Apr 15

Are you a slave to your phone, email, and the internet?

Do you find that you have no time to get your real work done because you have to answer email during the best time of the day?

Do you come to the office two hours behind?

Do you just dig your self out to find that you are late for dinner?

Seth Godin has written excellent guidelines on his blog on 4/11/15.

Five steps to digital hygiene

Washing your hands helps you avoid getting sick.

Putting fattening foods out of your reach helps you stay slim.

And the provocations and habits you encounter in the digital world keep you productive (or drive you crazy):

1. Turn off mail and social media alerts on your phone.

2. Don’t read the comments. Not on your posts or on the posts of other people. Not the reviews and not the trolls.

3. De-escalate the anger in every email exchange.

4. Put your phone in the glove compartment while driving.

5. Spend the most creative hour of your day creating, not responding.

Each habit is hard to swallow and easy to maintain. Worth it.

My problem:

Number 2 is for those write on the internet.

Number 5 in my problem. I need to not spend the best hours of the day digging myself out of the electronic pile that greets me each morning. I need to let people wait a bit while I get something done.

What’s your problem?

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Apr 14

I have just revised two posts on my blog

People don’t always act the way you’d predict

What if you knew the future when you were 26 years old?

Apr 06

I have revised two posts on my blog

Sometimes children find out what their parents really believe

What will it be like from now until Jesus returns?

Apr 02

I have updated two posts on my blog

How did you come to Jesus?

Sometime disagreements are real, deep and personal

Apr 01

What does Jesus want to find when he returns to the earth?

The widow and the corrupt judge

Jesus told a story about a corrupt judge and a widow who wanted justice. The widow wins her case not on its merits but by wearing down the judge with her persistence. (Luke 18:1-8)

The parable seems unlikely for two reasons. In the passage before Jesus talks about the end times and the sudden unexpected coming of the Kingdom of God after a time of upheaval. Secondly, at the conclusion of the parable Jesus asked if he would find faith on the earth when he returns. (Luke 17:22-37; 18:8)

We find a story about a persistent widow sandwiched between two passages about the end times.

God is not like the judge

Another curious part of the story is that Jesus used the corrupt judge to teach about God. The corrupt judge gave the widow justice because he wanted to get rid of her. God wants to bless people of faith. We don’t need to wear him down.

The core of the faith that Jesus desires

Hebrews 11 lists the exploits of people of faith from the Hebrew Scriptures. The first verses describe the faith that pleases God

People of faith believe that God exists.

People of faith believe that God created the universe out of nothing.

People of faith believe that in the end God will reward faith. (Hebrews 11:1-6)

The persistent widow believed that she would prevail. She did. If a corrupt judge can be made to act justly how much more can we expect that God will give justice to those who trust him to vindicate them.

Prayer and faith are linked in Jesus’ teaching

After the story of the widow and the judge, Jesus continued by telling a parable about good prayer and bad prayer. Then he pointed out examples of good faith and bad faith.

The prayer of the proud Pharisee was contrasted with the humble prayer of the tax collector.

Then the trusting faith of children was compared with the rich ruler whose faith was choked by his concern for his wealth.

Prayer and faith are linked in Jesus’ teaching. (Luke 18:9-30)

How are prayer and faith linked in our lives?

When have various concerns choked your faith?

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Mar 27

Should Christians answer every question about their faith?

They say that you should not talk about religion or politics but sometimes it seems that is all people want to talk about.

Two types of believers

Some Christians enjoy answering every questions they get asked- Adam and Eve, the Flood, length of the first days, number and age of New Testament manuscripts, etc. They will even bait people to ask them questions and collect the latest books of evidences and lines of argument.

Others stay close to the story of Jesus and try not to wander far from the Gospel.

How did Jesus handle questions?

During the final week of his life, a few days before the crucifixion, Jesus upset the business that grew up around the temple sacrifices. Agents of the leading priests changed money and sold acceptable animals. It was a lucrative business. Jesus upset the tables, chased the vendors away, and interrupted their work. (Luke 19:45-48)

It was done in the Court of the Gentiles, the only place where non-Jews were allowed to pray.

Soon afterward the leaders asked Jesus by what authority he did this? He refused the answer and instead asked them if they accepted John’s baptism. They were trapped because they did not believe John but the onlookers did and venerated him as a prophet. They did not answer and Jesus refused to answer their question. Jesus then quoted the Song of the Vineyard from Isaiah and turned it against the leaders. Everyone knew that he condemned them with this familiar passage. (Luke 20:1-19; Isaiah 5:1-7)

The leaders then tried to trap Jesus with two more questions. Should the Jews pat taxes to Rome and an application of the law that would either make Jesus look silly or irreverent depending on his answer. He answered them successfully and they stopped questioning him. (Luke 20:20-40)

Jesus then continued the discussion. He subtly moved them toward the mystery of the incarnation by asking them how the Messiah could be both King David’s descendant and his Lord. The leaders gave no answer. (Luke 20:41-47)

What can we learn from Jesus?

Jesus did not answer every question.

He did answer some questions.

He moved the discussion toward the Gospel.

This is a simple, profound, but, at times, difficult example to follow.

When have you been asked a question that was only intended to trap or embarrass you?

How do you try to focus a discussion on Jesus?

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Mar 23

I have just added two revised posts to my blog

The Church and the Poor- Dignity and Charity in the Story of Ruth.
Followers of Jesus must be fruitful

Mar 20

What can Christians learn from a dishonest accountant?

A weird parable

I have taught Luke’s Gospel many times in different settings.

Most of my students have concluded that Luke 16 contains one of the weirdest parables that Jesus taught.

Jesus told the story of a dishonest manager who was called to give an account of what he had done before he was fired. He had some time to act quickly so called in some of his master’s debtors and rewrote their accounts so that they owned less. He reasoned that they would provide for him after he was fired. After all, physical labor would be too hard for him and he did not want to beg. This would be best for him.

His rich master found out about what he did and commended him for it. He thought that the manager’s dishonesty was very shrewd.

The rich man and his manager lived in a moneyed world. Dishonesty, bribery, and inflated commissions were the norm. In this world and by these standards, the manager was shrewd.

What can Christian learn from this?

In verses Luke 16:8- 9 Jesus turns the parable in a subtle direction. Christians are often not very shrewd with money. Christian shrewdness means moving the money to heaven. The money is not evil in itself.

The dishonest manager wants to be welcomed by others on earth. Christians should want to be welcomed in the eternal kingdom.

How do you move the money in that direction?

John Chrysostom who preached around 400 AD spoke of the poor as God’s bankers and urged his listeners to make a deposit.

We can use earthly wealth to achieve heavenly goals

We do this when we reach out to the unbelief in the world.

We do this when we give to others who cannot meet their own needs.

We do this when we invest in people, churches and other groups that invest in people.

Can you think of any investments that you have made in your life that you are 100% sure we meet you in eternity?

Can you think of some that you are sure won’t?

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Mar 16

I have updated two posts on my blog

Jesus Was the Perfect Messiah for Imperfect People

God used a Pagan Prophet to Bless his People.

 

Mar 11

Big men don’t run. Except when they really want to help someone.

Important people don’t have to hustle. Others do that for them. They can move at their own pace.

The lost sheep, lost coin, and the lost son

Before Jesus talked about lost things that were found he balanced the picture of the great open heavenly feast with the costs of discipleship. All are invited but it demands all you have. (Luke 14:12-35)

Martin Luther summed up the balance when he said, “We are saved by faith alone, but the faith that saves is never alone.”

To follow Jesus takes all of you. You are often out of place in this world. Family, friends, and people in general don’t understand what you are doing

Jesus told stories about a God who looks for the lost when they are far from him. He talked about the human joy of finding a lost animal or coin. He said that the joy in heaven was far greater. (Luke 15:1-10)

The Father who runs

He then told a story that is the source of a picture often applied to disappointing children, the Prodigal Son.

The younger son asked for his inheritance while his father was still alive. He all but told his father that life would be better without him but with his money. He took the money, went away, and wasted it. He suffered humiliating consequences. He decided to return home, acknowledge his wrongs, and rejoin his father’s household as a servant, not a son. (Luke 15:11-19)

The father was looking for him, interrupted his speech and celebrated his return. The older brother was angry at his Father’s response but the father urged him to join the celebration. (Luke 15:20-32)

Jesus used the father to reveal the response of God to those who return to him.

The Father’s Response

He was looking for the son.

He ran to greet the son.

He interrupted the confession and restored the son.

He celebrated the son’s return.

He reached out to the legalistic brother and wanted him to celebrate as well.

Grace and Consequences

There is a subtle but clear note of the consequences of the actions of the returning son. There will be no inheritance for him when the father dies. All that the father has belongs to the older son. (Luke 15:31)

We live in a world of grace and consequences. We do not suffer all the consequences we deserve but there are some empty places in our lives that are reminders of past mistakes.

The sons are real people. There is the wasteful, self-centered, impatient but repentant son. There is also the obedient but legalistic son. There are no black and white hats. They’re just like us.

Both of them had a forgiving, patient father.

How have we experienced the balance of grace and consequences in our lives?

When have we run to welcome someone back to the faith?

When has come one ran to welcome us?

When have we taken our time when we should have run?

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