Thursday, April 28, 2016

Luke 12

Greedy?  Who me?  Greed is only shown by the wealthy and power-seeking tycoons of the world, right?  Wrong!  God has warned all of us of the dangers of greed creeping into our lives.  Greed can come into our lives whether we are wealthy or poor in this world's goods.  Greed has to do with the attitude of our hearts.

In our passage today in Luke 12 a man approached Jesus with a greedy heart.  He expected Jesus to settle a quarrel he was having with his brother over an inheritance. Jesus said to him in Luke 12:15, "Watch out!  Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a mans's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions."

Jesus warned us that there is extreme danger in depending on and running after the things of the world.  When people place their priorities and values in the things of the world, they will never be satisfied.  This kind of passion for things will only lead to a desire for more and more.  The things of the world will never satisfy.  A life lived in a relationship with the Lord is the only way to find joy and satisfaction.  Joy and peace is found only in the Lord.  Life is not about pursuing things, but life is about growing in our love relationship with the Lord.  Life is about serving the Lord and bringing honor to His name.

Greed is a form of idolatry.  Greed involves putting other things before our relationship with the Lord and before our desire to serve the Lord.  Greed can also lead to all kind of other sins.  Greed can lead to lying, cheating, stealing, and arrogance.  We must take heed of Jesus Christ's warning to "watch out! Be on guard against all kinds of greed."

In Luke chapter twelve starting in verse sixteen Jesus told a parable about a man who had much in terms of worldly wealth and possessions.  This man begin to think of himself as independent from God and self-reliant.  All this man's confidence was misplaced in his own perceived "wisdom" and abilities.  There was no acknowledgement of God and God's provision for him from this man.  The man made all his plans without regard to God's will for his life.  This man showed no fear of God or love for others.  His life consisted only in his selfish whims and pursuits.

God said to this man in Luke 12:20, "You fool!  This very night your life will be demanded from you.  Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?"  It is so meaningless to chase after temporal things, because our life on this earth is so temporal compared to eternity.  We can take nothing with us into eternity except our salvation and love for the Lord!

When people pursue a life style independent of the Lord and wrapped in themselves they will find only emptiness in their lives.  Life will have no joy or purpose.  Ecclesiastes chapter one verse two says of this kind of life, "Utterly meaningless!  Everything is meaningless."  The writer of Ecclesiastes was speaking of a life outside the Lord and lived only for oneself.  Such a life is meaningless.  There is no meaning or joy to life outside of living it for the Lord!

There are no guarantees in this life in regards to our own provisions and careful planning for ourselves.  Life can change so quickly, and all our carefully laid plans for ourselves can fall apart and fail.  A child of God can rest in the Lord and in His provisions, however.  The Lord has always promised to provide for our needs, as we rest in Him and are faithful to Him.  We must be content with what He has given us.  We must be content with where He has placed us in this world.  A relationship with Him as His child and as His disciple is the only way to peace and security!
Luke 12:21 reminds us that we must not seek to "store up things" in this world.  That will lead to greed and all kinds of other sins.  It will also lead to emptiness and restlessness.  Rather we must seek to become "rich toward God."  This is the secret to joy!        

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Luke 11

"Lord teach us to pray." Luke 11:1b

Prayer is as essential to our spiritual well-being as breathing is to our physical well-being. Luke chapter eleven verse one tells us that one day one of Jesus' disciples came to Jesus and said, "Lord, teach us to pray."  Jesus then gave His disciples the Lord's prayer as an example prayer to help them in their prayer lives.  The Lord's prayer continues to be a wonderful example for us today in how to pray.

Our prayers should always include worship and praise for our great and awesome Lord.  The first thing Jesus said in His prayer to His heavenly Father in Luke 11:2 was "hallowed be Your name, Your kingdom come."  So often we rush into our prayers asking for things.  God desires that we ask for things from Him; but we must also not forget to spend time in worship, praise, and thanks to the Lord.  We must praise and worship Him for all He is in His being and character, and then we must thank Him for all His bountiful blessings in our lives.

Notice the Lord Jesus also says, "Your kingdom come."  It should be our supreme desire that the Lord's will is done on this earth and in heaven.  Our lives should not be about our self-centered whims and desires.  Our lives should be centered on bringing about the Lord's will on this earth and in our lives.  Our lives should be centered on bringing glory and praise to the Lord.

Our prayers also can and must include asking the Lord to meet our daily needs.  In Luke 11:3 Jesus prayed, "Give us each day our daily bread."  "Daily bread" includes more than our food.  It includes all our physical, emotional, and spiritual needs.  It is good and necessary for us to ask the Lord for our needs.  In doing this we show our trust in the Lord and our reliance on Him to meet our every need.  This dependence on the Lord and not on our perceived resources is pleasing to the Lord.

Our prayers also must include prayers for forgiveness for our sins.  Jesus said in Luke 11:4, "Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.  And lead us not into temptation."  We need to daily confess our sins to the Lord.  We need to daily ask for His forgiveness.  We also need to ask for the Lord's strength to grow in holiness and Christ-likeness in our lives.

Notice that Jesus' prayer asks for forgiveness from God for our sins, as we forgive others their sins against us.  If we are not willing to forgive the petty little things others do against us, how can we ask the Lord to forgive the magnitude of our sins against the Almighty God?  Finally, we also need to ask the Lord to keep us from the devil's temptations all around us.

After Jesus gave His disciples the Lord's prayer as an example prayer, He told them a parable about prayer.  In this parable the Lord Jesus taught His disciples the need to be bold and persistent  in prayer.  Jesus said in verses nine and ten of  Luke chapter eleven, "So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened."

Jesus went on to say in verse thirteen, "If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!"  The Lord desires and longs for us to come to Him in prayer.  He desires to heap His blessings and good gifts on us.  He especially desires to give us His spiritual gifts and the work of His Holy Spirit on our lives.  If we who are sinful give good gifts to our children, the Lord God will surely give us His best and choicest gifts.  We can and must be bold and persistent in approaching Him in prayer for our needs.  We serve a loving and faithful God who desires to meet our needs, as we approach Him in humbleness and trustful dependence!

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Psalm 23 Part Two

"He restores my soul.  He guides me in paths of righteousness for His name sake.  Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff they comfort me.  You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.  Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever."  Psalm 23:3-6

Do you ever feel emotionally or spiritually drained?  Psalm 23 tells us that at times like these our Good Shepherd, Jesus, restores our souls.  He revives and refreshes our souls.  He renews and encourages us even when we have sinned or are discouraged.  Psalm 23:3 tells us that our good Shepherd also guides is "in paths of righteousness for His name's sake."

Sheep tend to stray.  The shepherd must lead them back to the right path, as it is dangerous to stray from the path.  Our Shepherd, Jesus, seeks to lead us on the "paths or righteousness" in this life that are for our protection and well-being.  The "paths of righteousness"  that our Shepherd leads us on are always pleasing to His will, and they are always for our ultimate good.  If we stray off the path, the Shepherd may have to send painful circumstances in our lives to teach us not to stray and to lead us back to the "paths of righteousness."  Our Shepherd, Jesus, does this all "for His name's sake."  The well-being of His sheep brings honor to the Good Shepherd's name!

Psalm 23:4 says, " Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff they comfort me."  Sheep are defenseless animals.  Left to themselves they have reason to be afraid.  They desperately need a shepherd, So we also desperately need our Shepherd, Jesus.

Even though we walk through dark and bitter experiences, however, we need to "fear no evil," because Jesus, our Shepherd, is with us all the way!  He will walk us through the deep and dark valleys of our lives.  He doesn't always take us around the valleys, but He will take us successfully through the valleys of life.  He will comfort us, guide us, protect us, reassure us, and rescue us in the deep and dark valleys of life!

Psalm 23:5 says, "You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies."  Keeping sheep in abundant grass is a full time job for the shepherd.  While the sheep are grazing the shepherd is is already thinking about where he will graze his sheep the next day.  A shepherd is also always aware of the need to protect His sheep from enemies.  The Lord, our Good Shepherd, has our future in His hands.  He is always protecting us from anything which will bring us harm. He controls everything in our lives.

Psalm 23:5 goes on to say, " You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows."  In the summer sheep become frantic in their attempts to cope with flies.  At the first sign of this the shepherd applies an oil to the heads of the sheep  to combat the problem.  With the aggravation gone the sheep become quiet, content, and peaceful.  Our Good Shepherd provides peace, comfort, and protection to us, His sheep!  "My cup overflows."  Our Good Shepherd not only cares for us, but He cares abundantly.  Our blessings from Him are abundant and overflowing!

In light of all these blessings we can say with the Psalmist in Psalm 23:6, " Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever."  We can count on God's goodness, love, and faithfulness all throughout our lives and throughout eternity! "The Lord is my Shepherd!"  You and I need absolutely nothing else for life and for eternity!

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Psalm 23

"The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not be in want.  He makes me lie down in green pastures.  He leads me beside quiet waters."  Psalm 23:1-2

Psalm 23 is one of the most familiar and loved Psalms.  It is a Psalm which you and I probably memorized as a young child.  One wonders sometimes if we have become so familiar with the words of the Psalm, however, that we do not fully delight in the implications of the Psalm's truths and promises.

Psalm 23:1 says,"The Lord is my Shepherd.  I shall not be in want."  Sheep are unintelligent, dirty, and defenseless.  They are in need of a shepherd for protection.  The Lord says that we are like sheep, but He is willing to be our Shepherd of protection.  He is willing to lead us through this life and to eternity!  "The Lord is MY Shepherd!"  As a child of God He is your Shepherd also!

In Biblical times the sheep were lead not driven.  They listened for the shepherd's voice, and they followed him.  So you and I must follow the Great Shepherd's voice in His Holy Word.  The Lord must be most important in our lives, and we must follow Him.  He must be our Shepherd in every area and activity of our lives.  All of our lives must be under His direction and control.  If we allow Him to control our lives, Psalm 23:1 tells us that we "shall not be in want."  He will provide for all of our needs, if we trust Him.

Psalm 23:2 says, "He makes me lie down in green pastures."  When you or I get too involved with our busy lives or lose sight of our passion to serve the Lord, He will intervene in our lives.
He will use some event or circumstance to compel us to rest in Him.  He wants us to rest secure and content in Him.

Green pastures in Psalm 23 are a metaphor for abundant life or for all that makes life flourish. Some of the circumstances the Lord allows in our lives may not seem like green pastures.  They seem more like brown dried up pastures.  We do not want to "lie down" and trust our Good Shepherd.  We may try to "fix" the problem on our own.  But what you or I see as a bad circumstance in our life may actually be for our good.  The Lord may be trying to make some repairs in our character and in our heart.  The Lord may be operating on us spiritually to remove selfishness and arrogance or self-reliance from our lives.  The Lord is in control.  We simply need to trust Him.  We must remain teachable.  If the Lord has allowed a difficult situation in our lives, we must submit to Him and rest in Him.

Psalm 23:2 goes on to say, "He leads me besides quiet waters."  The Lord leads us like a shepherd. Jesus Christ is out in front of us today.  He is already in the future, so we need not fear the future. Our future is secure in Him.  Jesus, our Good Shepherd, is in the business of stilling the raging waters and storms of our lives and leading us by "quiet waters."  The Lord leads us to His rest.  He provides for our security, nourishment, and sense of well-being.

Sheep panic when they are around raging waters. This is because sheep can drown very easily. The Lord is our Shepherd, and He can still whatever raging waters are in our lives that cause us to panic. The Lord will still them at the right moment in in His perfect timing.  Faith is a refusal to panic; because we know that our Shepherd, Jesus, is in complete control.  He is our peace!  He is our Shepherd!