luke's gospel where Jesus encounters ten men suffering from leprosy. When he saw them, Jesus told them to head down the road to go see the priest and then they would be healed on the way. From there Luke records the rest of the story like this:

Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.” (Luke 17:15-19)

In reading how this story plays out, it seems that Jesus expected more from these ten men than just their willingness to believe him and start walking in faith. Because when only one of the ten men return, we notice that Jesus seems to act like he expected this sort of response from all of them. He says, “Were not all ten cleansed? Then where are the other nine? Was no one else willing to return and give praise to God except this one guy?”

You see, there is a particular type of faith that we can possess which is the same type of faith that we see in the nine men who didn't return. It is a faith that is commonly birthed from experiencing circumstances of great desperation. It's a faith that cries out to God for mercy and is even willing to try anything that the Lord might prescribe. But it's a faith that at its core is seeking a personal blessing rather than a new relationship with Jesus. It's a faith that cares more about what God has to offer rather than the offer of God himself.

The nine men were so eager to be declared clean and return to a life of normalcy within their community that the thought of returning to Jesus didn’t even seem to cross their mind.

Often times, we can be quick to respond in faith when we want or need something, but then immediately after we get what we want or need an ungrateful forgetfulness quickly replaces that desperate faith that we seemed to possess at the start.

Great need can give birth to powerful faith, but abundance can kill it quickly.

The disappointment expressed by Jesus toward the neglectful nine who didn't return reveals the contrast between God’s rightful expectation of gratitude for his good gifts and our false expectation of being rewarded for mere dutiful obedience. Instead of a grateful heart that recognizes it has received what it has not earned, this kind of dutiful heart we see in the nine says, “I did what I was supposed to do and so I got what I was supposed to get.”

Beware of a heart that expects grace rather than one that is amazed by grace.

On the importance of giving thanks to God, the apostle Paul writes this in his letter to the Corinthians:

For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. (2 Corinthians 4:15)

Paul explains that the very reason for spreading the gospel is so that thanksgiving towards God may abound more and more to the glory of God. This was his motivation for persevering in the face of persecution. Paul realized that the more he suffered then the more the grace of God would be made available to others. The more grace that was made available to others then the more people would call on the name of God. The more people that called on the name of God then the more thanksgiving would ascend towards God. And the more thanksgiving ascended towards God then the more God was glorified.

Therefore as we get ready to celebrate a week of Thanksgiving, may we all take time in the midst of this week to do just that. May we not overlook the amazing grace of God that is just waiting to be acknowledged all around us, and may we give God more glory by giving God more thanks.

 


10 Verses for Thanksgiving:

  • Mark 10:45 - For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

  • Romans 5:8 - But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

  • Romans 6:23 - For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

  • Romans 8:1 - There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

  • Romans 8:32 - He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?

  • 2 Corinthians 5:21 - For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

  • 2 Corinthians 8:9 - For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.

  • 1 Timothy 1:15 - The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.

  • 1 John 4:10 - In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

  • Revelation 5:9 - “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seal for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”

Coffee and Quiet Time

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I am a regular at the local coffee shop in Downtown Woodstock as it has become my own personal office. Rather than playing zone defense in an attempt to defend my privacy from four children under the age of eight, I sit quietly at my favorite table up against the wooden bleacher seating unique to Copper Coin Coffee in Woodstock, Georgia. This coffee shop get-a-way is an application of wisdom and discernment on my part. As I sit there each week and cherish my Ethiopian pour-over, I seek to take advantage of this quiet time. It is here that I often find the Holy Spirit subtly offering His wisdom aimed directly at my heart.

I am a drink person. I love coffee every morning, hot tea from time to time, and some sort of special beverage in the evening. I have a method to my morning madness that includes a handheld coffee grinder, fresh roasted coffee beans, a Hario kettle for the water and my own Aeropress to bring it all together. I love this part of my morning. And as you can see, I love sitting at the local coffee shop and enjoying various kinds of coffee from all over the world. 

Therefore, it doesn’t take much to conclude that coffee is something I desire, and something that I go out of my way for each and every day to enjoy. If I was to go a day without a cup, I’d miss it — not necessarily the caffeine but the experience. 

I cherish and desire these quiet times with a cup of coffee, but what about quiet time with my Father in heaven? 

Do I cherish and desire communion with God each and every day and pursue Him with the same consistency that I pursue a good cup of coffee? What about you? Would a day without any coffee (or your own item of pleasure) be a bigger deal to you than a day without any thoughtful conversation with God? This may sound ridiculous (thats debatable), but there's some truth here.

In His great Sermon on the Mount, Jesus commands us as His followers to go out of our way each and every day to enjoy our Father’s presence in prayer. He says,

"But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you." - Jesus

Prayer is without question the most important practice in our Christian life. Prayer is without a doubt “the highest activity of the human soul.” There is nothing greater for a man to undertake or to experience than pure communion with his Maker. But if we are honest with ourselves, we might have to admit that it is often the hardest thing to practice in our Christian life as well. 

Is there anything more difficult in the Christian life than a sincere and serious commitment to speak with God in prayer? How much easier do we find it to speak with everyone else around us than we find it to speak with God? Do we not find ourselves with much less to say when we are alone in silence with God than with others out in public? Therefore, what does it tell us about our own Christian condition when we examine the time we spend alone with God?

As Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones puts it:

“It is when we have left the realm of activities and outward dealings with other people, and are alone with God, that we really know where we stand in a spiritual sense. It is not only the highest activity of the human soul, it is the ultimate test of our true spiritual condition.”

Study the history of great men throughout church history, and you will see the seriousness with which they approached this issue of prayer. It’s a seriousness we see also in the lives of the disciples. The disciples watched the way Jesus spent time and spoke to His Father in prayer, and they desperately wanted what He seemed to have. They saw how He would get up early before the sunrise and how He’d go up alone upon the mountain and how He’d spend the whole night in prayer with His Father.

There is little doubt that this is what lead them to humbly beg, “Lord, teach us how to pray.” They wanted to pray like He was praying. They wanted to know God like He knew Him. They wanted to enjoy the Father’s presence in the same way that Jesus seemed to enjoy Him.

Jesus never taught His disciples how to preach; only how to pray.

Jesus tells us to seek God in the secret places and that is where He awaits for us. May we join the disciples in asking, “Lord, teach us how to pray.” We should desperately desire quiet time with our Father and go out of our way to have it. We need to shut out the world and shut ourselves in with God. May our Father in Heaven free us from the thought of prayer ever being a duty or a burden and may the secret place with our Father be our most cherished and desired place on earth.

 

Passing the Test

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What happens to you when you begin to get so hungry that you can hardly stand it? For most of us, we begin to lose focus on what we’re doing, and the thought of getting some food begins to consume our mind. We may even get a little quick-tempered and become susceptible to making rash decisions. Hunger has a way of messing with our heads and weakening our hearts.

Three of the four biographies about Jesus record a remarkable event that took place immediately after Jesus was baptized by John in the Jordan River. Jesus was baptized and then led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted and tested by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, Jesus was hungry.

It’s easy for us to overlook the reality that Jesus was not only fully God but was also fully human. After fasting for such an extended period of time, Jesus physically felt no different than we would after such a fast. Jesus was hungry!

It's at this point when Jesus is at his weakest and most vulnerable that the tempter steps in attempting to disqualify Jesus as the Son of God. He seeks to persuade Jesus to use his authority and power as the Son of God to make his life and grueling mission easier for himself.    

This extended time of fasting and prayer had been initiated by the Spirit, and this time of testing was being used by God to strengthen his Son for the mission that was set before him. While God never tempts anyone to do evil, he does use circumstances to test a person’s character. Despite this time of weakness, Jesus successfully aces the test.

And so, Jesus remained obedient as a man and as the representative of mankind. He has successfully defeated the forces of evil for us and has set an example that we can all learn from. Overcome the temptation to seek satisfaction in selfish gain and seek service to God above all. Lets rejoice in the faithfulness of our Representative and lets pray for God's protection from our times of testing and our deliverance from the forces of evil.