Monday, October 26, 2009
I'm going to focus this post on Luke 6:17-36.
I find it interesting that the people in the crowd are the same people that Jesus spoke about in his first sermon. But now, instead of talking about how his plan includes them, he's telling them face to face! These are the folks who have been drawn to him. These are the ones who've traveled a long way just to hear him. Many have come because they know that he can help them. Some are lame, some have diseases, and others are "troubled with unclean spirits." Jesus is demonstrating, or "signing", the Kingdom.
These people are poor, they're hungry, they've been weeping, they've been hated, they've been excluded, they've been reviled, and their names have been spurned as evil. He is telling them that there is a place for them in his Kingdom. He is their King. He is their long awaited Messiah. The Gospel is called "good news" for a reason, and this news is truly good to this crowd of people.
Jesus doesn't stop there, though. He contrasts this "good" news with some bad news. He gives four "woe's", and it's basically the opposite of the good news. For those who right now are rich, full, laughing, and well thought of, Jesus has some warnings. What is Jesus saying here? Nothing in Scripture reveals that these are in of themselves sins. It's not a sin to have money or to have food or to laugh. I think Jesus is saying that these people (or could I say "we") need to Kingdom to come just as much as, or possibly more than, the first group.
The first group knows their need. It's evident to everyone. But the second group can easily miss what God is doing. When we have money and food, it is easy to believe that we are independent, that we don't need a King. Jesus is saying that this is a foolish, and even dangerous, place to be.
May we know our great neediness today, King Jesus. May we look to You to be our sustenance. May we not for a second be deceived in believing that anything we have is of our own doing, but instead may we remember that "every good and perfect gift comes from above, coming down from the Father of lights" (James 1:17), and may our worship be an appropriate response.
You might have noticed that I began blogging my way through the Gospel of Luke in September, but then I quit, and a month has now passed. I promise you that it's not simply procrastination. Here's the deal: I got to chapter six, and realized that I could have easily written about good trees producing good fruit (6:43-45), or the importance of building on a solid foundation (6:46-49). However, I wasn't so sure about that first part, specifically all those "blessed's" and "woe's." For that reason, I felt that I couldn't write, much less preach, on this until I had a better understanding. I had this hunch that understanding a passage such as this one was key to understanding this radical Gospel as a whole.
So that brings me to today, and more specifically, to my last few days in Cincinnati at the CCDA Conference. I had the privilege of being around many men and women who have forsaken so much in order to live out and proclaim the gospel in difficult settings. To say that I was moved would be a major understatement, however. There was a moment on Friday night where I felt as if God was ripping out my heart. I came to the understanding that my view of the Gospel is very incomplete, so I repented to God and asked for understanding. Now hear me out - I know that none of us know completely, but I realized that there are some major gaps in my understanding.
I feel that over this past year my gaps have been growing smaller. I chalk much of that up to what I have learned listening to and reading Tim Keller. My understanding of the difference between the Gospel and religion has grown so much. What I'm learning right now is very similar to this.
For some time now I have really resonated with the idea of the upside-down Kingdom of God. The life and message of Jesus is radically counter-cultural to the way many of us live today. I've always believed that it was counter-cultural to the world, but I now believe that it is often counter-cultural to Christianity as well. Jesus taught us to pray, "Let Your Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven", but right now I wonder if we would actually recognize the Kingdom if this was a reality.
Shane Claiborne ended his talk on Saturday night by taking us to the the fall of the great whore of Babylon found in Revelation 17-19. He made a statement that shook me. He said, "I wonder if we will rejoice with the angels (18:2) or weep with the merchants (18:3) when we hear this news. Here's what's scarier than not recognizing the Kingdom coming: it's fighting against it. Why in the world would we fight against it? Because we do not see it for what it is. Because we do not hear. This is perhaps why Jesus said over and over, "He who has an ear, let him hear."
So with that as a rather long explanation, I will return to blogging through this great book of the Bible, asking God continually to give me the courage to see what He wants me to see and hear what He wants me to hear.
Saturday, October 24, 2009
Sunday, October 18, 2009
Monday, October 05, 2009
Last night we finished up our vision series for Neighborhood Church. Throughout this series we've been calling people to move from participation to partnership, and last night I opened the message with a passage that includes this word "partnership." It's Philippians 1:1-11. The Philippian church held a very special place in Paul's heart, and he begins his letter by telling them this. He remembers what God has done in this city, and in joy he gives thanks to God. In verse 5 we see why. It's because of their partnership in the gospel.
Last week I looked up this word partnership. I was surprised to learn that the Greek word is koinonia. Most Christians have heard this word. One of the places it's found is Acts 2:42-47. We find the word in verse 42, and here it is translated as fellowship. Now think about this for a second. In our culture, and especially in our church culture, the word fellowship is very different from the word partnership. We desire true community. We desire to know and to be known. But it often stops there. Not for Paul, though. For Paul, true koinonia has an active component.
This is why mission trips are so powerful. Ask someone about their best church experience, about the time they felt a part of something, about the time they felt that they truly belonged - the answer is very often associated with mission. It's about being caught up into something greater than yourself. It's about having a common goal that takes the entire team's effort to pull off. This is why mission and community cannot be separated. And it's why true koinonia cannot be separated from partnership.