Archives For Luke

In general, I have found that people fall into two broad categories.  Those who have goals, and those who don’t.  No one really wants to admit they don’t have goals, so those who don’t wont admit to it.  They would rather point to “flexibility” or “keeping their options open.”  Those who make goals may be tempted to believe that everyone else should have the same goals as them.  Or they may become enslaved to the goal and unaware of either their need to adjust to circumstances or to the differing needs of those around them.  I think both sides of this debate are tempted to look down on the other in a negative manner.

I have spent too much of my life on the “flexible” side of the coin.  Living in the moment is fun.  When you are young, keeping your options open is stimulating, interesting.  But you “wake up” after a few years and find out that you haven’t really gotten anywhere, because you weren’t really heading anywhere.  I finally “woke up” in my thirties and started heading somewhere, but I found that I was a bit late to the party and had a lot of catching up to do!

I have come to appreciate the value of goals — or as a friend of mine prefers to call them  – objectives ( I think he wants to retain some “flexibility” in his life).  By nature, some of us are a bit more on the “flexible” side and we have to work harder at defining our objectives.  On the other hand, we flexible types are a lot better at “change management.”  When things don’t go according to plan — which of course, they won’t, we adjust more quickly and with far less angst.

Jesus tells a couple of interesting stories to illustrate the importance of thinking carefully about being his disciple.  In Luke 14 he says: 

“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it?  For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’  “Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand?  If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace.  .  .  “

Pretty simple, really.  Let’s say your goal is to build a tower.  If you embark on the project with no real plan, just the idea of a tower and you are just going to go with the flow — you will likely fail and look like an idiot.  In reality, it is more the idea of a tower that you were in love with, not the actual completion of the tower project itself.  To accomplish a goal, quite often there is a necessary cascade of little goals that must be attained along the way that ultimately lead to the completion of the larger goal.  If we don’t have a clear goal and a process that we will accomplish that goal by, we will almost assuredly fail.

So, for those who like to be flexible, to avoid constraints, to be free and unfettered, consider that you may need to embrace the difficult discipline of goal setting and follow through on it.  And for those who live every moment of each day by a structured plan generated to attain their goals – consider that you may need to lighten up a bit.  Learn to be a bit more flexible.  Don’t take your eye off the goal, but enjoy the journey with those around you.

Which are you?  Goal driven?  Or flexible?  What do you think are the strengths/weaknesses of each?  Let me know in the comments!

My life is a bit hectic right now.  I am working hard at doing a post a day, but some days there are just not enough hours!  I’m down to less than an hour and I need to be in bed, but I thought I would put up a few more verses that address the issue of money I brought up yesterday.  By now it must be evident that I have been reading through Luke the past few days! 

How we handle money, our attitude towards money, what we do to get money, these things tell the story about who we are and who we are becoming!

Luke 19: 8-10

But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.  Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham.  For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”

Luke 19:11-27
While they were listening to this, he went on to tell them a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once.12 He said: “A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return.  So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas.‘Put this money to work,’ he said, ‘until I come back.’ “But his subjects hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, ‘We don’t want this man to be our king.’ “He was made king, however, and returned home. Then he sent for the servants to whom he had given the money, in order to find out what they had gained with it. “The first one came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has earned ten more.’  ” ‘Well done, my good servant!’ his master replied. ‘Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.’ “The second came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has earned five more.’  “His master answered, ‘You take charge of five cities.’ “Then another servant came and said, ‘Sir, here is your mina; I have kept it laid away in a piece of cloth.  I was afraid of you, because you are a hard man. You take out what you did not put in and reap what you did not sow.’ “His master replied, ‘I will judge you by your own words, you wicked servant! You knew, did you, that I am a hard man, taking out what I did not put in, and reaping what I did not sow?  Why then didn’t you put my money on deposit, so that when I came back, I could have collected it with interest?’ “Then he said to those standing by, ‘Take his mina away from him and give it to the one who has ten minas.’ ” ‘Sir,’ they said, ‘he already has ten!’ “He replied, ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what he has will be taken away.  But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them–bring them here and kill them in front of me.’ ”

 Luke 21: 1-4

As he looked up, Jesus saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury.  He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins.  “I tell you the truth,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others.  All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.

This year I have been working at being more cognizant of the connections between the two testaments. When we miss the connections, our view of either collection of writings is impoverished.  It is interesting that when we make the connections, it becomes clear why much of what is said in the New Testament would seem completely outrageous and offensive to the entrenched religious culture of the time.  I suspect the same would be true today, if we did a better job of contextualizing both the New and Old Testaments to our current religious culture.  (Of course, our current secular culture already finds much of what is in the Scriptures to be outrageous and offensive!)

During the time of the divided kingdom, the prophet Micah takes the people and leaders to task for their sinful actions such as greed, idolatry, dishonesty, injustice.  Although the people were presenting a veneer of worship, their hearts were far from God.  They were going through the motions of religious ritual, but their lives did not characterize a genuine love for God.  Within this setting Micah says:

He has showed you, O man, what is good.  And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God
Micah 6:8

 Fast forward a few years and change the cast of characters.  The entrenched religious establishment is now in conflict with Jesus.  Read the words he speaks to them in Luke 11.  Can you see the parallel?   

“Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone.  “Woe to you Pharisees, because you love the most important seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces.  “Woe to you, because you are like unmarked graves, which men walk over without knowing it.”  One of the experts in the law answered him, “Teacher, when you say these things, you insult us also.”  Jesus replied, “And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.  Luke 11:42-46

 “Teacher, when you say these things, you insult us also.”  Yes he does.  Because he points out that the Pharisees care far more about ritual and rules then they do about the state of the heart.  They know how to go through the religious motions, they know how to “talk the talk.”  But their hearts are far from God.  And they do not “walk the walk.”

And if you say these things around your church or around those who profess to be Christians, you may get a similar response.  These are hard words, but they are good words.  How quickly and how easily our hearts stray from the God’s heart.  How quickly we seek to be noticed by others, to be applauded by them.  How easily we place the burden of rules, regulations and religious expectations on the backs of others while doing nothing to lend genuine assistance.  How comfortably we place a few dollars in the offering plate while ignoring the injustice that is taking place around us or that perhaps we are even foisting upon others.  

As the saying goes, “the truth hurts” and often times it does.  When someone points out a problem in our lives, our first response is to be offended, as this expert in the law was.  Or we seek to justify ourselves as another expert in the law did (Luke 10:29).  So we must ask ourselves:  Have we become “experts in the law” rather than experts in knowing the heart of God?  Or do we act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with our God? 

Do you want to do something dangerous?  To step on a proverbial hornet’s nest?  First speak the truth of God’s heart to your own heart.  Then speak that truth to the power of the culture around you.  I’m starting that journey today.  Want to join me?