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fist

Jesus likes to stir up trouble.

Yes, you may say, He said He would bring a sword, not peace.

However, please allow me to make this a bit more graphic.

He likes to punch people right in the face—spiritually speaking, of course.

Let’s look at an example.

Jesus had been baptized by John, tempted in the wilderness, and then returned, doing mighty works of healing and deliverance. Luke isn’t specific about what those miracles were and wrote only, “And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and a report about him went out through all the surrounding country. And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all” (Luke 4:14–15). 1 You will find those specifics in Matthew and Mark.

In Luke, we see Him in the synagogue in Nazareth, His hometown. He stood up. He was handed a scroll of Scripture. He found Isaiah 61 (as we now refer to it) and read:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18–19).

Jesus then sat down and said, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21).

Was anyone angered by His bold statement? No, not at all. Entirely the opposite.

“And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth. And they said, ‘Is not this Joseph’s son?’” (Luke 4:22).

I don’t know about you, but I’d be very happy at this point. And especially since I’m a pastor and have a weakness for wanting to be friends with people and avoid trouble, I would have been rejoicing. I had told the truth. I had make a bold statement about the coming of the Messiah, the year of the Lord’s favor.

But Jesus didn’t leave it there.

He said, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Physician, heal yourself. What we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well’” (Luke 4:23).

I take that to mean that, since He had done mighty works elsewhere, they would expect Him to do them in Nazareth, too.

Then came the face-punching part.

“Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown. But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were shut up three years and six months, and a great famine came over all the land, and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian” (Luke 4:24–27).

Suddenly all that happy, peaches-and-cream wonderfulness disappeared like smoke from a quenched candle. Now, these same folks wanted to murder Him.

“When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. But passing through their midst, he went away” (Luke 4:28–30).

Here’s what is odd and wonderful and beautiful about what Jesus said. Jesus did not go to the Gentiles. (He did have two encounters that were outside that boundary. One was with a half-Jew, a Samaritan woman, and the other with a Canaanite woman in the area of Tyre and Sidon. But clearly, reaching out to Gentiles was not His mission. He even told His disciples not to do that.) So, He was talking about something that would not occur until after His ascension; and even then, not immediately afterwards. (The first time the gospel was preached to the Gentiles was in Acts 10.) However, He linked that going-to-the-Gentiles ministry to the coming of the Messiah, to the arrival of the year of the Lord’s favor, liberty to the captives and liberty to the oppressed (The Jews thought this was for them alone.). This was unacceptable. This was traitorous. This was worthy of death.

But Jesus said it, right out of the blue, right out there in the open—straight, blunt truth. He didn’t have to do this. He could have kept it rainbows and fluffy clouds.

He did not.

This is our Savior.

Welcome to life with God.

 

1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

2007-11-22_1729-47

Well, woe is me.

Or maybe not.

Apparently, I don’t belong within any traditional church denominational-organizational-thing anymore. What’s a bit weird is that, looking back, I never did.

I just didn’t know it.

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DP159770

After all these years, I may have finally discovered some of what was going on in Pilate’s heart and head when he asked Jesus, “What is truth?” Not that that was ever some kind of goal for me. Not at all. After all, Pilate gave the final charge to crucify Jesus. Who cares what he was thinking? But part of the understanding of Pilate’s question is that he was waist-deep in the politics of his day. And I can’t help but wonder if his response to Jesus’ statement about truth was in some way related to the political maelstrom that was always present in the Roman governmental hierarchy.

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jim-finger-pointing

For a very long time, the United States was a culturally Christian country.

Kinda.

Yes, there was a dividing line between good and evil—except when there wasn’t.

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P1030252

Yesterday, after church at Marco’s, we decided we would go pray for a street beggar. We’d been talking about it for several days, but things kept coming up that prevented us. This beggar is a fixture in town. He sits, day after day, in the same spot on the sidewalk of one of the main streets. Laurie and I have given him food from time to time. He’s missing half of his right leg, and the ankle of his left foot is messed up. I’ve noticed that recently, a half-moon blood-blister-looking boil has developed under his right eye.

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p1030528

I don’t usually mourn the deaths of popular culture stars. I just simply have no connection with them. However, Whitney Houston’s death was different. I’m certain it’s because she was a Christian. One of my all-time favorite Christian songs is her rendition of “I Love the Lord.” She had a spectacular, beautiful voice. That voice was a gift from God. And it’s that topic—giftedness—that I would like to address. There are natural gifts, and there are spiritual gifts. This brief article will deal only with natural gifts.

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