Luke 12 – Verse by Verse

Photo for Luke

Mark Radke was scheduled to take this chapter while Ginger & I were in Texas.  In the midst of the Coronavirus crisis, everything changed, but we decided to stick with Mark and Luke 12.

Luke 12.pdf   (Mark Radke)

Luke 12.mp3   (Mark Radke)

Here is a link to the livestream video:  https://www.facebook.com/horizoncentral/videos/1399883910195033/

A custom of Jesus – Luke 4:16

And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day … 

Sometimes Christians fall a little short (or even a lot) by attending church on Sunday, but letting that be about all there is to their Christian life.  More regular or deeper fellowship with other believers is not high on their list of priorities.  Daily encounters with God through the Bible or prayer are seldom had.  

And then there is another kind of problem.  One frequently encounters professing Christians who rarely if ever go to church at all.  Once in a while a person is willing to admit that it is just through negligence or laziness or what used to be called sloth.  If you’ve ever had the good fortune to see a genuine mammalian, tropical sloth in action, or sloth inaction, you understand why the word applies.  If this is your problem, take this as a simple reminder that Christ normally went to synagogue services on the Sabbath.  It was his custom according to Luke 4:16.  Make it your custom too.

Worse yet is the person who says in a somewhat self-satisfied way, “I am a Christian and think highly of Jesus, but I do not take part in a church.”  This person sees no need for the fellowship of the saints, the regular teaching of the Scriptures, or the exercise of his or her gifts in the context of a local body of believers.  

Frequently, this person has been wounded by a church or its leaders and sometimes more than once.  That’s sad, really, but so often true.  We should not lightly brush off a person’s deep struggles or too quickly minimize their experience.

The same truly wounded person should still take a lesson from the custom of Jesus.  If anyone knew of the hypocrisy of religious people, it was Christ.  If anyone could afford to do without an empty religious tradition, it was Christ.  He was rejected in the synagogue in Nazareth, where he grew up, and almost killed by those people here in Luke 4.  Later, in Capernaum, he encountered a demonized man at a synagogue service, who then began shouting at him and made Jesus the center of attention.  

The truth is, we need a weekly dose of God’s people, with all their good, bad, wonderful, stupid and terrible qualities.  Since the days of the New Testament, Christians have gathered together on the first day of the week and there is no compelling reason to change that custom now.  Learning to get along with all these imperfect people is one of the main ingredients in our spiritual growth. 

If you don’t find encouragement with other believers, find a church and go there to be an encouragement to them.  If you find hypocrisy, make it a point to be the least hypocritical person in the room. 

And then, on top of everything else, humbly admit that you may have a problem.  Perhaps your previous wounds have made you overly judgmental or somewhat too critical of others.  This is understandable, but it still is not good.  Maybe you are a little too afraid of what may or may not happen again.  Understandable again, but it is no way to live.  If you honestly talk about your issue you are likely to find someone else there who will know exactly what you are talking about and might have some encouragement for you on that level.  In other words, this sort of wounding happens a lot, so you are not alone in your experience.

Once again, take this as a simple reminder that Christ normally went to synagogue services on the Sabbath.  It was his custom according to Luke 4:16.  Make it your custom too.

Mark 12 Verse by Verse

Photo for Mark edited

Jesus is in Jerusalem.  It is the final week running up to his crucifixion.  He will criticize spiritual showiness while encouraging us to practice complete love and commitment to God.

Mark 12.pdf

Mark 12.mp3

Spiritual VIPs – Mark 12:38-40

38 And in his teaching he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes and like greetings in the marketplaces 39 and have the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, 40 who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”

Have you ever been in the presence of someone really, really important?  I remember one time attending a campaign event in New Hampshire in the run up to a presidential primary.  Several political big shots had crammed into a school cafeteria with all the requisite staff, press and random observers like me.  It was hard not to get caught up in the excitement of the moment.  So much power being wielded in the midst of a crowd interacting in tighter-than-usual personal space! The spectators and the stars were almost literally rubbing elbows.

We might assume all the candidates at that event had no aspirations outside the boundaries of selfless public service, but it probably wasn’t true.  Some people do crave the attention, the respect, the deference to their inherent importance, the awe from others which they see as their just due.

Jesus wasn’t like that, but rather lowered himself intentionally to our level.  When he saw the types that liked to be spiritual VIPs, he had nothing but harsh words. And he pointed out their hypocrisy.

They got attention merely by the way they dressed.  Some clothing automatically looks more spiritual and they wanted people to see them in it.  People saw them dressed in those long robes and reflexively gave them special greetings in the marketplaces.  It was a wholehearted, full-eye-contact “Oh hello, sir!” not just a halfhearted “Hi.”

When they took their place of religious duty, it was a place of honor.  If there was a feast, the host would be sure to seat them somewhere special, because of course he wanted everyone to see what kind of people came to his banquets – spiritual VIPs.

People like this can use their power to take advantage of others.  The grieving widow might someday want to sign over some of her estate.  Be sure to get into her good graces.  Why even wait that long?  Perhaps they would pull on her heartstrings now to lead her to give to their “charitable” cause.

Long prayers are often necessary, but there is no sense in the mind of this VIP to offer them only in private.  Prayers are best offered in pretense, for all to see and hear, sufficiently clogged with spiritual vocabulary and run-on sentences.  Who would ever believe that someone so pious could ever devour the house of a widow?

Many people will be condemned in the judgment, but these will receive greater condemnation.  If there is such a thing as a hotter place in hell, it is reserved for the phony, self-focused, hypocritically spiritual VIP.

Mark 11 Verse by Verse

Photo for Mark edited

Jesus makes his triumphal entry into Jerusalem.  When he exercises his messianic authority, however, that authority is immediately challenged.

Mark 11.pdf

Mark 11.mp3

A Prayer Prompted by Mark 11

Dear heavenly Father,

Your people have often fallen into times of deep hypocrisy and in this chapter we see Jesus confront a group of people who were in one of those times.

Help us to be especially sensitive to the ways that our lives do not line up with your desires for us.

Let us always remember that you get to set the agenda in our lives individually and in the church.

And help us not to forget the importance of prayer. We know it can be really effective when we truly believe and consistently bring our requests before you.

We also know that before prayer comes a heart of forgiveness. Help us to be those people that refuse to hold grudges and refuse to let unforgiveness cloud our relationship with you.

And we thank you for all the ways and the times that you have forgiven us.

In Christ,

Amen.

The wrong crowd – Mark 2:13-17

13 He went out again beside the sea, and all the crowd was coming to him, and he was teaching them. 14 And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.

15 And as he reclined at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. 16 And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 17 And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Jesus is still eating with sinners.  The church is full of them.  On any given Sunday, in the midst of any given Christian congregation, you will find them.  Jesus is comfortable there and intends to make these people his friends.

One reason I say this has to do with our perception of hypocrisy.  The true hypocrites in this story were the scribes of the Pharisees who thought eating with certain people was beneath them. Who were they to feel so self-righteous?  In reality they needed Jesus too.

The church that we see is often a lot like the crowd here at Levi’s banquet.  Jesus is surely present and so are his disciples.  The disciples, as we know from the Gospels and Acts, were themselves in a state of continuous spiritual growth.  They were imperfect on their very best days.  And then there are those who are generic followers.  They may not even be believers just yet.  Or maybe they are very new to the faith and each day brings them a major lesson.  Or they may just be friends of Levi who came to the banquet, who just heard of Jesus that day, and have no desire to repent of anything at this time.

Let’s expect a lot of ourselves as far as holiness and spiritual growth.  Let’s also be gracious with others.  You’re going to find yourself sitting next to some sinner, tax collector or present day equivalent next time you attend any church gathering.  This isn’t the wrong crowd, but the right one, if you are looking for Jesus.