Luke 14 B

I just noticed that Jesus was at a dinner party when he taught about humility.

“When Jesus noticed that all who had come to the dinner were trying to sit in the seats of honor near the head of the table, he gave them this advice: ‘When you are invited to a wedding feast, don’t sit in the seat of honor. What if someone who is more distinguished than you has also been invited?’ ” 14:7

“Then he turned to his host. ‘When you put on a luncheon or a banquet,’ he said, ‘don’t invite your friends, brothers, relatives, and rich neighbors. For they will invite you back, and that will be your only reward.  Instead, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind.’ ” 14:12

I’m trying to imagine being those people pushing to the front of the table, or the host seating my guests. And then having Jesus-the-carpenter-from-Bethlehem use it as a teachable moment!

How do you respond when Jesus corrects your behavior? Or when Scripture convicts you of something? 

It’s just part of our relationship with him. Change. Improvement. Sometimes I just want God to improve things for me without having to put in the work it takes. I don’t want to take the hit of criticism, even though I believe God loves me unconditionally despite my shortcomings.

Do you welcome his teachings and corrections in your life? What stops you?

 

-Carly

 

 

Luke 13 B

Carly’s thoughts on the fig tree story deserves another look.

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“And they will come from east and west and from north and south, and will recline at the table in the kingdom of God.” (29)

While this is a glorious promise of an international kingdom, I’m reminded of Paul’s explanation of how Gentiles are grafted in. It’s a long and complicated situation between the LORD and Israel.

“But as for Israel He says, ‘ALL THE DAY LONG I HAVE STRETCHED OUT MY HANDS TO A DISOBEDIENT AND OBSTINATE PEOPLE.'” (Romans‬ 10:21)

This parable of the dinner that not everyone gets in to (Luke 11:22-30) weaves in to Romans 11, when Paul quotes Elijah’s lament that all of Israel has fallen away (Romans 11:3), and the LORD, says no, I still have 700 who haven’t bowed to Ba’al (Romans 11:4).

As Gentile citizens of this Kingdom, we must walk with much humility. We must always also root (har har, look at that pun) for the Jew’s to know their Messiah.

“For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? If the first piece of dough is holy, the lump is also; and if the root is holy, the branches are too. But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” Quite right, they were broken off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith. Do not be conceited, but fear; for if God did not spare the natural branches, He will not spare you, either.” (Romans‬ ‭11:15-21‬)

Everything bathed in humility, with the fear of the LORD leading us into wisdom. The grace and mercy we’ve received from embracing the Jewish Messiah should never lead us to pride. These passages should be sobering reminders to actively walk humbly, doing justly and loving mercy, for ourselves and certainly for others.

-Bethany

Luke 12 B

Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.” 12:21

There is a lot of thought-provoking content in this chapter, but I wanted to reflect on this verse. It’s about a week until Christmas, and it feels fitting to remember what’s valuable and what’s not.

Did you notice what Jesus says afterwards? He adds “and this is why I tell you not to worry”. Our fear is connected to our stored wealth.

Jesus is also quick to point out that this self-preservation move only provides the illusion of safety. It doesn’t add a day to your life, and it accomplishes nothing. It’s just a great way to distract us and spin us out.

His advice? Refocus your attention and downsize your stuff.

“Seek the kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need.” 12:31

In order to start fresh, sometimes we need an extreme measure. Give away money when it’s tight. Etc!

What part of this chapter grabbed your attention?

-Carly

Luke 11 B

“While Jesus was saying these things, one of the women in the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, ‘Blessed is the womb that bore You and the breasts at which You nursed.’ But He said, ‘On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.’” (11:27-28‬)

I was debating whether or not to wade into this topic today. I believe I’m mentioned in the past, or maybe just in other blog posts about the very historical tendency to gravitate to a fertility goddess, and what that did to Mary.

While Mary, and other people in the Bible who were cool enough to be dubbed righteous are great examples to us, we must refrain from taking this honor too far.

As Jesus recently mentioned,

“I say to you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John; yet he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” (7:28‬)

Maybe living in Europe has made me extra leery of patron saints. It’s a nice idea from a distance, but up close, it reeks of idolatry.

Unfortunately for Mary, both the Catholic and Orthodox churches deified her. So much so, that many Muslims believe she’s one of the members of the Christian Trinity (replacing the Holy Spirit). Many historians chalk this up to the fertility goddess worship that existed everywhere before Christianity was made state religion. Reluctant converts could carry their love for Asherah, Artemis, Isis, etc. through a woman who birthed the Messiah, although a virgin. What’s more powerful for a fertility goddess than that?

Perhaps this was the sentiment (Israel had a long history with Asherah) that prompted someone to make a blessing proclamation on his mother. What he says in response doesn’t disrespect Mary, it highlights what’s important:

Obedience.

Is there any greater example of faith than obedience? Mary was humble and obedient, saying, “Let it be” when confronted with the extraordinary news of her upcoming pregnancy. She was very cool.

John was also very cool, but Jesus says that anyone who in this Kingdom is similarly so.

I see a lot of friends these days taking their feminism (which I get, I’m also in full support of women being treated as equals to men and honored for the ways they’re different from men) to dangerous heights.

Instead of idolizing our role models in the faith, honor them in similar humility and obedience to Our LORD.

Also, while a woman’s ability to give birth is truly a miracle, it should not be linked to her worth, which, it very regularly was throughout history. Think of the shame the barren women in the Bible felt before the LORD opened their wombs. I know a lot of women, today, who struggle with their worth as they face infertility.

In this simple sentence, Jesus opens the doors of The Kingdom to even those who can’t have children, men and women alike.

His Kingdom is for the barren woman, the eunuch, the parents of many, the disabled, the infertile, everyone.

-Bethany

Luke 10 B

I’m sharing a blog post I wrote in 2010 on some verses from today’s chapter. I don’t feel exactly the same about it, but it’s kinda fun to revisit my perspective.
“As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, ‘Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.’ But the Lord said to her, ‘My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.’ ” Luke 10:38-42
This story has always been hard for me. Sometimes I even roll my eyes when it makes it’s way into a sermon or a women’s devotional (it often does). To me, it can seem like a judgement on people who focus on logistics and an excuse for type B people like myself to over-look them. I wonder how I would feel if I were Martha. Trying to serve and impress Jesus, like I so often do, only to be unnoticed and reprimanded. Compared. Nothing is worse than a woman being compared to another woman in the room. Why would Jesus do this?
But I know, like I always know, that Jesus is right. He’s never wrong and I believe that in the deep part of my heart. The part of my heart that while trusting God’s word is true, questions and sifts through it. Like sand in my hand, I pour it back and forth, weighing it and examining every part. I’ve sat in many Bible studies or read blogs about this story in Luke and the lesson is a good one and usually the same one: Jesus doesn’t want or need our performance, he wants our hearts and eyes on him. To sit at his feet and hear his words. 
I love the part where Martha asks him if he thinks her circumstances are unfair. Nothing about being with Jesus is fair. Yet I still point my finger at someone else’s life and like a child, exclaim that something’s not fair. I noticed Jesus doesn’t really address her question, he gently shows her that she’s missing the point. That she’s focusing on the wrong things. 
But this morning I saw more in the story. 
“My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.” 
When I zoom out and look at this story, I see what I always see: my anxiety. When God isn’t ruling my life, fear is. I read what I always read: God telling me not to fear, but to trust his words. 
The radical, liberal and rebellious Jesus I know and love so much saw women during a time in history when they were unseen. Jesus called a woman out of the kitchen to hear his teachings.
I wonder if this Scripture is hard for me because its a reminder of The Great Struggle in my life: to cling to the one reliable thing in this world, God’s Word, and let go of everything else. To not rattle off my list of fears to him, but to listen. To “be still and know that he is God” instead of worrying about details. To believe him. 
I write about anxiety and fear a lot because I’m anxious and fearful a lot. I love God and believe the Holy Spirit hosts my soul, but I am often riddled with uncertainty. That’s hard to reconcile, as a believer. If you read this blog, you’ll see my attempts to poke holes in Scripture so I can make room for my sin. It never works. 
I don’t like this story, because I’m Martha. I’m the one that tries to perform. I’m the one comparing myself, I’m the one oppressing myself. Jesus wants me liberated. Wants me free. He invites me into rest, to sit down and hear his sweet words. To leave the dishes for tomorrow. He reminds me that all of this life here, that I worry so much about, will be gone. He reminds me of the gift that lasts forever. His word.
I hope, over time, I ask God less questions and believe him more. I hope that eventually I read this story and feel a little more like Mary. Maybe even more like Jesus; calling people out of their slavery and inviting them to hear God’s words. 

-2010 Carly

Luke 9 B

“And He sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to perform healing.” (2)

“Departing, they began going throughout the villages, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere.” (6)

Today, I noticed the Kingdom of God was used synonymously with the gospel. While that observation helps in understanding both, for me, it also underlined the multifaceted nuance of both terms.

Simply put, gospel mean good news. From what we know about the Kingdom of God, we can agree that it’s good. However, there’s no one succinct definition of it. We hear a lot of “it’s like this” and “it’s like that” and “it’s at hand” and “some of you will still be here when it fully arrives”, but no comprehensive or exhaustive outline. Somehow, though, the disciples understood it enough to take it around the region.

What have we learned about the Kingdom of God so far in Luke?

  1. Knowledge of its mysteries are granted (8:10)
  2. It centers around healing: lame walking, blind seeing, deaf hearing, leper’s cleansed, dead raised, poor hearing the gospel (7:22)
  3. The least in this Kingdom is greater than John the Baptist (7:28)
  4. The Kingdom belongs to the poor (6:20)
  5. It fulfills Isaiah 61 (4:18)
  6. It needs to be preached everywhere (4:43)

This is just from a quick skimming of the chapters, let me know what else you find. Good Bible Study is way more observing time than I think we tend to give it. Don’t rush straight to interpretation, just look. What do you see? From what we have seen so far, what is the gospel shaping up to be?

-Bethany

Luke 8 B

This time of year has a way of making people feel lonely. I loved this verse below where Jesus reminds us that we become his family.

“Someone told Jesus, ‘Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, and they want to see you.‘ Jesus replied, ‘My mother and my brothers are all those who hear God’s word and obey it.‘ ” 8:20-21

I think in the past, this verse has rubbed me the wrong way. I picture Mary, older, aged, waving down Jesus trying to get to him through a huge crowd. And he just shoos her off. But reading it this time, I don’t think he’s saying he doesn’t value or prioritize his mother and brothers. He’s just equalizing the way he values them, with how he values everyone else. Which I can’t believe! I can’t believe that when we respond to God’s word obediently, when we buy in to his power and believe who he is, we are getting a spot at the table. We’re in.

Do you have friends who feel like family to you? Maybe you don’t feel known or enjoyed by your own family. Or maybe you have a really great family, and it’s an example to you of what Christ’s love is like. (If that’s the case, make room for other people and invite them in! This is a gift; be generous with it.)

-Carly

Luke 7 B

“When the Lord saw her, He felt compassion for her, and said to her, ‘Do not weep.’” (13)

Something really hit me this time when I read these words: Jesus was constantly being approached for miracles and healing, wisdom and counsel. However, this mourning widow did not ask Jesus for anything. He just happened to be passing the scene.

Jesus had stepped into the suffering of mankind. Many things moved him to emotional responses: the death of Lazarus, the obstinance of Israel, the vendors in the temple, etc.

In the Law of Moses, the LORD outlined numerous structures and safety nets so that women would not be left unprotected and provided for. There were charges to husbands, fathers, brothers, son, uncles, nephews, even something called “kinsmen redeemers”! Now many of these systems had either never gained traction, or had broken down over time, leaving many women vulnerable and many widows doomed.

When Jesus sees a woman crying as she follows the corpse of her only son, He is moved to action. No one would suppose He was in the Resurrection business (that move had yet to be unfurled), and there’s no indication that this women knew who Jesus was. If I were her, I would be very unaware of who I was passing on the road if my only son had just died.

So Jesus makes the first move. He’s not waiting for an invitation, He sees a horribly broken situation, all too familiar to the human condition, and He’s like, no no no; I’m getting you your son back. He brings them resurrection life without being asked.

This is very cool, and maybe I don’t have much more to comment about it besides, let’s think about how very cool Jesus is, and what this move says about the LORD and His compassion.

The LORD saw the broken, death-ridden state of the world and busted in with resurrection life. He sent His Messiah at a time when no one expected Him and showed us all a few things about His love and salvation. What hope do you draw out of this story today?

-Bethany

Luke 6 B

Reading Jesus’ “love your enemies” speech hits a little harder in context, doesn’t it? We’ve just read that the Pharisees are breathing down his neck, their bitterness for him fanning into flame. He just called his disciples, one of which is described as “Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor”, which Jesus was completely aware of when he chose him as an apostle.

The people he’s asking us to love are not lovable. And the love he’s asking us to extend is not available apart from him. Lend something without wanting it back? Give things away to ungrateful people? Give to everyone who begs? Love people who are still all bound up in their brokenness and operating out of sin? I don’t want to do any of these things.

The last couple paragraphs give us some practical ways to imitate the kind of love Jesus is talking about.

Don’t judge people (6:37). That is not your job and going down that road makes it way harder to love them. Instead? Believe the best in them. God’s love believes all things. (1 Corinthians 13)

Tend to your own godliness (6:43). Jesus mentions producing good fruit. How does this happen? Pruning out the crap in your life that’s harmful and nurturing yourself with Scripture, prayer and edification.

Prioritize a firm foundation (6:49). Stay rooted in Jesus. This love your enemies business is not possible without him. He will extend your the grace, patience and mercy it requires to love people well. But you gotta set up camp with him.

Are you as refreshed as I am to be back in the gospels reading about Jesus? What verse did you connect with?

-Carly

Luke 5 B

“But when Simon Peter saw that, he fell down at Jesus’ feet, saying, ‘Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man!’” (8)

Peter is the first official disciple recruited and he throws it way out there that he’s not a conventional choice. He is soon followed by his co-workers, James and John, then a tax collector. The Pharisees are quick to notice Jesus’ posse is definitely rag-tag.

What do these guys have in common, then? Why would they be Jesus’ first picks? I dare say the answer can be found in Peter’s initial response. He is aware of himself enough to be truly humble.

While throughout Peter’s journey, we see him dips in and out of prideful moments, but there’s an overarching sense that he knows he’s in over his head. He’s not the kind of person any previous Rabbi would have recruited.

“The Pharisees and their scribes began grumbling at His disciples, saying, ‘Why do you eat and drink with the tax collectors and sinners?’” (30)

Jesus is definitely fraternizing with the “wrong folks”, but His response only goes to show how way off the Pharisees are that they would avoid such people.

Sliding into religiosity can have this effect. If not paying attention, a Christian can easily end up surrounded entirely by fellow believers. That social circle becomes a weird kind of elite.

The LORD is still pursuing humble, teachable people of all shapes, sizes, colors, class, etc. He very often is found outside expected zones.

I love how, back in chapter 4, Jesus says (paraphrased), “you think there weren’t widows in Israel I could have sent Elijah to during the famine? I sent him to Sidon! Did you notice that the only man Elisha healed from leprosy was Syrian? That wasn’t an accident!”

He who has ears, let them hear.

Jesus’ own people–the usual suspects–were going to miss this. While he still chose Jewish disciples, he chose very unlikely ones. The ones who didn’t really fit in to their own society. Interesting.

Jesus can baffle us at times, but it’s important to stay engaged and ask, why. What does it say about us if we know Him, aka, He drew us in? Are you an unconventional recruit?

-Bethany

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