Jesus Healed Them Anyway

In Luke 6 we get three groups of people. It starts with Jesus’ disciples. From that group Jesus selects the 12 apostles. After that selection, Jesus and all his disciples go out to the plain to preach. When he gets there the crowd grows from just being Jesus, his apostles and other disciples to also including people from surrounding towns and regions. There is the third group, the crowd. They aren’t Christ-followers. They show up when convenient and when Jesus is done or they find it convenient, they go back home. Luke tells us the crowd came for three reasons: to hear Jesus, to be healed of disease and to be delivered from evil spirits.

These guys came, got their healing, heard a little preaching and went home. They didn’t immediately follow Jesus. Jesus healed them anyway. I can’t tell you how many times that I have reached out to people I initially encountered through benevolence ministry. In the back of my mind I am always wondering if this person will become a Christian through our acts of compassion. Most of the time they don’t. Most of the time they just want a bill paid or some food and then, like the crowds Jesus healed, they leave. But Jesus healed them anyway. Jesus showed compassion and mercy to people who would never become disciples and so should we.

The Holy Spirit’s Role in the Coming of Jesus

We often associate the Holy Spirit with the beginning of the church in Luke’s second volume, the book of Acts. What is interesting is that the Holy Spirit also played a key role in kicking off Luke’s first volume, the Gospel of Luke:

  • Luke 1:15 – John the Baptist will be filled with the Holy Spirit before he is born
  • Luke 1:35 – The Holy Spirit will take part in the conception of Jesus
  • Luke 1:41 – When Mary and Elizabeth meet, both pregnant, John jumps in Elizabeth’s womb and it is Elizabeth who is filled with the Holy Spirit! It prompts her to speak a blessing on Mary.
  • Luke 1:67 – The Holy Spirit fills Zechariah, John the Baptist’s father, and he prophesies. I am really unsure why this prophesy always gets the heading “Zechariah’s Song” when it is a prophesy.
  • Luke 2:25 – Simeon had been promised that he would see the Messiah before he died. He also had the Holy Spirit on him.
  • Luke 3:16 John the Baptist tells the crowds that the one who comes after him will baptize people in the Holy Spirit
  • Luke 3:22 – the Holy Spirit descends on Jesus at his baptism (interesting that Luke says this happened “as he was praying” at his baptism)
  • Luke 4:1 – Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit as he went out into the wilderness to be tested.

The Holy Spirit played a huge role in the coming of Jesus and the beginning of his ministry. What is more, the Holy Spirit was present in the ministry of Jesus as well:

  • Luke 10:21 – The Holy Spirit wasn’t just present at Jesus baptism and temptation. The Holy Spirit was upon him in this verse as well
  • Luke 11:13 – Jesus says God will give the Holy Spirit to those who ask
  • Luke 12:10 – a warning against blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. This warning means the Holy Spirit was a driving force in Jesus’ ministry and miracles. That is clear because Jesus is warning them against calling his miracles from the devil and saying that to deny his miracles is to blaspheme the Spirit, which means the Spirit was at work in the ministry of Christ.

It is easy to think the Holy Spirit was absent from all of this because we spend more time on Jesus’ promise of the coming of the Spirit from verses like John 16:7,

“But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.”

Some then assume the Spirit wasn’t much a part of anything until after Jesus ascended to heaven. As you can see from all the verses above, the Holy Spirit played a central role in the coming of the Messiah from before he was conceived, through Mary’s pregnancy, to his birth and through his ministry and then, finally, to the church. The Spirit’s involvement in the start of the church wasn’t anything new. It was very much in line with everything the Spirit had been involved in up to that point.

Review of Logos “How to Read the Bible” Collection – Part 3

AllJesusAsksThe third book in the Logos “How to Read the Bible” Collection is Stan Guthrie’s All That Jesus Asks: How His Questions Can Teach and Transform Us. Guthrie takes the majority of questions Jesus asked during his ministry and weaves them into an investigation of the identity and mission of Jesus Christ. In later chapters he turns to questions that explore our identity as disciples (character, (in)competency, attitude, etc) and finally concludes with some apologetics.

After being fairly critical of the other book he did in this collection, “A Concise Guide to Bible Prophesy“. I am really happy to say that this book was excellent. It is thorough. It is insightful. The illustrations are excellent. If I had to compare this to something, I would call this book “Jesus’ Questions for Everyone” as his style reminds me of N.T. Wright’s “For Everyone” Series of New Testament commentaries. He touches on the relevant verses, illustrating and commentating along the way.

I would recommend this book not just to people who want all of Jesus’ questions in one place but to people who enjoy investigation. He doesn’t just linearly and analytically make a list of questions and address them. He weaves the questions of JesusI really love that because any book about questions should feel like an investigation…it is just being fair to your subject…and Guthrie really does pull it off.

There are only three criticisms I have of this book. First, he admits that he is no biblical scholar so there are times I think he missed the point. One of those times in in Chapter 4, “His Humanity” where Guthrie interprets some of Jesus questions to mean that Jesus asked certain questions because he really had no idea of the answer. Here is one example,

When Jesus stands before Pontius Pilate, and a Roman execution for sedition looms large, the procurator asks him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus is not concerned with saving his own skin, but learning whether this brutal Roman official might be a spiritual seeker, one in whom the seed of faith is likely to grow. “Do you say this of your own accord,” he asks, “or did others say it to you about me?” Jesus genuinely wants an answer because he doesn’t know. – Guthrie, S. (2010). All that Jesus Asks: How His Questions Can Teach and Transform Us (60). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

Jesus was making a point in asking the question that goes beyond him just being ignorant of the answer (much like God asking Adam and Eve “Where are you” after they sinned – Gen 3:9). Of the recorded questions of Jesus in the Gospels, Jesus doesn’t normally ask questions out of ignorance. His questions make a point. This entire book was about how Jesus taught through questions, so I am not sure how he missed it on this one.

The second criticism I have of the book just comes with the territory. Any time you deal with passages out of context and develop a whole book that strings together related topics and verses out of context you run the risk of missing some of the meaning. Like the above examples, that happened a few times in the book. Again, that is to be expected due to the way the book is laid out. Third, when you take out of context verses and force them into a self-made framework you run the risk of twisting some passages to fit your topics. That doesn’t come across too much in this book but it does happen. (See Procrustean bed)

Overall, great book and one I would recommend. What the book lacks in scholarship (which overall is pretty insignificant) Guthrie makes up for in his journalistic style, engaging commentary, and ability to connect the reader to the thrill of the investigation, relevance and application. Questions are powerful and Guthrie does a great job of handling the questions of Jesus from his own perspective without getting in the way.

What Does It Mean To Lay Down Your Life for Your Brother? 1 John 3:16-18

16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” – 1 John 3:16-18

When we hear Jesus laid down his life for us, usually the first thing that comes to mind is his crucifixion. Jesus died for us on the cross…that is what laying down his life looks like. I think John is letting us in on a little more to the story than just the crucifixion. Notice what he says next, “And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”

John tells us that, like Jesus, we ought to lay down our lives for others. No surprise there, but notice the example he gives of what this looks like. He doesn’t tell of a Christian dying for another Christian. John’s illustration of how to lay down your life for others is to help someone in need. The truth of the matter is, few of us will ever die for another person, while all of us have the opportunity to put others first on a daily basis.

That brings us back to Jesus. When did Jesus lay down his life? It started well before the cross. It started when he invited a tax collector to follow him, even though he knew people wouldn’t like it. It started when he got an adulterous woman out of being stoned, even though he knew it would cost him. It started when he raised Lazarus from the dead and the plots to kill him started to swirl. It started back when he told them he would tear down the temple and raise it up again in three days but they didn’t understand him and were angry with him for saying such things.

The point is, Jesus laid down his life all along the way. The ultimate demonstration was in the cross but the reality is, it started way before that. The cross was the natural progression of a life that was already given up for others. So when we are called to lay down our lives for others, don’t get all focused on dying for someone else and never put this into practice for lack of opportunity. Realize that laying down yourself for others is about how you value people and how you see yourself.

Loving Those On the Margins

Be very careful to never marginalize others. Jesus frequently took people from the margins, excluded from their community, into fellowship with himself: the 12 disciples, the woman at the well (and all her neighbors), the woman with the perfume, Zacchaeus, you and me. Remember that prior to our salvation, we were dead in sin. When Christ raised us to life we were powerless, helpless and dead. It takes humility to remember where you came from. He has done it before and, before you look down on someone else, remember he will do it again. I would hate to be the guy who stood between anyone and Jesus! I am so encouraged that Christians today are serious about that part of our mission. It has taken some time but I am convinced that in many instances the church is turning the corner on this one!

Living Inside Out: Guest Post by Adelle Gabrielson

“If thou indeed derive thy light from heaven,
then to the measure of that heaven-born light, shine…in thy place and be content.”

~William Wordsworth

Every Sunday morning, my family would go out to breakfast before church. I remember one of those Sundays in particular when my father suddenly looked up at me across the table and said:

“You’re 10 years old. It’s time you were baptized.”

I remember feeling stunned – baptism! It hadn’t come up in a while, not since I’d given up the idea that crackers and juice were an adult snack I was missing out on. I had seen other people baptized, mostly adults, and a few teenagers at camp every year. I hadn’t really considered it for myself.

But, being a girl who did as she was told, that Sunday night I was baptized by my father, before the evening worship service with as little hoopla as I could orchestrate.

I was ten years old, in fifth grade, and I always wanted to do the right thing. If my dad said this was the right thing, then it must have been the right thing. I loved God. I wanted to be saved.

I did as I was told.

I remember feeling somewhat saintly that night falling asleep, and dreamt horrible dreams of the sins I would soon commit, destroying my perfect, sinless, saintly self and woke up the next day bereft and confused.

Following Christ in the act of baptism did nothing to prevent me from sin. From missing the mark and messing up. Over and over and over again.

I thought somehow that baptism would make me more holy, sin-free and saintly. I would be less tempted, guileless and free. I come from a long line of female perfectionists, good girls who were great at keeping up appearances and worrying about what the neighbors might think.

Yet sin seemed to find me, no matter how good I was, or how well I followed the rules.

I came to realize that despite my best efforts, sin remains. As much a part of me as my gender and humanity. Parenthood and perhaps simply age have helped me realize that being perfect was never the objective. The true objective is equally simple as impossible.

Be like Jesus.

Does that mean be perfect? Spotless? Sinless? Worldly perfection is an exhausting task master. In a million ways I will never be enough…daily I am faced with my imperfection as a parent, a wife, a daughter, a friend. There is always more that could be done, greater heights to which I should aspire, and always, always, someone better with whom to compare myself.

I will never be enough.

Rather than striving (and failing) for perfection, maybe I just ought to be striving to be like Jesus.

A man who made Himself nothing.

Be like Jesus.

A servant.

Who didn’t follow all the rules.

Who questioned tradition, social mores and legalism.

He got angry when anger was justified.

He wept when grief was called for.

Most of all, he loved the broken, beat-up and bewildered.

Most of all, he loved the ones who could never be enough.

Be like Jesus.

Living in such a way that the Light, that heaven-born light, shines from the inside out.

And so I tread onward, trying to live with the inside on the outside. Allowing the cracks to be exposed. Setting aside the unattainable and simply being me – in all of my brokenness and flaws.

The cracks are how the Light gets through, and being perfect isn’t my job. It’s His.

 

About Adelle:

Writer, speaker, and wife to her first love, Adelle is a former marketing executive turned boy-mom of two. Adelle speaks and writes about fearless, authentic living, and blogs weekly on her website www.AdelleGabrielson.com. For more, follow Adelle on Facebook or Twitter: @ReadyGoGetSet

I received the blessing of meeting Adelle at the Pepperdine Lectures last week. Be sure to have a look at more of her writing at the above links. Thanks Adelle for taking the time to write this. I am sure it will impact many.

Do Not Just Be Yourself!

You hear it all the time, “Just be yourself” or “don’t try to be someone you are not.” Self expression is popular. Give a kid a school uniform and she will find a way to make it her own. Uniformity is not seen as a plus. That’s why people talk about solutions being outside the box because staying in the box with all the other people who have done it a certain way before is just old and boring.

None of that is wrong but it is important to remember a few things about being ourselves when it comes to self-expression. But when it comes to our identity, we can’t just be ourselves. Left to ourselves, we are dead in sin. Left to ourselves, we make terrible decisions. Left to ourselves we are helpless. The Bible teaches us that God’s desire for your life is that you become someone you were not before. Don’t just be yourself, be like Jesus.

  • Imitate him – 1 Cor 11:1, 1 John 2:6
  • Be conformed to his likeness – Rom 8:29, 1 John 4:17
  • Be transformed in your mind – Romans 12:1-2
  • Have a mind like Jesus – Romans 15:5
  • Being made complete in Him – Ephesians3:19

I am so appreciative that God loved us enough to send Jesus to show us how to live. Words on tablets weren’t enough. God expressed himself through the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ. His desire for us is that we follow Him so intimately that we become more and more like Him each and every day. So don’t just be yourself…try to be like Jesus.

Options for Declining Churches

On this good Friday, I want to talk about how God can take death and turn it into life when it comes to churches in decline. There are a lot of churches that have been in decline for some years. Churches shut their doors every single week. There are churches that used to be 400 and now are down below 100. The congregation is aging, the young people are gone, and the sound of babies hasn’t been heard in a while. What do you do when it seems inevitable that the church is going to have to close its doors in the future? The good news is that change does not mean death or failure. Instead, it can be the birth of something new and better.If you do have to close your doors, realize God is still at work. The tabernacle wasn’t forever. Shiloh wasn’t forever. The temple wasn’t even forever…what makes us think that “such and such church” will be forever either? None of those closures bothered God because God could see what was next. When the temple was destroyed in Jerusalem in 70 AD God already had his plan in place…we are his temple. What is tragic to us in one moment can unfold into God’s larger plan. So don’t fear the future.

Here are a few things churches can consider,

Merging with another existing congregation: Combine your resources, staff, leadership to make something that is better than each congregation by itself. This takes humility and it takes people being team players who can put the good of the kingdom above personal agendas. This can be a hard transition depending on the personalities and circumstances involved but it is better than dying completely.

Get back in the game: Determine that there is a better future for the congregation and start taking steps that are in line with that future. This takes good leadership. If the leadership is weak, pray God would strengthen that and give you clarity on how to move ahead in ways that would glorify Him.

If you want to get back in the game, outreach is going to be important.I would recommend any church to have a look at Church Steps outreach as a way to get Christians involved in outreach and start getting more people in the congregation through conversion. It is also vitally important that these churches retain any youth they have by getting those youth and their families involved in ministry, personal spiritual growth and discipleship. Last, the young adult crowd is another group that needs to be brought back into existing congregations and converted for those young adults who aren’t Christians. You don’t have to have a band and the most dynamic speaker in the world to that. If you are interested in some ways your church can do that, feel free to contact me and we can talk it over – matthewdabbs@hotmail.com (the same with Church Steps). Moving in new directions is going to take a focus and reliance on God.

It can be hard to turn the ship. Often, we tend to keep moving in the same direction even if it isn’t working. That is called homeostasis (same state) and it is hard to break out of that. It takes great motivation and courage but it can be done!

Donate your resources to an existing congregation/non-profit. Churches are not for profit entities. When they liquidate the proceeds have to go to other 501c3’s. Find a worthy cause that is growing, Christian-based and is need of additional facilities due to the growth and success. Bless them with your building and resources and move your people on to another congregation(s).

It is important that we see God in the middle of these things so that we can take Him and His word, that he really is making all things new. How appropriate on Good Friday that we can talk about God taking death and turning it into new life!

Easter, Bodily Resurrection and the Immortality of the Soul

One really common belief across religions is that existing comes with an inalienable right to continue to exist in perpetuity (forever). That is called the immortality of the soul. That view didn’t come from Judaism or Christianity but from the Greeks. Socrates and Plato both influenced this idea and it has had a heavy influence in Christian circles even still today. It is popular but is it scriptural that all souls are guaranteed eternal existence? Matthew 10:28 says it is entirely possible for God to destroy the soul. Revelation 20:14-15 call hell the “second death”. If these people have already died and are being judged and condemned to hell to die a second time and death is the cessation of life, it is entirely possible that they are consumed and gone forever (some call that the annihilation view of hell). But it only makes sense that your right to an eternal soul does not trump God’s sovereignty or ability to destroy your soul if He so wills it. Instead, many have opted for Plato even where it contradicts scripture.

The Greeks believed there was a body/soul dichotomy. The body was temporary and evil. The soul was eternal and good. So when you die, in some sense, you got an upgrade because your body was no more…decayed and never to be useful again. There was no interest in this body after death because when you die, the Greeks thought, the very best part of you lived on. Many Christians have adopted that idea and it has resulted in the belief that heaven is a place of disembodied souls like in the old hymn “Home of the Soul”,

“If for the prize we have striven,
After our labors are o’er,
Rest to our souls will be given,
On the eternal shore.”

And then, speaking of heaven in the Chorus,

“Home of the soul, beautiful home,
There we shall rest, never to roam;
Free from all care, happy and bright,
Jesus is there, He is the light!
Oft in the storm, lonely are we,
Sighing for home, longing for thee,
Beautiful home of the ransomed,
beside the crystal sea.”

Resurrection
In this view, heaven is a place of disembodied souls that live eternally with God. But is that biblical or is that just pagan Greek philosophy intermingled with Christian doctrine? This view fails to capture what the New Testament teaches us about the resurrection. What happens to the soul after we die? The Greeks believed the soul lived on in the afterlife as a shade/shadow of your former self. Jews and Christians believe in a general resurrection at the end of time and in the meantime your soul was at rest (there is disagreement on what the intermediate state consists of).

So here is the question – Jews and Christians believe in a general resurrection…the question is, “What is raised?” If you believe heaven is a place where disembodied souls live with God forever then you must insist that souls are being raised and that when 1 Thessalonians 5 says “The dead in Christ will rise” that souls are rising to meet Christ. Rising from what? Rising from the ground? The souls must have left their resting place, returned to the ground (where they were buried??? and then rise up from there)? That certainly seems strange. What is more, if you think souls are eternal AND heaven is about disembodied souls then why does scripture talk about resurrection giving us new life? You are already as alive as you would be, under that theory, as a disembodied soul. And, what does it mean for Christ to conquer death if there is no sign in our lives of that ever being the case? If our bodies suffer eternal decay, that certainly doesn’t seem like much of a victory over death (1 Cor 15) to me.

But if our bodies are raised the whole thing makes sense…death is not the victor, decay doesn’t have the final say and the effects of sin are reversed! The scriptures speak with continuity and clarity on this. Jesus was our forerunner. Jesus was raised in the body. He ascended to heaven bodily. Do you think he ascended bodily but checked his body at the door of heaven or do you think he will be the only guy in the room with a body in heaven? Or is it possible (and scriptural) that our bodies will be raised just like His? That is what the ancient Jews believed, what the New Testament teaches and what the early Christians believed as well. But somewhere along the line we let ancient Greek philosophy cloud our view of all of this, even when it contradicts scripture.

Kids, Play and the Power of Narrative

millionmilesI have been reading Donald Miller’s book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, highly recommend it. This book is Miller’s reflection on working with producers on the movie version of Blue Like Jazz. Turns out, life isn’t like the movies…most of us wouldn’t make good movie characters. As Miller reflects on their take on his life and the producers’ need to spruce up his story a bit he realized his own need to live a better story than he had been living. Great book. I will share more thoughts on it later.

While reading this book I have been more in tune with the power of story.Turns out, it’s everywhere…everyday. This evening the our boys, ages 2 & 4 were playing. As I listened to the imaginative things they were saying, it dawned on me that when children play they create stories. Play is their work and that work often involves one of two things: the construction of false play narratives that are impractical and impossible. Second, play often co-opts existing narratives and changes some of the essential components of the narrative to be more appealing to them or try things out…like when they say things to their stuffed animal or younger brother that they hear their parents say.

So I hear the boys playing in Elijah’s room. Elijah is standing on his big firetruck. It was parked up against the wall, right under a brown tree we had painted in the nursery. Missy painted this tree when we set the room up for Jonah as a family tree, to be able to teach the kids where they came from. After we painted it, we hung pictures of family members on its branches so we could teach them who they (the kids) are, who their relatives are and where they came from.  So back to Elijah. He is perched up on the side of his firetruck, his back to the wall and says…”I’m Jesus!” Jesus on a tree, right? He is playing Jesus. Jonah says, “Put out your arms.” It was stunning. We painted that to show them where they came from. The tree hasn’t ever shown it more clearly than today when looking at that tree reminded me that God put his own Son on the cross for us. It is where we came from. It is part of who we are.

What happened next was play that was a reflection of real life…it wasn’t meant to be that but it taught me something important that I won’t ever forget. Moments later, Elijah got into a plastic bin and Jonah proceeded to push and pull Elijah around the house in that bin. He said it was Elijah’s car and he proceeded to “drive” him around the house. Aren’t we like that? One moment it is about the cross and identity and things of great significance…the very next we are back to our silly and senseless games! It is like going to church on Easter just to go back to life as usual on Monday. One moment, we are attentive to the story of the cross and the next something mundane and silly doing some sort of adult equivalent of pulling a 2 year old around in a plastic bin.

ElijahBin