Often in my prayers I have pictured God standing with me on a certain issue that I am praying about. But I began to think the other day, what if we were to stand with God on God's issues, rather than asking him to stand with us on ours. If we were to take this approach, what issues do we know that God absolutely stands for?
If you have read this blog for very long, you know that I believe that God absolutely stands for healing people. I say this because Jesus healed everyone who asked him, and many who didn't ask. It is not recorded in Scripture that Jesus said, "No, I am sorry, but I'm not going to heal you." Nor does he say, "Today is not your day for healing, maybe tomorrow." Jesus did not turn people away when it came to healing. So I think we can reasonably say that God stands for healing people no matter what kind of sickness they suffer (Luke 4:16-21). We can reasonably know God's will on this issue: He wants to heal people.
Why then are not all people healed when we ask God for healing? I suppose we won't know until we get to the Kingdom what stood in the way of a particular healing, but we can be sure the fault lies with us, not with God. And when God explains to us why the healing did not occur, we'll probably smack ourselves on the forehead and say, "Why didn't I see that?"
For Reflection: Can we, do we, stand with God on this issue of healing? What does it look like to stand with God? How does it feel to stand united with God on an issue?
Let us pray. Jesus, I stand with you on the issue of healing. I stand with you on healing (fill in the name of the person). I believe that you want this healing to occur. If there is anything I can do to bring about this healing more quickly, please let me know what it is. I am standing with you for this healing.
Another aspect of the ear and eye gates is the imagination. What we hear and/or see can lead us into imagined conversations, interactions or even imagined relationships that are unholy. They can lead us into gossip, judging other people and misjudging ourselves. The fascination that so much of society has with celebrities' lives, their clothing and housing may lead into a fantasy life and to dissatisfaction with our own life, spouse, children, or home.
We may find ourselves following certain famous people on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. If nothing else, we have wasted that time on social media which we could have spent with loved ones, reading a good book, exercising or praying.
For Reflection: God gave us our bodies, our hearing, our eyesight to use for his glory. Have I neglected my family or my prayer time, yet found time to spend on TV or social media? Have I developed an improper fantasy life with a celebrity? Do I find my real life to be lacking and humdrum when compared with my imagination or the lives of others? Has this led me to depression and dissatisfaction with what God has given me?
Let us pray. Father, I don't need to be rich or famous. I appreciate all that you have given me in the way of family and home. I don't need to store up riches. I don't need the latest electronics, the most expensive car and homes around the world. I don't want to seek after a fantasy life. I want to seek after you and after your kingdom and trust that you will provide for my needs (Luke 12:14-31). I repent of all the time and imagination I have wasted and I ask you to forgive me.
Welcoming travelers and showing hospitality was an important characteristic of Jewish people in the Old Testament and continues in the New Testament. Just a few examples are Deuteronomy 10:19 and Leviticus 19:34; Matthew 5:43-44, 25:35, 40; Romans 13:8, 10; Hebrews 13:1 and Romans 12:13. Jesus also told a story or parable about how to treat our "neighbors." It's the story of the Good Samaritan and the neighbor in question is a complete stranger (Luke 10:29-37). While traveling a main road a man is set upon by robbers who beat him, strip him and leave him half dead. Some people, who certainly knew how to treat a traveler, passed him by. But a Samaritan, a person possibly less-versed in Jewish law, stopped and saw to the victim's every need - care for his wounds, transportation and lodging, plus all of his expenses. The Samaritan not only saw the man in the road, he treated him like family, with love, and took care of him. It was the Samaritan who showed mercy.
The first four of the Corporal Works of Mercy are to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked and shelter the homeless or the traveler. The Good Samaritan did all of these at one time. He treated the hapless man with respect and dignity. He didn't ask what kind of man the victim was, whether he was Jewish or Roman, slave or free, good or evil. He saw someone who desperately needed help and he provided it.
For Reflection: Many people today are without jobs, without homes, without enough medical insurance. If we want to follow the command of Jesus to love your neighbor as yourself, we must respond. We cannot pass by, blind to the need and suffering of others.
Let us pray. Jesus, as I travel the roads, help me to see, to love, to respond in mercy.
Our God is powerful. There is no doubt about it. "He made the earth by his power; he founded the world by his wisdom and stretched out the heavens by his understanding. When he thunders, the waters in the heavens roar; he makes clouds rise from the ends of the earth. He sends lightning with the rain and brings out the wind from his storehouses" (Jeremiah 51:15-16).
Yet he also makes us powerful on his behalf. He made this clear in the New Testament through Jesus' calling, appointing and sending out the disciples to do the same things he did (which we have covered here before). But we can also see it in the Old Testament, for example in Jeremiah 51:20-23, "You are my war club, my weapon for battle - with you I shatter nations, with you I destroy kingdoms, with you I shatter horse and rider, with you I shatter chariot and driver, . . . with you I shatter governors and officials." In the view of the Old Testament authors, God used various rulers and nations to punish other nations who did not follow in God's ways - even Israel.
God may sometimes use us to call people away from sin toward the good. To do this, we may not necessarily be a war club or lightning strike to shatter people, but we may be the quiet voice of love to draw people. We may listen to people who are bitter and angry and be able to show them another way; e.g., "You know I got over my bitterness and anger by choosing to forgive." Or perhaps they have strayed into pornography, and we may say, "I used to be into pornography until I realized how much it was detracting from my relationships with my family."
In these ways we shatter not people but strongholds of sin and we help to set captives free (Luke 4:18-19, Isaiah 61:1-2). By doing these things, we give people the oil of gladness to replace their mourning and the garment of praise to replace their despair (Is 61:3).
Let us pray. Jesus, I want to draw people to you. I want to help set the captives free. Use me, Lord. Put the right words in my mouth when I need them.
If Satan was so bold as to tempt Jesus himself, should we expect to be treated any differently? Jesus was tempted in the desert; he was tempted through Peter; he was tempted in the garden and on the cross. And who knows how many other times he was tempted. In his desire to be fully human, Jesus chose to endure the temptations that we all endure.
If we have chosen, during this time of preparation for celebrating Easter, to follow more closely in Jesus' footsteps by getting rid of bad habits or picking up new, better ones, we should not be surprised that Satan redoubles his efforts to tempt us to return to our old ways. If we have decided not to nag our spouse and to treat him/her more lovingly, it should not surprise us when she/he does something eminently "naggable." If we have decided to pray every morning, small crises will arise to keep us from doing so. It is all too easy to lose sight of the goal of becoming more like Jesus.
The key to overcoming temptation is to fight back. We can quote Scripture as Jesus did (Luke 4). We can tell Satan to go away as Jesus did with Peter's suggestion (Matthew 16:23). We can refuse to argue as Jesus did with Pilate (John 18). We can pray as Jesus did in the garden (Matthew 26:38-44). We can refuse to give up as Jesus did when he was whipped and ridiculed (Matthew 27:26-31).
For Reflection: What is my typical response to temptation?
Let us pray. Father, hallowed by your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation (Luke 11:2-4).
Although not always listed among the titles for Jesus, Prophet is surely one of them. Jesus obliquely refers to himself as a prophet (Luke 4:24) when he says, "I tell you the truth - no prophet is accepted in his hometown." At that time, Jesus had already developed a bit of a reputation for healing people. Yet the people of Nazareth, who knew him as Joseph the carpenter's son, couldn't believe that such a lowly, humdrum, everyday person could be performing such miracles. How hard it was to believe that the man who made their tables could be a prophet from God.
Other people referred to Jesus as a prophet also. After Jesus raised a widow's son from the dead, the people who saw it praised God, saying, "A great prophet has appeared among us. God has come to help his people" (Luke 7:16).
So who is a prophet? A prophet is one who brings the word of God. Jesus not only brought the word of God through his teaching in the synagogues, the homes and streets of Israel, he is the Word of God sent by his Father to bring salvation to all. There is no greater prophet or prophetic message.
For Reflection: Do I speak the word of God to others? How am I fulfilling my prophetic role? See Luke 9:28-36, Acts 7:37; 10:39-43.
Let us pray. Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel; he has come to his people and set them free. He has raised up for us a mighty savior, born of the house of his servant David. Through his holy prophets he promised of old that he would save us from our enemies, from the hands of all who hate us. He promised to show mercy to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins. In the tender compassion of our God the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace (Luke 1:68-72, 78-79).
When Jesus sent out the apostles and disciples to follow his example (Luke 9 and 10 as we discussed in our last post), he gave them the power and authority to do what he did. Luke 9:1 says, "he gave them power and authority." In Luke 10:1, it says, "the Lord appointed seventy-two others." Those who were with Jesus were appointed with the power and authority of Jesus. In Luke's gospel, we don't have the same ending as in Matthew 28. Instead Jesus opened their minds to understand what was written about him in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms (Luke 24:44-45) and he told them to wait for the Holy Spirit to clothe them with power.
Since he would no longer be present with them in the flesh, they needed the power of the Holy Spirit to be with them. They receive that empowerment of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2. Peter, the presumably uneducated fisherman, begins to preach from the Prophet Joel and from Psalms. And so the next chapter, the chapter of the church, the believers, our chapter begins.
Believers receive this power from on high, the Holy Spirit, in baptism. Sacramental churches also have Chrismation or Confirmation. Some add the "baptism of the Holy Spirit". Whatever we want to call it, we need the empowering of the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, to enable us to live the normal Christian life.
For Reflection: Have I been baptized? Am I clothed with power from on high? If not, today is the day. If I have been baptized, do I act like it?
Let us pray. Jesus, I have been baptized in the name of the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit. Help me to live up to it today and every day with the power of the Holy Spirit.
In Luke 6:17-26 we have the blessings and woes. Much has been said about the blessings, also known as the beatitudes, but let's look at the last one of those and the last one of the woes. "Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their fathers treated the prophets" (Luke 6:22-23), and "Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets" (Luke 6:26).
Jesus is not speaking of the accolades that come with hard work and success in life which can be richly deserved. A person isn't awarded a Nobel prize without great accomplishment. Whoever wins a medal at the Olympics has worked long and hard and given up all other pursuits. That type of acclaim is not the subject of the blessings and woes in Luke 6.
No, Jesus is saying, "Woe to you who are yes men to kings and presidents, who lead people away from God rather than toward God." He is saying, "Blessed are you who truly speak the word of God." If we speak the word of God, we may well put ourselves in danger and suffer for it. For an example, we need only look back to our discussion of Elijah speaking God's word to King Ahab. Elijah had to go into hiding and be fed by ravens while the false prophets of Baal were feted at the King's court. Elijah spent years living with the widow while Ahab actively hunted him in order to kill him. But God kept Elijah safe. Elijah didn't feel blessed at the time, nor did he rejoice, but I'm sure his reward in heaven was great.
For Reflection: Have I ever had to stand up for what was right? If so, how did I do?
Let us pray. Jesus, I admit it's not easy to stand up publicly for your word and for what is right in your eyes. Still, I trust that when I do you will be with me and will give me the words to say. Help me to rejoice in insult and rejection on your behalf.
We are looking at how Jesus began to fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah which he read in the temple in Nazareth (Luke 4:16-21). He has been preaching the good news to the poor (financially poor and spiritually poor), he has been healing people and working other miracles. Now it is time for him to choose a team who can help him with doing this work of God.
Alone Jesus cannot cover enough ground, even in one country, to make a big difference and spread the word as far as he wants it to go. He needs help (Luke 6:12-16). His next step is to spend the night in prayer. That's a long time to pray about one thing. I don't know about you, but I don't very often spend the night in prayer. But as you read through the Gospels, you see that Jesus spent a lot of time in prayer, often late at night or early in the morning when he could get away from the crowds.
After the night of prayer, Jesus didn't choose just any 12 men. He chose from among those who had been with him consistently, who knew his basic message, and who had seen his miracles. Even with the choice of Judas, who ultimately betrayed him, I believe he selected the men his Father wanted him to name.
This short passage can teach us a couple of things: the importance of prayer before important decisions, or developing a team rather than trying to go about God's work alone. But it also causes me to think about those who were not chosen. What happened to them? Were they fine with Jesus' selection or were they jealous and disgruntled? What did Jesus say to them to smooth things over?
For Reflection: Have I been passed over, not chosen for a team before? Was I the last one chosen for a team in school? Was I turned down for a date? Was I passed over for a job? Let us forgive the person(s) who did not choose us and pray a blessing for them.
Let us pray. Jesus, there have been times when I was not chosen, when I was overlooked. I choose now to forgive that person(s) for not choosing me. And I ask you to heal the memory of the rejection in me and pour out a special blessing on that person today.
It's doubtful that Jesus healed people on the Sabbath just to tweak the noses of the Jewish authorities, but he certainly did not shy away from healing on the Sabbath in their presence. The healing of the man with the shriveled hand is told amidst a series of stories where Jesus confronts the religious leaders. The account in Luke 6:6-11 specifically tells us that Jesus knew that they were watching him to see what he would do and even knew what they were thinking. So when Jesus asks them, "Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?" they can't deny that he has them pegged.
But there is a second reason they can't answer. Jesus has framed the question differently than they would have. To them, the issue was that Jesus was practicing his profession (healing) on the Sabbath which was forbidden. But Jesus puts his healing in terms of good and evil. They could hardly reply that it was forbidden to do good on the Sabbath.
For Reflection: There are often many ways to approach an issue, a question, a problem. Do I seek out the opinions of others on what approach to take? The counsel of someone wiser in the ways of God can be of tremendous benefit.
I started this website and blog on May 1, 2012. I am a Catholic who has been in ministry for many years. I first developed what I would call a close relationship with Jesus in the early 1970s. Ever since then I have been praying with people for healing and other needs. It is because I have seen so many of these prayers answered that I am so bold as to offer to pray for you individually through this website and phone line.