Tag Archives: Christian

THE CHRISTIAN MANIFESTO, Part 11: God’s Favor Realized

Read Luke 4:14-21

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE “And then [Jesus] told them, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone.’” (Mark 16:15 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”.

Part 11: God’s Favor Realized. It’s truly hard to put the Christian story into perspective. By Christian story, I don’t mean the Gospel story of Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah, the Son of God. What I mean by “the Christian Story” is the story of the rise of Christianity. In the faith-based film, “Risen”, the filmmakers try to tell account of the Resurrection of the Christ, but they do so from the perspective of the Roman Tribune who led the legionnaires responsible for crucifying Jesus. While, I am not about to give away the film for those who may not have seen it, what is great about it is that it really shows the Gospel message coming into contact with Rome.

While the film doesn’t span but 40 days past the Resurrection event, the reality is that, in a relatively short amount of time (only 400 or so years), Christians went from a hunted group of outcasts to being funded by the Roman Empire. How did this happen? How was it possible that a rag-tag group of disciples of a peasant Jewish mystic rabbi would found what ultimately would become the largest of the world religions? How did the one crucified by Roman Empire become the one venerated by that same Empire in less than half of a millennium? Surely, God’s that is evidence of God’s favor realized, right?

Wrong. While that historical tidbit is totally awesome and exciting for historians and theologians such as myself, it is more or less evidence of how politics can often take unexpected turns (just look at our current political climate) and that sometimes the most unlikely group can end up benefiting (sort of) from that. But when we look at the Christian Manifesto, we see that God’s favor was not coming to set up a religion, or to create yet another religious “establishment”; rather, God’s favor was falling on those who were poor, captive, blind, and oppressed, as well as to those who choose to bring that favor to them.

Who are the people to which God’s favor is extending to? The answer is simple, to all of the people of the world! For God created us all, God loves us all, and God (in the form of Jesus Christ) sacrificed it all so that we may be free from sin, death, and the things that hold us down, burden us, possess us, oppress us, blind us, enslave us and destroy us. Whether we are poor or rich, whether we are oppressed or the oppressor, whether we are blind or think we can see, whether we are poor in spirit or rich in self-righteousness (not a good form of wealth, by the way) God’s favor is upon us. We just need to realize it, accept it, turn from the things that keep us from it, and share it with everyone in our lives, in our neighborhoods, in our towns, in our states, countries and world! It takes you, yes YOU, for God’s favor to be realized. Fulfill the words of the Christian Manifesto, “that the time of the LORD’s favor has come.”

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

As Christians, we should witnessing to Christ’s love by standing against oppression and evil in whatever forms they take.

PRAYER

Lord, raise me up into a representative of your love, your grace, your justice and your compassionate mercy. I pledge myselfyou’re your manifesto of hope, healing, and wholeness. Amen.

THE CHRISTIAN MANIFESTO, Part 9: God’s Favor

Read Luke 4:14-21

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE

Show your fear of God by not taking advantage of each other. I am the LORD your God. (Leviticus 25:17 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”

Part 9: God’s Favor. In the time of the ancient Hebrews, when they came into the land of Canaan and made that their dwelling place, the Hebrews established the law of Moses as the law of their land. The law was given to them to establish much needed order in the land, to keep them set apart from the native people of the lands they were occupying, and to ensure that they remained wholly devoted to God. This last part meant that on top of justice, they were to be a people of love, compassion and mercy. Thus, within the law, measures were taken to ensure that they would do differently to foreigners (aka immigrants), to those in debt, to those abandoned and alone, and to all who struggled in life than was done to them while they were enslaved in Egypt for 400 years.

One of the major things that was established within the law was called the Year of Jubilee. This happened on either the 49th or the 50th year of the Jubilee cycle, and it was the year when all who were indentured servants because of the debts they owed, when seized property was returned to those who lost it, when all slates were wiped clean, and when people did not plant, farm, or harvest food to be stored and sold for profit, but when people ate freely from what the land produced naturally on its own. This was a reminder to all the Hebrew people of the mercy and grace of God, a mercy and a grace that, as God’s children, we should be modeling.

It’s believed that observance of the Year of Jubilee was essentially ignored during and following the captivity of the Jews who were exiled in Babylon. The reason for this is that they had believed that Jubilee could only be celebrated only when the Jews had complete control of the land of Canaan, which was the ultimate sign of God’s favor being upon Israel. Following Babylon, that reality never came into fruition and so Jubilee became more of a symbolic gesture, with the blowing of the shofar (a type of horn), but not truly observed. Yet, in the Nazareth Synagogue, Jesus stated that was anointed to announce the year of the Lord’s favor right then and there to a people who had long been occupied and oppressed by the Roman Empire.

What should stand out for us here is this, that while the consensus in Jesus’ day was that Jubilee was over and that God’s favor was removed from the land, Jesus stood against that mindset. While people allowed endless enslavement, imprisonment, debt, poverty, and loss to continue because they felt everything was hopeless, or because of a theological interpretation they had of the Scriptures, Jesus proclaimed that God’s favor was not gone, that their situation was NOT hopeless, and that it was high time that people do something to bring an end to suffering. What’s more, he charged his followers, including us, to make that our mission. The question for you is this, are willing to do what it takes to proclaim and work for the distribution of God’s favor?

THOUGHT OF THE DAY

In what ways are you ignoring the suffering of those around you and in what ways could you be proclaiming God’s favor in your current community and context?

PRAYER

Lord, free me from my imprisonment to sin and complacency, and give me hope in your favor. Amen.

THE CHRISTIAN MANIFESTO, Part 7: Blind

Read Luke 4:13-21

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Then Jesus told him, ‘I entered this world to render judgment—to give sight to the blind and to show those who think they see that they are blind.’” (John 9:39, NLT)

aa_keller_senses_2_eRecently, 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”.

Part 6: Blind. Have you ever wondered what it must be like to not be able to see with your eyes? We rely on our eye sight so much. We rely on our eyes to show us the world around us, to spot danger, to view obstacles as we move from place to place. We utilize our eyes to enjoy the beauty of nature, to gaze at the beauty of the ones we love, to read the words of philosophers, novelists, poets and other authors. We use our eyes for just about every part of our lives. It is very hard, indeed, to imagine what life without our eyes must be like.

Yet, I think that, for those of us with our eyesight intact, we take that sense for granted. What’s more, when we try to imagine our world without our eyes, we are totally inept at doing so. Even more than that, we often perceive that persons without their eye sight, or those who are lacking any of the senses we come to rely on, are in a worse place than we are. We view their lot in life as being one of hardship and burden, and we often thank God for keeping us from having such a lot. Yet, is that truly so when we look at our lives from God’s perspective? Is our lot better? Are we truly able to see better than the blind?

Helen Keller was blind. She could not see and, what’s more, she could not hear either; however, it was in her blindness and deafness that she came up with an entire school for the blind and deaf. In doing so, she enabled countless children like herself a chance at higher quality of life than her surrounding world, and the “able-bodied” people who pittied them, would ever afford them to have. I think also to Ludwig Van Beethoven who had progressive hearing loss and eventually ended up deaf. Yet, in his utter deafness, this maestro composed perhaps the greatest and most well-known symphony of all time, which was his 9th Symphony and most known for it’s final movement, “An Ode to Joy”. The man who was pittied for his deafness, gave the world something it would love to hear centuries following his death.

The truth is, we who have our sense often fail to use them. We may be able to physically see, we may be able to physically hear, yet we find ourselves deaf and blind to the direction God is calling us in. Perhaps we are the blind or, if not us, perhaps there are those around us who are unable to see the presence of God in their lives. Perhaps there are people we know (ourselves included) who can not see the vision of the Kingdom that God is laying before us. Wherever the blindness is, whether it be pyhsical, emotional, psychological, or spiritual, Christ’s manifesto lays out the fact that our purpose is to eliminate blindness and to help restore sight to the blind.

This is no easy task, for sure. It is one that takes hope and faith. Do you have such faith? Do you believe that Christ came to restore sight to the blind? Do you believe that Christ has restored your sight to you? Do you believe that Christ has given you the power and the authority over the powers that take sight away from people? Do you believe that you are called to help make a difference in this world by giving sight back to a world that has gone blind by its hatred and its sinfulness? If so, then what are you waiting for? In the name of Jesus, carry on the restoration that Christ started all of those years ago.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see.” – John Newton
PRAYER
Lord, open my eyes that I may see and believe that you have come to give sight to those blind to your Kingdom. Amen.

THE CHRISTIAN MANIFESTO, Part 5: The Poor

Read Luke 4:14-21

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Later, Levi invited Jesus and His disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. (There were many people of this kind among Jesus’ followers.)” (Mark 2:15 NLT)

315proclamationRecently, 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”.

The scroll of Isaiah was unfurled, opened to the sixty-first chapter, and handed to the familiar face of hometown carpenter boy turned prophet and healer. Jesus of Nazareth looked at the scroll, found the place from which he was to read, and began to utter the words slowly and clearly. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,” he began. All eyes were fixed on him intently, waiting to hear these words which had been read countless times before. Prior to this day, plenty of people had read the famous words from the profoundly influential prophet Isaiah. They knew these words and had heard the discussions surrounded its meaning. Everyone knew that these were the words that foretold the coming of the day of the Lord, the day when God would level the playing field, right the wrongs, and liberate all of Israel from her oppressors. Still, they had NEVER heard these words from the mouth of a commoner, the mouth of a carpenter, the mouth of someone who had been gone a while and come back so remarkably different than the person they they knew.

“…for God has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor.” The words quickly reverberated off of the walls of the small stone synagogue and into the ears of those gathered around this carpenter. They knew these words and had prayed to be able to live to see the day of their fulfillment. After all, each person in that synagogue were peasants. They were poor, hard-working people who had barely anything to show for all of their hard work. They not only were taxed on any kind of income, but they also had to yield a tenth of their grain crops, a fifth of their wine, fruit and oil, and they had to pay off the crooked publicans that collected their taxes. Yes, these people could hardly wait for the day when there was finally Good News for the poor.

It, no doubt, came as a surprise to the people of Nazareth, as well as the people in ancient Palestine (aka Israel), that this Jesus wasn’t necessarily referring to them as the poor. Nor did the “good news” he preached seem all that good to them! There Jesus was saying that he was anointed by God (which is code-speak for Messiah) to bring the Good News to the poor, and yet he was traveling with a tax collector and other sinners! The tax collectors were particularly despised because on top of the regular taxation the Romans forced them to pay, they would raise the amount owed and keep the rest for themselves, becoming rich off of their own.

How could Jesus preach about bringing Good News to the poor and hang around tax collectors, who were themselves rich in their corruption? How was that possibly Good News for the poor villagers of Nazareth? Whether they realized it at the time or not, Jesus was about to shatter their understanding of God’s justice as well as their understanding of what it means to be poor. In fact, he’s about to do the same for us as well. Jesus does not, ever, define who the poor are. Nor does he define the “least of these.” Instead, he simply served the poor and the least of these whoever they were. Good news for the impoverished is the cessation of being shunned and away out of their poverty. Yet it is not just the impoverished who are poor. The rich, though not impoverished, are poor in other ways. God does not call us to only fill the need of some, but to fill the needs of all who are in need. While the rich might be first in the bank, they might be the “least of these” in terms of spiritual depth and purpose. The question for us today is this, who are “the poor” in your communities, and what is the GOOD NEWS for them?

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“No one has ever become poor by giving.” – Anne Frank
PRAYER
Lord, help me to hear the Good News that I need in my life, as well as be the conduit of the Good News in the lives of others. Amen.

THE CHRISTIAN MANIFESTO, Part 4: The Prophet

Read Luke 4:14-21

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me…to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God.” Isaiah 61:1a, 2a).

004-jesus-nazarethRecently, 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”.

The last three devotions were focused on introducing Jesus’ Christian Manifesto to us and the lead up to Jesus’ confrontation at the Synagogue in Nazareth. Now it is time that we look at the manifesto itself. Prior to talking about the specific social/spiritual concerns that Jesus addresses in the manifesto itself, it would do us good to introduce the very Scripture that Jesus is both quoting as well as reframing. In the Gospel, it says that Jesus is handed a scroll from the prophet Isaiah, also known as the Book of Isaiah as found in the Hebrew Scriptures within our Christian Bible.

Jesus opens up to what we now know as Isaiah 61 and reads the section we now number as the first and second verses. In it, the prophet writes following: “The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is upon Me, for the LORD has anointed Me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent Me to comfort the brokenhearted and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed. He has sent Me to tell those who mourn that the time of the LORD’s favor has come, and with it, the day of God’s anger against their enemies.” What’s important to note is that this text is not some isolated text written on a napkin; rather, it is surrounded by other passages written by the same person in order to convey a message that Jesus most definitely was aware of and intentional about.

Isaiah 61:1-2 is preceded by, for instance, 59:19-21 in which it is written: “In the west, people will respect the name of the LORD; in the east, they will glorify Him. For He will come like a raging flood tide driven by the breath of the LORD.  ‘The Redeemer will come to Jerusalem to buy back those in Israel who have turned from their sins,’ says the LORD.  ‘And this is My covenant with them,’ says the LORD. ‘My Spirit will not leave them, and neither will these words I have given you. They will be on your lips and on the lips of your children and your children’s children forever. I, the LORD, have spoken!'”

In other words, Isaiah 61:1-2, which is the text hat Jesus reads, is an announcement that is both condemning and liberative all at the same time. In it, the Spirit of the Lord through the prophet procalims that God is coming to establish divine justice on Earth.  For those who are suffering, oppressed, captive, imprisoned, poor, and blind, this is indeed GOOD NEWS. Yet, for those of whom God’s justice is not in their own personal interest, these words come with fear and trembling for, as it is suggested in Isaiah 61:2b, God’s favor for the oppressed also ushers in God’s anger against the enemies of the oppressed (aka the oppressors).

While Jesus’ synagogue crowd, and no doubt ourselves, get excited at Jesus’ reading of Isaiah 61:1-2, it begs the question: “How excited should we be?” Are we the oppressed, or are we the oppressors? Honestly, it can be legitimately argued that we are on both sides depending on the day and the circumstances. What goes without saying, the fact that Jesus chose his reading wisely and is, certainly, calling his listeners into an introspective and reflective moment. It is a moment that should give us pause and bring us to our knees both in repentance and in joy at the coming of our Lord, our Redeemer, and our Savior. It should inspire within us, the need and the desire to be a changed, transformed and, ultimately, redeemed people.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Ears to hear and eyes to see—both are gifts from the LORD.” (Proverbs 20:12 NLT)
PRAYER
Lord, create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me. Amen.

 

THE CHRISTIAN MANIFESTO, Part 3: Reports

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)

buddy_christ1Recently, 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).
PRAYER
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.

The Christian Manifesto, Part 2: Anointed

Read Luke 4:14-21

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and all of you have knowledge.” (1 John 2:20, NRSV)

festivals-pentecost-dove-fire-370x370Recently, 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”.

When we think of the word anointed, a couple things come to mind. The annointing of the sick and the dying comes to mind, as does the annointing of kings and rulers of nations and empires. Perhaps the most common thing that comes to mind when we hear of anointing is connected to that latter concept, in that we think of Jesus who is the Christ, or the annointed one, and who is the King of kings and Lord of Lords. We think of Jesus’ baptism in the water of the Jordan River and his anointing by the Holy Spirit following that baptism. We think of the one who was anointed both King and Savior of the world, the one who humbled himself to a lowly status and lived a life of compassion and love, the one who was betrayed, tortured, and crucified. We think of the one who, ultimately, was raised to life again after three long days of laying dead in a dark, cold tomb.

Thus, when we hear Jesus read the words, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for the LORD has anointed me…”, it comes as no surprise to us. We often think of them as Jesus’ own words and/or as words that were written with Jesus in mind. To some extent this is true in that the one who wrote these words, was inspired by God to do so and that Jesus’ certainly did fulfill those words in such a way that they have forever since been seen as a prophecy pointing toward Jesus’ coming. Yet, that is only part of the truth. The author of Isaiah 61 was writing this to the people of his day and age. This author sees himself as having been anointed by God to bring the good news that one day God would put an end to the injustices of the world, that God would end all oppression, and that the day of the LORD was soon to arrive.

In other words, this passage was written both as a present proclamation in the time of the prophet who wrote it, as well as future prophecy of the coming of God’s Kingdom on Earth! Jesus’ selection of this particular passage, therefore, is definitely not accidental. Jesus saw himself and his ministry as the outset of the coming of God’s Kingdom. He saw himself as the long awaited Messiah, as the deliverer of all who were oppressed, as igniter of God’s justice and the genesis of the age to come. With that said, Jesus did not see himself in a one player game, where he was some sort of rogue agent of God doing all of the work by himself. This is clear from the beginning, when Jesus hand-selected twelve people to shadow him and to learn how to continue the work once he was gone. From those twelve, who represented the twelve tribes of Israel, the Jesus movement (now known as Christianity) exploded onto the scene in a way that literally rocked the known world and ended up too much for even the Roman Empire to contain.

What’s important to note here is that while is certainly anointed by God as the Christ, we are anointed by God through the Christ who hand-chose us as his disciples. Christ has sent us the Holy Spirit, in whom we are anointed and in whom we are being sanctified. What’s more, like he did with his disciples, he appoints us as his apostles (messengers/delegates) in the world, meaning that we are sent out as representatives of Christ and the coming Kingdom. This is very much a part of the Christian Manifesto: that all Christians are anointed by the Holy Spirit, through Christ, to continue doing what Christ was anointed to do! May you come to not only understand this, but to acknowledge it and live it out in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
The question is not whether you have been appointed and sent, the question is to what have been appointed and where are you being sent?
PRAYER
Lord, here I am. Illumine me as to what it is you are calling me to do and show me how I am equipped to do it. Amen.

The Christian Manifesto, Part 1: Spirit-Filled

Read Luke 4:14-21

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“The Sovereign LORD will show His justice to the nations of the world. Everyone will praise Him! His righteousness will be like a garden in early spring, with plants springing up everywhere.” (Isaiah 61:11 NLT)

Spirit-FilledRecently, 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 to me as “The Christian Manifesto”.

While Luke does not go into detail about what Jesus was doing or saying upon returning to Galilee, it is important to note that following the wilderness trial, Jesus returns to Galilee. This is the region his hometown was in and so it was a region very familiar to Jesus. It is often the case that we return to what is familiar to us to begin our lives, even if that is not where we end up in the end. This is certainly the case for Jesus as well. What was important to Luke to note was that the Jesus who came back into Galilee was different from the Jesus who left Galilee to get bapitzed. There was just something different about him. This carpenter from Nazareth began teaching in the synagogues and was making a name for himself around the region, so much so that no doubt the people in his hometown would have heard the news. In fact, the first thing Jesus did when he arrived at his hometown was go to the synagogue to teach, and people seemingly gathered there to listen to him.

This opening to the passage serves two purposes. The first is that it is a preface to us on what it means to be filled with the Holy Spirit. In today’s culture, we live in a time where, for many, being Christians means becoming the bastians of “traditional values”. We live in a time where being “born again”, for many, means that they said the sinner’s prayer and accepted Jesus, which ultimately became a part of the “in” club…where “in” means “in heaven” and everyone else is left out. Yet, when we take care to notice what a “born again” (if you will humor me on this) and Spirit-filled Jesus looks like, what we see is someone who is transformed. He no longer is a carpenter; rather, he is a teacher and miracle worker. He is no longer a builder of houses; rather, he the messiah and the builder of God’s Kingdom. He no longer is a small-town guy who isn’t noticed by anybody; rather he is someone who now garners much attenion. What’s more, he doesn’t go into the synagogue to uphold traditional values and claim his acceptance in the “in” club; rather, he goes in to open the eyes of those who thought they alread saw and knew, and he was now claiming that those were excluded and a part of the “out” club were now the ones who were being included.

Second, as we will see in this upcoming series, this is a passage that is not just to open the eyes of the people in the synagogue, it is also meant to open the eyes and instruct the lives of those who read it. Jesus takes the words of the prophet Isaiah and transforms them. As we will see, Jesus reads them in a way that reframes them and sets forth a manifesto for all Christians throughout all of the ages. It is in the synagogue in his hometown of Nazareth, where Jesus shows the world what being filled-with God’s Holy Spirit and authority leads to. It is in the synagogue where Jesus lays out what following him, the Messiah, the Son of God actually means. In Jesus’ manifesto, and in his life and teachings, he makes it clear that the Spirit of the Lord is upon him and, by extension, is upon us. That through him and his anointing as the Christ, we are called to bring the good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the captives, to bring sight to the blind, to bring freedom to the oppressed and to proclaim the coming of the Kingdom of God. I pray you reflect on that and, hopefully, our eyes and our hearts will be opened together as to what Christ means by “the poor”, “the captive”, “the blind”, “the oppressed” and the coming of “God’s favor”, as well as what Christ is calling us to do about it.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
Christianity is not a set of passive beliefs; rather, it is the very path on which believers live out the life and teachings of the Christ.

PRAYER
Lord, illumine my path so that I may see clearly the way in which you are calling me to follow. Amen.

A Time to Reflect, part 1

Starting with last Friday, this week (Friday to Friday) is the week of retreats. As such, I decided to change things up for this week of devotions. Rather than publishing two full devotions this week, and rather than publishing two previously written devotions, I have decided to publish two scriptures and a couple of reflective questions. Read the Scripture, more than once even, and ponder the questions that are asked in regard it. If you are reading this on lifegivingwaterdevo.org, feel free to comment with your answers and/or reflective thoughts. If you are reading this in print somewhere, or on some other site that is publishing it, then perhaps write your answers and/or reflective thoughts on paper and save them to look back upon.

Next week, I will write two brand new devotions based off of the two Scripture passages and the reflective questions being asked.

Today’s Scripture:

Mark 8:34-38

bench1He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.

  1. What does Jesus mean when he says, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves…”?
  2. What did it mean for people in Jesus’ day to pick up their crosses? What does it mean for you to pick up your cross?
  3. What does Jesus mean by “those who are ashamed of me and my words” and why does Jesus call his generation “adulterous and sinful”?
  4. Do you feel uneasy by Jesus’ words in this passage? If so, why does it challenge you? If not, why doesn’t it?

Look for next Wednesday’s devotion in order to see the full devotion on Mark 8:34-38.

A LOOK BACK: A Carpenters Christmas

dsc05349“It is the week of this Christmas and all through my mind,
Came the need for a holiday and some time to unwind.
I have written so many devotions with love and care
In hopes that you’ll discover the Christ that I share.”

While I have taken some time off of writing for the holidays, here’s a look back at a devotion that is no doubt as relevant today as it was when I wrote it. Click here to view today’s devotion.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!