Great Things (Luke 8:39)

“Return to your house and describe what great things God has done for you.” So he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city what great things Jesus had done for him.

Luke 8:39

Jesus casts demons out of a man and the man begs Jesus to let him (the man) travel with Him (Jesus). Jesus gives that man this directive: “Return to your house and describe what great things God has done for you.”

What great things has God done for me? Have I shared them with anyone lately?

In the here and now, there are many blessings. There have been several rounds of layoffs at my place of employ. I am still working. I live in an apartment whose rent is still, by the standards of the places surrounding, miraculously inexpensive. I am married to a wife who loves me — faults and all — and have two wonderful children who teach me much. I fellowship with a marvelous group of believers who love one another. We are not perfect, but the only perfect Person was nailed to a cross about 2,000 years ago. I am blessed with friends and family who love me and bear with my weaknesses and insecurities. My life is, by God’s grace and generous heart, very good.

More than all of this, God came and died for me. He loved me when I hated Him. He sacrificed Himself for me when I have trouble sacrificing the little time it takes to read His Word and write these journals. I am blessed by the time spent here with Him, but there are always other things that vie for this time. God laid aside the glories of Heaven in order to be born into squalor and live a workman’s life and end His brief stay on this globe nailed to a cross.

The Christmas season is a time when people run around yelling about the alleged war on Christmas — there may be one, but I have more important things to do than fret over it. Rather than tell anyone how the world is at war with Christmas, let me, instead, tell what Christmas really is: a great thing that God has done for me and everyone else. Christmas is the time we remember when God stepped down from glory indescribable to a stable. Christmas is the time we recall that the Son of God became the Son of Man so that He might become our kinsman redeemer. Christmas is the time when we give one another gifts to remember that God gave us Himself.

God has done and continues to do great things for me. Let me trumpet His greatness from the rooftops and let the rest sort itself out.

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Secret (Luke 8:17)

For nothing is hidden that will not become evident, nor [anything] secret that will not be known and come to light.

Luke 8:17

I do not know how anyone else thinks, but I often find that I believe I can keep things secret. Now, my wife knows that I am terrible at keeping pleasant secrets. A welcome surprise is almost impossible for me to tamp down and contain my excitement over. But what of the bad secrets?

Jesus makes this statement in the context of a person lighting a lamp and placing it on a stand. There are those who say that a legitimate conversion; a true change of mind and heart will become evident. God will work out what He has placed within me. While this is possible, there is a more interesting application for me.

Once a light is turned on, everything becomes much more clear. The brighter the light, the more clear everything becomes. I think of a room with a light on a dimmer switch. At its lowest setting, the light is not much better than darkness. As it brightens, the room is thrown into sharp relief and everything is obvious — every speck of dust, every crumb on the floor. The same is true of God’s light in my life. Early on, it was somewhat dim; a gentle, pleasant glow that gave light and warmth but there really was not much wrong in my life that was obvious to me. Sure, I noticed a few things wrong, but those were easy to set to rights — like moving the chairs into their correct position in a room. But the light got brighter and every stage of increased brightness reveals something more detailed; more challenging to put right and cleanse, until the things I am seeing are so difficult that only God Himself can set them to rights.

Got lit the lamp and placed it so that I could see. Sure, the light of Him living in me is there for others to see, as it should be. But that same light that lets a passerby know that the house is lived in alerts the denizens of that house as to what must needs be put in order. God’s light shows those outside my life God’s warmth and welcome. God’s light shows me the things that need to be corrected and cleansed.

Seed (Luke 8:11)

Now the parable is this: the seed is the word of God.

Luke 8:11

There is much said about the word of God, both within the word itself and by others. There are those who doubt the veracity of the word of God and say that it is not historically accurate or that it is a book of fables. There are those who think it a mixture of things, some factual and others not. There are those who, like myself, believe the word of God to be precisely that: the word of God; what God wants to say to humanity.

The thing about seeds is that they must be given a mixture of things to grow and bear fruit. Likewise, the word must receive the things that are needful in order for it to be fruitful in my life.

A seed needs soil. The word needs to be planted within my heart and mind. It is not enough that I read it and go on about my day, I must allow it to take root and to rearrange things as the roots of trees often do with the things that are in the soil.

A seed needs water. God Himself is called the Living Water and it is this Living Water that is needed for the word to germinate from seed to plant and to bear fruit as a mature plant. If I starve a seed or a plant of water, it will not grow or die. Likewise, the word of God detached from God Himself is dead.

A seed needs sunlight. As the seed sprouts and pushes leaves through the soil into the air above, it needs light to shine on it for it to be healthy. Again, God Himself is called the Light and the Father of Lights, so God must illuminate what is heard and read for it to grow and bear fruit. But more, Jesus said that He is the Truth (John 14:6) and Truth illuminates; shines light on things. The word of God must bask in the light of Truth in order to bear fruit. God is Truth, but His word is also truth. In order for the seed of the word to become fruitful, there must be still more of the word shone on it that the word might illumine the word and that truth might vindicate truth.

Depending on the seed, there are other necessities, but those are the basics. Like any garden, the place where the word is planted must be cultivated; weeds must be removed and vectors — inspects and other vermin that would threaten the seedling — dealt with. I must address distractions and things that seek to destroy or distort or even imitate the word implanted.

This is more of a reminder for me, this morning, than anything else. A reminder to provide this word and every bit of the word that I receive with the water and light of God and still more of the word and to tend the garden wherein the word has been planted.

Blessed Inoffense (Luke 7:23)

Blessed is he who does not take offense at Me.

Luke 7:23

I live in a culture that is always taking offense at one thing or another. We are offended that someone did something or offended that someone said something or offended that someone did not notice or that someone did. We are nigh constantly offended.

Jesus cuts through all of this and says, simply, Blessed is he who does not take offense at Me. I want to take this verse one piece at a time.

Blessed. The word used is μακάριος (makarios) which my concordance tells me means either blessed or happy. This jives with what I have often heard taught about blessing. The idea of being blessed is synonymous with the idea of being happy or contented. If I do not take offense at Jesus Christ, then I will be a happy man, indeed.

Who does not take offense. In the modern culture of quick offense and slow forgiveness, Jesus tells me that I should not take offense at Him. He is going to say things that I do not want to hear. That may cause me to want to take offense. He is going to call things what they are. That will, potentially, be offensive. He is going to speak truth to everyone, not just power. And that is going to tempt us to take offense. Will I take the offense or will accept that Christ’s candor and openness with me are marks of His deep and unflinching love?

At Me. The One Who might offend me is none other than Christ Himself. He will be the source of things that tempt me to taking offense. I must resist the temptation and see things as they are. Everything that could be offensive is also a mark of His love for me. His honesty, His willingness to speak the unpleasant things I need to hear are both marks of His love for me. My wife and family do these things out of their love for me. It is not easy for any of us, but love is not easy.

This morning, I wish to examine myself and see if there is any place in which I am taking offense at Christ. If yes, let me address it and remove the offense. If no, let me continue in accepting Him as the lover of my soul.

Authority (Luke 7:8)

For I also am a man placed under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come!’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.”

Luke 7:8

We chafe at authority. I know I do.

This verse is a message sent to Jesus by a Centurion. The Centurion had sent some folks to Jesus asking for Jesus to heal the Centurion’s slave and Jesus agreed. While Jesus was on His way, the Centurion sent more folks, presumably having learned that Jesus was coming to his house, and these folks delivered the message that the Centurion did not count himself worthy to have Jesus come under his roof. All he was asking was for Jesus to say the word and he (the Centurion) knew that his servant would be healed.

The Centurion gives his explanation for why he trusts as he does. He notes that he, too, is a man under authority and has others under his authority. Those who are under his authority obey him. Those whose authority he is under are obeyed. He gets the hierarchy and understands that Jesus is at the top of the chain of command, able to command even illness that would kill and be obeyed.

This is the state of things. Jesus is the final Authority. Jesus is in command of all things. The Centurion knew it; understood it. Do I?

Aside

Delighted: Thoughts on a Childlike Heart

Last night, after a reasonably long and tiring day, my wife and I managed somehow to reverse roles with regard to bathing our children. I normally do bath time for our daughter — a sometimes difficult toddler who is a bit too heavy for my wife to feel comfortable regularly trying to get out of the bath wet — and my wife does bath time for our son — a six months, he is swiftly closing in on his sister’s weight, if not size entirely.

I left the bathroom carrying my son and got him through the rest of his routine — dried, covered in lotion for his dry skin, and dressed. My wife brought my daughter out and everything seemed to be settling in to a normal night. My daughter asked me if I would play in her room. It is a fairly normal and often reasonable request of hers and I was not busy with anything, so I told her that I would.

I did not see the look on my daughter’s face, but the look on my wife’s face spoke volumes. The simple act of agreeing to play some game or another with my daughter and to do so in her room had made her night.

I do not know why this was. Maybe it was because I had been terse with her when she was trying to insinuate herself into my son’s bath time, though I had apologized and welcomed her back in the next time she tried and worked at finding tasks she could do to be helpful. Somehow, some way, the simple act of agreeing to play some game with my daughter was enough to delight her.

Two things immediately came to mind. First, I wondered how terrible a father must I be for that to be all it takes to make her night. The second thought chased the first away. The second was this: It takes so little to delight a child’s heart. It required practically nothing for my daughter to be absolutely thrilled with her lot in life. Daddy was going to come build something with her. More, it would be in her room. She would have me all to herself.

I got to thinking how complicated I make things between God and me. I do not hold onto that childlike heart He tells me I must have in order to enter the kingdom as often as I should. I think that I need some thing that seems important at the time when all I really need is for Daddy to come sit with me and build. For my daughter, I built bits of this and that which she immediately took to playing with in a manner not intended by the design of the thing. But it delighted me, nonetheless. More, it delighted her. How much more does my Father; my Daddy in Heaven want to build things in my life which will delight me and in my use of which He will likewise delight? He wants to bless. It blesses Him to bless.

Do Good (Luke 6:35)

But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil [men].

Luke 6:35

The translators’ notes say that expecting nothing in return could also be rendered as not despairing at all. I rather like the double possibilities and want to examine both.

First, not despairing at all. It is a simple thing to lose hope in the face of all the need and wickedness in the world. We see evil people acting out their evil desires and it is easy to lose hope. We may love our enemies and they hate us more. We may do good only to see the good we hoped for turned into still greater wickedness. We might give only to see the gift squandered and used wrongly. In the face of all of this, it would be a simple matter (and quite understandable) if we despaired. Jesus says that we should not despair; that we should continue to do good and love those who hate us and give without giving in to the hopelessness that lurks and threatens in those things. Instead, we should remember that God Himself loves those who hate Him and does good only to have the credit for the good He has done given to someone or something else and He gives knowing that what He gives — abilities, resources, life itself — may be squandered. My Father does these things in the face of the despair; almost mocking despair in His copious love and giving and good deeds.

Second, expecting nothing in return. I have learned that we human beings are ungrateful creatures. We receive things we do not deserve and take them as our due. If I love my enemy, he does not deserve my love, but he will often accept it as if he does. If I do good to others, they will frequently expect that I should have done them good — as if I were indebted to them by their very existence. If I give to others, it is highly likely that I will not receive back what I have given which makes lending worse than risky. God’s solution to all of this is to love my enemy and do good to others and give (not lend) expecting no return at all. This is a twofold blessing. On the one hand, if I expect nothing then anything is a welcome surprise. On the other, if I expect nothing then I am unlikely to be disappointed. More, it matches the pattern of my Heavenly Father. He loves and does and gives to those (like me) who cannot possibly repay. My love is nothing to His. My deeds like filthy rags. My giving only a return of what He first gave me.

This morning, I am reminded that I must love [my] enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and [my] reward will be great, and [I] will be [a son] of the Most High.