Category Archives: Luke

Our Deepest Purpose: To Be Transformed

 transformed

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what my purpose is.  Why did God create me?  So I started studying it out.  I wanted to discover that my purpose is to achieve some kind of great accomplishment.  And maybe that is true.

But maybe my deepest purpose isn’t to accomplish a great work.

Maybe it’s for a great work to be accomplished in me.

As I said in my last blog, the reason we were CREATED was to be holy and righteous.  (Eph 4:24)

Through Christ we are enabled to fulfill this destiny:  “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love, he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ.”  Eph 1:4-5

But the creation isn’t finished.  Yes, there in no condemnation for those in Christ, yes, Jesus gives us his righteousness, but God’s also at work in us, molding and chiseling us into what His dream is for us to be.

  • for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.
  • Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,  Eph 3:20
  • God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness.  Heb. 12:10
  • He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.  John 15:2

Romans 8:29 says, “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.”  The Greek word here for “conformed” is “symmorphos” which means to change to become like something.   God is transforming us to become like his son.

And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.  II Cor 3:18

The process of my transformation is epic.  With God as the craftsman, it is a meticulous beautiful process.

I see it as chaotic and painful.  Things go wrong.  I have health challenges.  I have mood challenges.

BUT– “Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”  II Cor 4:17

Every day, I am being transformed.  WITH GOD, I am working out, fulfilling, my purpose.  I am being pruned.  I am being refined. I am being shaped into something multifaceted and wonderful.

scupture

A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart.  Luke 6:45

Jesus was concerned, first and foremost, with the inside.  He told the Pharisees to first clean the inside of the cup, and then the outside of the cup would be clean.  The most important thing in life is to work on your heart.

So if there are any worthy accomplishments I hope to achieve, they can only come from a heart that God has transformed.  This must be my focus — to trust and submit, and embrace my greatest purpose.

Does the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you making?’ Does your work say, ‘The potter has no hands’?  Is 45:9

God wanted his people throughout the world to know the glorious riches of this mystery-which is Christ living in you, giving you the hope of glory  Col 1:27

 

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Favorite, Having the Right Heart, Holiness, Luke, Things I Am Learning

Don’t Pray for Blessings!

IMG_4382

To start off, I got the idea for this blog from another blog.  I read it and then went on my way.  Yet as time went on, I kept thinking of it, and it made such an impact that I wanted to communicate its main ideas.  I tried to find the blog to give it credit, but couldn’t.

Here is what the blog said:  Don’t pray for blessings.

We Christians have a habit of defining life in terms of our “blessings.”  We say our material possessions are blessings.  “God blessed me with such a nice house, car, etc.”  We say the good things that happen to us are blessings.  We name our friends and family as blessings.

And, don’t get me wrong, all of these things ARE blessings.  “Every good and perfect gift is from above.”  (James 1:17)

But labeling things as a blessing can lead to a mentality where our happiness is MEASURED by what we have, and what goes right.

If things work out, we are happy.  After all, we are blessed!  But then what do we think when things go wrong?

If we are studying the Bible with people and they decide to make Jesus Lord, we’re happy.  When we see the church assembly full of fired up people we’re happy.  But what about when people get weak, or leave?  It can be so discouraging.

Of course, if we care about people, we are going to feel emotional when they struggle.  “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it.”  (I Cor 12:26)

But we we need to have a joy that transcends our “blessings.”  We need to have a deep and abiding joy that comes solely from Christ.

Instead of filling our prayer time with so many petitions, we need to pray to have MORE OF CHRIST.     Pray for God’s will to be done, and let this will be our food, as Jesus did in John 4:34.  Pray to know God’s love better, as Paul prayed in Phil 1:9 and Eph 3:17-19.

I mean, just look at the Ephesians 3 prayer: “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”

We get COMPLETELY FILLED with God when we understand the love of Christ.  And I think that is what leads to the next statement in Ephesians 3, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.”

I think God does immeasurably more, not with life circumstances, as much as with our INNER TRANSFORMATION.  God does immeasurably more by helping us understand his love, and filling us completely.  We overflow with, as Peter put it, an inexpressible and glorious joy:

  • “Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”  I Peter 1:9

God works incredibly in our hearts, giving us inner security where we were insecure, giving us confident where we were fearful.  Our weaknesses are turned into strengths. We are freed from the fruitless pursuit of trying to meet our own needs, and finally trust that He who loves us will take care of us.  A vibrant joy in our souls can keep growing and growing.

In my house, I try to always keep a bowl of fresh fruit on the table.  It symbolizes abundance to me.  As I look around, I see that I surround myself with the comfort and affirmation that I am blessed.  I see the cat curled up on the couch.  My grandmother’s quilt on the rack in the bedroom.  Pictures from vacations in the guest room.  Shells from the beach on my dresser.  Pictures of the kids on the occasional table.  Decorative pieces from loved ones on walls and shelves.

IMG_4390 IMG_4386

But this mentality is only good if everything is in order.  It requires me constantly having to straighten up and clean.  Somehow my symbols of abundance aren’t as powerful when they’re surrounded by mess!

It’s just one more reminder that I cannot let my blessings dictate the level of my joy.

Okay, I know the title of this blog went a bit overboard.  There are many good “blessings” we should pray for.  There are circumstances that need to change.  People who have needs.

And we do need to be thankful.  Gratitude is POWERFUL!  I am keeping a list of things I am thankful for, and I am up to about 400 things on that list so far. It is so helpful to focus my mind on the positive instead of the negative.

But I want something more.  I want something deeper.  I am not entirely sure how to get it, but this has been my prayer —  that God will show me how to have an all sufficient joy that is based on Him, that my happiness will not be based on physical blessings, but on spiritual ones.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.”  Eph 1:3

Leave a comment

Filed under Joy, Luke, More of Christ, Uncategorized

Hearing the Miraculous Song!

The Island City of Tyre

The Island City of Tyre

“In the pride of your heart  you say, ‘I am a god;’

Because you think you are wise, as wise as a god…You will be but a mortal, not a god, in the hands of those who slay you.”  (Ez 28:1, 6, 9)

Of course I wouldn’t say, “I am a God.”  But as I look at the struggles in my heart right now, I see that I am anxious.  I think it is up to me to fix everything.  I try to carry the weight of the world on my shoulders.  It’s a pride problem.

I struggle with giving to “the least of these.”  I want to qualify my sacrifice for others — who I give to, when it’s convenient to give.  Another pride problem.

Lately I am having problems with a chemical imbalance of some sort at times.  Paul said, “to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh.”  (II Cor 12:7) Maybe God allows me to have this  challenges in the flesh as a pride solution!  I surely do need to remember to be humble!

Pride can be a very scary thing.  The verse I started the blog with is from Ezekiel 28.  It is about Tyre.  Here is what Jesus said about Tyre, after he had sent the 72 out to proclaim the good news and they were rejected by the Jewish cities:

Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes.”  Luke 10:13

In Ezekiel 28, Tyre was the most prideful of prideful dogs!  The way she was described, it is hard to imagine that another city could be more prideful.  Yet even she was not as prideful as the Jewish cities of Chorazin and Bethsaida.  If she had seen the miracles they saw, she would have repented.  They could not see the miracles, or the significance of them.   They did not repent!  Their hearts were so hard.

We need to see the miracles that are happening all around us — the miracle of answered prayer.  the miracle of being in God’s grace, the miracle of changed hearts, the miracle of insight, and many others.

Instead, I want more, more, more!  I look at what I still want to change, at the prayers that still need to be answered.  I miss the “surpassing great revelations” God is giving me.  Is this hardening my heart?  Do I take the miracles for granted?

Is there a relationship between acknowledging the miraculous work of God and repentance?  Does having the heart of a child, that I am in wonder at each act of God, help me to serve him better?  For sure!  As Jesus goes on to say in the parallel version of this verse in Matt. 11:25, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.”

And Jesus precedes his indictment in Matthew of the Jewish towns with this illustration:

To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others:  ‘We played the pipe for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’”  Matt 11:15-17

What song is God playing for me?  Let me have ears to hear.  Let me not be deafened by my frustrations, by my anxieties.  Let me dance with praise as I see God working throughout the day, and may this help me to be more of the person I need to be.

2 Comments

Filed under Ezekiel, Luke, Surrender, Topical

Falling in Love with Jesus

Wedding

Sometimes, I need to get back to the basics.  I listened yesterday to a message by Francis Chan about the importance of loving Jesus.  He read from Philippians, “ I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.”  This message was convicting to me because I feel that I can get caught up in all kinds of wonderful religious ideas, but what is the focus of this?  It can be me, and all of my “wonderful” ideas.  I want so much just to be in love with Jesus, for him to fill my heart —  that life would be about nothing more than him.

I have been working my way back through Luke from time to time.  Here are some of the passages that struck me from Luke 9.

“When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases,  and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.”  Luke 9:2-3

To fall in love with Jesus is to fall in love with his message: the kingdom of God.  Jesus’ passion, his reason for being, was establishing the kingdom of God, a new order in which God would reign supreme.  Jesus loved doing God’s will. “My food is to the will of him who sent me…”  (John 4:34)  For him, there was never a question of doing anything else.  He loved allowing God to be the absolute monarch of the universe, and live every aspect his life in reverent submission.  And with every fiber of his being, Jesus wanted others to come to honor God in the same way.

To fall in love with Jesus is to gain his heart of compassion.  Not only did Jesus send out the disciples to preach, but he sent them out to heal.  Yes, his message was that we must all put God first in our hearts and obey him.  But It was never just about obedience.  Obedience and compassion always went hand in hand.  What a God, who is not only to be held as high and holy, but would have our hearts be moved about the plight of each individual!

“Late in the afternoon the Twelve came to him and said, “Send the crowd away so they can go to the surrounding villages and countryside and find food and lodging, because we are in a remote place here. He replied, “You give them something to eat.”  (Luke 9:12-13)

To fall in love with Jesus is to let his hope fill our hearts.  Jesus wasn’t intimidated by difficult situations.  He faced them with the calm assurance that there was a solution.  The storms didn’t bother him.  The raging crowds didn’t phase him, nor did people who tried to seize him before his time.  He didn’t feel depleted, and unwilling to deal with the needs of others.  He opened his heart and wanted to meet their needs.  He believed there was a way.

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”  Peter answered, “God’s Messiah.” Jesus strictly warned them not to tell this to anyone.  (Luke 9:20-21)

To fall in love with Jesus is to be so moved and attracted to this man who did not want glory for himself.  I struggle with wanting praise for myself.  For Jesus, it was never about him and the attention he could get from who he was or what he could do.  It wasn’t about being impressive because of accomplishments, or intellect.  “Then he said to them, “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; . . . For it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest.”  I love that Jesus could cut through all of the pride and artifice of people, all of the things that we aspire to, all of the things we admire in others, and see the greatness in a child, in the simple beautiful core of what each human is.

As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. (Luke 9:29)

A man in the crowd called out, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son, for he is my only child….I begged your disciples to drive it out, but they could not.”   “You unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied. . . But Jesus rebuked the impure spirit, healed the boy and gave him back to his father.  (Luke 9:38-42)

To fall in love with Jesus is to be awed by his divinity and power.  Evil is not stronger than he is, and he is ready to vanquish it in our lives!

As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.  (Luke 9:51)

To fall in love with Jesus is to be thankful that he was so determined to complete the work that would bring me close to him.  Nothing would deter him.  He did not procrastinate, or compromise what he needed to do.  He knew what was truly important, and that is what dictated his course of action.

I watched a couple of episodes of “My Fair Wedding” yesterday.  A wedding can generate an enormous amount of hoopla.  And it makes sense to people to spend thousands upon thousands of dollars to create this elaborate, beautiful celebration, because it is an expression of something so immeasurably wonderful — love.

And if we can have weddings as a time to commemorate love; weddings filled with flowers and beautiful decorations and feasting and dancing; then we can have heart bursting devotional times with the God who is love, and Christ, the bridegroom who came to earth to seek his bride.  May I remember to keep it simple and just love Jesus.

.

Leave a comment

Filed under Love, Luke, Topical -- Love

How to Be Recharged

“If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.”

The temptation:  To think that we need something or we’re not going to make it.

The devil wanted Jesus to think he needed bread.  He tried to get him to focus on his needs.  Jesus responded that the only thing he needed was God.

In the same way, I have things I think I need, or I’m not going to make it.  Sometimes I think I need people to be a certain way.  Sometimes I think need church to be a certain way.  Sometimes I think I need a situation to resolve itself in a certain way.  Sometimes I think I need to feel a certain way, be in a good state of health, have a certain level of energy.

But all I need is God.

The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be yours.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.'”

The temptation:  To think that things have to work out, that we must be successful.

The world is a picture of achievement.  People have power.  Great buildings are erected.  There are great products, great inventions.  I want God’s Kingdom to be like the world: great in accomplishment.  But God wants our attitude to be,  “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines…yet I will rejoice in the Lord.”  (Hab 3:17-18)  He wants us to say, “The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.”  (Job 1:21)  Yes, God will eventually do many things that are more than we ask or imagine, but this shouldn’t be what we seek, but instead we should just seek to worship Him always.

The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here. For it is written:‘He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’ Jesus answered, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’

Temptation:  To think, “Is God really going to take care of me, ‘guard me carefully?’  This is a hard situation.  Will the Lord really give me the strength I need to get through it in the way I should?”

Like the lyrics from “Precious Lord,” we say, “I am tired.  I am weak.  I am worn”  But we still expect that we should be able to move mountains.  We demand so much from ourselves and our faith.

But Jesus didn’t entertain this kind of thinking.  He just believed that he was always in the right place at the right time, doing the work God wanted him to do.  Of course there there would be strength to carry through what God set for Him to do.

Worshiping God, serving Him only, having His mindset, is the way Jesus recharged.  This is the way I need to recharge as well.  Focusing on my expectations, on the “shoulds,” depletes me.  Jesus said later in his ministry, “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.”  As long as I live Christianity according to my agenda, it will be a mockery and I will be tired and discouraged.  But when I lose every expectation and just fill myself up with the wonders of who God is, and the holy magic that is worship of Him, I will be refueled.

Leave a comment

Filed under Luke

Prayer that Will Empower Us

When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.”  (Luke 9:1-2)

Jesus starts in Luke 9 by sending out the Twelve.  Previously, he had been the one going to town to town, healing and spreading the good news.  Now he is enlisting help.  This is our goal, that we will not only minister to others, but that we will send out others to minister.

Something else that struck me in Luke 9 is that three times in this chapter we see Jesus withdrawing from the public.  My thought is that Jesus is getting ready to change the direction of his ministry, and he is preparing himself mentally to do that.

Then he took them with him and they withdrew by themselves to a town called Bethsaida  (v. 10)

Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him… (v. 18)

About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray (v. 28)

Prayer is what helps Jesus to not just focus on preaching and healing, but on his mission to give his life.  Here is what Jesus said after he prayed:

“The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.”  (v. 22  He said this after he had been praying in private.)

“Listen carefully to what I am about to tell you: The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men.”  (v. 44  He said this after he came down off the mountain.)

My prayer must be the same way.  I can go down my list of all the things I want God to do, and all the ways I want Him to help me.  But prayer needs to help me to die to self, to see that my mission is a serious and costly thing.  As it did for Jesus, my prayer can empower me to go forth in a new direction.  Look at what Jesus did next in Luke 9:

“As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.” (v. 51)

Leave a comment

Filed under Luke, Prayer

Grace that Keeps Fertilizing

Fertilizer

“No, and I tell you again that unless you repent, you will perish, too.” 

Then Jesus told this story: “A man planted a fig tree in his garden and came again and again to see if there was any fruit on it, but he was always disappointed. Finally, he said to his gardener, ‘I’ve waited three years, and there hasn’t been a single fig! Cut it down. It’s just taking up space in the garden.’  “The gardener answered, ‘Sir, give it one more chance. Leave it another year, and I’ll give it special attention and plenty of fertilizer.  If we get figs next year, fine. If not, then you can cut it down.’”  Luke 13:5-8

God gives us so many chances.  He does so many things to set us up to win.

We know we need to do better.  We know we need to repent of certain actions and attitudes.  Like the fig tree with no fruit, we disappoint God.

But Jesus is merciful.  In the parable he gives the fig tree more time to bear fruit. We don’t deserve more time, but we get it.  In the parable, he fertilizes the fig tree.  In our lives, Jesus puts people in our lives who can help us do what we are supposed to do.   He puts us in situations that will enrich us, inspire us, motivate us, and teach us.  He gives us special attention, even though we are failures.

Israel failed God.  He had designated them as His chosen people, but they broke their covenant and went after other gods, time and time again.

Yet God didn’t give up on his people.  He preserved a remnant, and established a new covenant with them.  He set it up in the future so that we can all flourish.

“‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will take a shoot from the very top of a cedar and plant it; I will break off a tender sprig from its topmost shoots and plant it on a high and lofty mountain. On the mountain heights of Israel I will plant it; it will produce branches and bear fruit and become a splendid cedar. Birds of every kind will nest in it; they will find shelter in the shade of its branches. All the trees of the forest will know that I the Lord bring down the tall tree and make the low tree grow tall. I dry up the green tree and make the dry tree flourish.“ ‘I the Lord have spoken, and I will do it.’”  Ezekiel 17:22-24

Leave a comment

Filed under Ezekiel, Grace, Luke