While I am recharging my batteries, take a look at this post from the past. It is just as relevant now as it was then.
Read Luke 4:14-21
ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.” (Matthew 7:20 NLT)
Recently, a fellow colleague and friend of mine got into a conversation about the scripture passage I was preaching on at the church that I serve. The passage is Luke 4:14-21 and is on Jesus’ first recorded visit to the synagogue in Nazareth following his baptism and wilderness experience. In that passage, Jesus is handed the scroll of Isaiah and he opens it up to the following passage: “The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, for He has anointed Me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the LORD’s favor has come.” Inspired by the conversation, I have decided to devote a series of devotions on this particular passage, which has become known as “The Christian Manifesto”.
As was mentioned in the previous two devotions, following his baptism and wilderness experiences, Jesus returned to Galilee. This was a place that was familiar to him and, no doubt, a place that he could return and feel confident enough to test the waters, so-to-speak. Yet, Jesus was not naive and he knew that returning home would present other challenges for him. Sure, he knew the area and he knew the people. He knew what their hopes were, he knew what their fears were. He knew what they enjoyed most and he also knew what they struggled with in their day to day lives. Jesus had an intimate and personal knowledge of those people. Yet, they knew him as well and they knew his family.
That’s not to say that everyone in Galilee, which is only 21 km (13 mi) long and 13 km (8.1 mi) wide (a total of 53 km or 33 mi in circumference), knew who Jesus was. But they would have known he was one of their own by his very village attached to his name (Jesus of Nazareth), let alone by his mannerisms and the way he talked. So, when Jesus shows up on the scene preaching words of wisdom and performing divine miracles, the buzz about this miracle worker and teacher rises up quickly and spreads throughout the region. This makes Jesus’ return to his own village a precarious one.
The people of Nazareth did intimately know this son of a carpenter and so, when they hear the reports of all he is doing in their region, they get curious, prideful, and excited for the homecoming of this “son of Nazareth.” When Jesus arrives in their town, they are all ready to hear him read from and expound upon the Scriptures. They’re not really listening to the words of the prophet Isaiah, as much as they are listening to their own excitement at the propsect that one of their own, a hometown boy (if you will), might actually be the promised Messiah come to deliver the people of Israel from foreign occupation. They wanted to claim him as their own and yet, because of their vested interest in him and the reports circulating about him, they were cutting themselves off from what God WAS ACTUALLY DOING. Hence why, in verse 24, Jesus states that “a prophet is never accepted in his own hometown”.
Jesus hadn’t come to make them proud, or give them something to continue reporting on; rather, he had returned home to the people he loved and knew so intimately in order that he might show them how they needed to change (not a popular message, I know!), in order that they might become agents of the Kingdom of God rather than slaves to the Kingdom of this world. This is a vitally important message for us as well. After all, we who go by Christ’s name consider him to be one of ours, right? We consider ourselves to be in with him and we report on how “awesome he is”! Christian athletes praise Christ for being their Lord and Savior and for helping them win games. Christian artists praise Christ for their artistic talents. Christian politicians praise God for their political gains and, truth be told, to garner Christian support. Yet, where is Christ in all of this? Is Christ merely a namesake that gets us what we want? Is Christ merely a name to drum ourselves up with? Or is Christ the one who comes to us and demands that we change in order to be true representatives of the Kingdom of God? Regardless of where you are on this, whether you accept this Jesus or not, God cannot be deceived and certainly knows a tree by the fruit it bears.
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Even children make themselves known by their acts, by whether what they do is pure and right.” (Proverbs 20:11 NRSV).
Lord, help me to see past the hype and the reports of who you are in order that I may see who you truly are and who you are calling me to be. Amen.
Click here to view today’s devotion.
Read Luke 20:41-21:4
ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
Every day Jesus went to the Temple to teach, and each evening He returned to spend the night on the Mount of Olives. The crowds gathered at the Temple early each morning to hear Him. (Luke 21:37-38 NLT)
When looking at Holy Week and trying to match what Jesus did according to the Gospels and trying to match it with each day of that week is a not as easy as one would think. We know that on Palm Sunday, a week before his resurrection, Jesus entered the city of Jerusalem on a donkey, surrounded by an energized crowd. We know that on that same day he went into the Temple. We know that the next day he went into the Temple as well. Depending on which Gospel you read, he either “cleansed the Temple” on Palm Sunday or on Holy Monday. We can guess that either Monday night or Tuesday night Jesus’ feet were anointed with expensive perfume.
We know that on Thursday night Jesus sat down with his disciples for the Passover Meal. We know that on that same very night he was betrayed and brought to the high priest’s house. We know that by Friday morning he had been found guilty of blasphemy and brought to Pontius Pilate to be tried for treason. It was on Friday that Jesus was eventually nailed to the cross and crucified. It was on Friday that Jesus died. From Friday afternoon to Saturday, Jesus was laid to rest in the tomb, and we all know what happens on Easter Sunday.
But what about Holy Wednesday? What happened on that day? The Scripture isn’t real clear. According to Luke, Jesus went to the Temple every day during Holy Week, to worship, to pray, and to teach. Every day, Jesus came to the Temple in order that he could speak truth to power and stand up for the people that the power was crushing. Every day, Jesus brought truth to those who did not want to hear it, for it meant that they would have to change their ways and start living according to the plan of God rather than their own plan. They would not have it. Every day Jesus came to them temple, he met opposition, derision, and people trying to trap him at every turn.
While we cannot know exactly what the Son of God did on Holy Wednesday, we have every reason to believe that Jesus was in that Temple speaking truth to power. We Christians believe, in light of Christian Scripture, that our very bodies are Temples that are meant to be kept holy and pure. We are meant to act as living sanctuaries, bringing hope, healing, and wholeness to those in desperate need of it. The Son of God is within that Temple, this very Holy Wednesday, speaking truth to power. Will you listen to his cry for justice, mercy and humility? Will you align your plan with God’s plan? Or will you oppose, deride and ignore Jesus’ cry? Sit in silence and reflect on the Son of God’s call for change upon your life and allow Holy Wednesday be the day you begin to rebuild your Temple in God’s image.
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you? God will destroy anyone who destroys this temple. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.“ – The Apostle Paul of Tarsus (1 Corinthians 3:16-17 NLT)
Lord, I realize that I am to be a pure and holy Temple, and that I am called to bear witness to the hope, healing and wholeness of God. Create in me a clean heart, O Lord, and renew a right spirit within me. Amen.
Read Joshua 24:1-16
ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves.” (James 1:22)
I am currently in the middle of another juice fast. Every quarter of a year or so, I go on a fast to reboot my body, to cleanse it of toxins, and to get myself back on track in terms of healthy eating and healthy living. The first couple of days of juicing are hard because the body is getting used to not eating, and all you can think of is eating. Also, the body is detoxing from the toxins that processed foods, caffeinated foods/beverages, and other food products deposit in it. After the first two to three days, I start to feel golden, filled with energy and life. All is good.
Many people ask me how I can possibly do a juice fast, or how I can remain vegan. They usually will commend me on my iron will power and question I can possibly enjoy food anymore. After all, vegans don’t like eating right? I mean how could a vegan ever enjoy eating vegetables all the time? Aren’t veggies meant to be side dishes and not the main course?
Of course, I do not have iron will power. You can trust me on that. If I did I would not have gotten to 306 lbs to begin with. I just got to the point where my health became more important to me than any excuse I could possibly come up with. That’s what it came down to, I got fed up with making excuses and just started doing it.
People make excuses for a lot of things. When people find themselves facing a decision they know they should make but don’t want to, they will find reasons as to why they can’t do it. I’m too tired…I’m just not skilled enough…I like this food or that food too much to switch now…I’m a nobody, so what difference can I make? These excuses and more are made as reasons for not making a decision to change and move forward.
As Joshua pointed out to the Israelites, we all find ourselves at some crossroad or another. We find ourselves facing down a decision to change. It’s time to choose now, this day, who we will serve. Will we serve our comfort zone and the status quo in order to avoid the changes we need to make? Will we serve our fears and make excuses as to why we CAN’T do things? Or will we serve God and make the necessary change because we’ve finally come to realize that the change needs to be made and God is calling us to make it. Whatever that change is, whatever God is calling you to do, stop excusing yourself, make the change, and see God’s iron will carry you through it.
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else.” – Benjamin Franklin
Lord, I don’t want to make excuses anymore. I choose to make the decision to change from who I am to who you are calling me to be. Amen.
Read Psalm 18:2-6
ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Walk about Zion, go all around it, count its towers, consider well its ramparts; go through its citadels, that you may tell the next generation that this is God, our God forever and ever. He will be our guide forever.” (Psalm 48:12-14)
I just recently watched a movie called “The Dead Matter” and, as you can probably guess by the title, it was a horror film about vampires trying to use some magical relic to raise the dead in order to use them as an army to…I can only guess…take over the world. Okay, so the plot wasn’t anything earth shattering but there was something about the film that struck me as being all too familiar to the human experience.
Gretchen, who is the main human character in the movie, accidentally stumbles upon the relic. She also happens to be a grieving sister who had recently lost her brother in a car accident. She wanted nothing more than to see her brother again. She missed him terribly and just could not let him go. As mentioned earlier, this relic has the power to bring the dead to life and, upon discovering that power, Gretchen seeks to bring back her brother.
Of course, that plan does not work out the way that Gretchen had hoped it would. Rather than bringing her brother back, everyone and their mother starts to come back to life. You can only imagine what kind of nightmare that would be. And even if she did bring her brother back from the dead, would he really still be her brother? I think we all can agree that whatever came back to bite her (pun completely intended), it would not be her brother.
While Gretchen was dealing with the loss of her brother, the fact of the matter is that, regardless of what kind we are dealing with, we often have a hard time dealing with loss. Whether it be our relationships, our careers, our sense of control, our comfort, or our way of doing things, there can be little doubt that we spend a great deal of our time trying to avoid letting go. Some people will resist any kind of change for fear of the loss that will come as a result of it. Indeed, it is hard for us to deal with loss.
Jesus was no stranger to loss. He lost his identity as a carpenter. He lost the comfort of his own home. He lost the trust of his family (who all thought he was crazy). He lost the chance of leading a “normal” life. He lost many of his followers when they realized their lives were on the line; and, in the end, Jesus lost his own life. Yet, Jesus let all of that go because he realized that regardless of the loss, he would never lose the hope of God’s presence.
Remember that you, too, are being called to let go of the things that are holding you back from living the life God has called you to live. Let go of your anxiety, let go of your fear, let go of your resistance to change, let go of your need for control, let go of your grudges, let go of it all. The more you let go, the more you realize that God never lets you go. Today’s challenge is for you to let go and let God’s presence fill you with hope, healing and wholeness.
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
Abundance is a process of letting go; that which is empty can receive.
Lord, teach me to let go and to put my trust completely in you. Amen.