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Into the Fire

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Into the Fire

I heard a story yesterday about a Roman soldier who fell in love with a young, Christian, woman at the height of Rome’s imperial glory. He wanted to marry her but she would not allow him to court her because he wasn’t a follower of Christ. Desperate, the young man began to follow her and eventually discovered where she met other Christians in a secret place outside of Rome. He stayed in the shadows, watched and listened as they sat around a small fire and shared their stories of being followers of Jesus. As he stood there his heart was awakened and a voice echoed inside of him; “You will never know the truth until you step into the light of the fire and have all that is not burned to ash.” This was a great challenge indeed for most Romans believed in many gods, not just one, and followers of Christ were persecuted, and executed for their beliefs. He would have to give up everything for the chance at eternal and temporal love.

As I’ve reflected on this story the last two days I’ve wondered about the power and sacrifice of love. Love is a double-edged sword. It is wonderful and terrifying. Many horrible acts have been done in the name of love. It gives the bearer great courage but can also make one a coward. Those who have loved deeply speak of the joy and sorrow, wholeness and heartbreak, feeling of ecstasy and indescribable pain. True love requires all of us. We can’t give only a portion. We must be all in or never experience the life-changing, mind-bending, chaos that is love. It gives and takes, makes and destroys, assures us and shakes us to our core. There is nothing else that can compare.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

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Jesus, the Hater

Jesus, the Hater

Bountiful, Utah.  A red car, waiting to be picked up by its new owner, was destroyed Thursday morning after it was hit by a runaway semitrailer carrying 45 tons of sand. The truck driver, traveling up an incline to a local golf course, lost control when he attempted to downshift. The large vehicle’s gear box broke out and the brakes failed as the heavy semitrailer began to roll backward down a steep hill. The large vehicle coasted about half a city block, burst through a retaining wall, smashed into the car, and finally came to a stop partway inside a home where the residents were eating breakfast. No one was injured. Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day!

Our text is preceded by the parable of a great banquet given in Luke 14:15-24. Those invited to the banquet declined to attend, citing other priorities; care of land, possessions, and family. The host then throws open the doors to the less desirable to come to and party.

Luke 14v25 “Great crowds were going along with him.”  Jesus is heading to Jerusalem, since Luke 9:51,and he wasn’t alone. Jesus was a popular guy. He was loved by many.

Does Jesus want us to hate our family and our lives?

Jesus “turns” and speaks to the crowd including his disciples. In Luke, anytime Jesus “turns” something important is about to be spoken but these words shock us!

Lots of people love him, fame is at his fingertips, Facebook friend requests are through the roof, Twitter is exploding! His reputation ready to be cemented. This is the time to rouse the crowd, get ’em excited. Tell one of those great parables, perform a wondrous miracles. Give the people what they want! Keep the folks charged up on the way to Jerusalem. Keep them coming back for more.

Jesus really needs a publicist because does he drop the ball!

V27 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, and wife and children, and brothers and sisters, and even his own life, that one is not able to be my disciple.”

At a time when Jesus has their attention why not tell the folks, “go let your family know, your ma and pa, your cousins, aunties and uncles, grandmas and grandpas! Tell them how great this is and the adventure of being my follower!” Jesus does the opposite…He says separate yourself from your family.

In Luke’s story, Jesus seems to be not focused on the family but on separating the family.  Luke 8:19-21, 9:59-62, 12:51-53, 14:26-27, 18:29, 21:16.  This one in chapter 14 is just harsh!

Jesus speaks so much about love, why is he being a hater?

The word “Hate” should be understood in the context of the first-century middle-eastern world.  It is not so much an emotional position, but a matter of honor and shame.

New Testament writer Robert Tannehill says; “In the ancient world…hating one’s family meant doing something that injured them, particularly by disgracing them.  Life was family centered, and the honor of the family was very highly valued.  Every family member was expected to protect the honor of the family.  If a family member joined a suspect movement,(a cult, other religion) and abandoned their home, this brought disgrace on the family.”

A break with tradition, especially in religious cases, can tear a family apart. Religious leaders have condemned Jesus’ teaching. To be a honorable and faithful Jew was to go the way of the forefathers, not the new way of Jesus. If a person chose to follow Jesus, or another religious movement, they would be shunned and their blessing as a child of God forfeited according to Jewish law.

This would certainly cause much angst and heartbreak for Jewish families. Jesus grew up in Jewish culture. He knows about shame and tells those wanting to walk with him, it is a way of suffering and separation.

Hating used in this context means that a person disconnects themselves from their families. A momentous and costly decision. It would truly cost them their life as it has been.

Deciding he hasn’t offended enough folks with the “hate your families and your lives” bit he ratchets up the verbiage… 

27Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

Shame of turning away from family was not as great as the shame and embarrassment of being crucified. The cross was a symbol used by the Roman empire. It was a means of execution and imperial strength. Almost never used for Roman citizen is reserved for lower class, slaves, criminals and non-Roman citizens. 2000 people in Palestine were crucified for rebellion in the time of Roman occupation.

For a Jew, the cross represented the worst way to die. To be crucified was to be cursed by God. And now Jesus, the great pied piper, tells people to pick one up and carry it around.

28For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? 29Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, 30saying, “This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.” 31Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace.

Parables on counting the cost, making a plan, knowing what you’re in for, before choosing. Discipleship is not to be entered into lightly. No bait and switch, plainly and painfully, Jesus lays out the cost walking with him.

It’s almost as if Jesus enjoying alienating the crowd. “I‘m too popular! he says. What can I say that will just chase everyone away? Oh! I know, Those people you are close to, who raised you, cared for you, taught you right from wrong, have always been there for you? You gotta hate ’em. And, if you hang out with me you’re going to be shamed and probably die in the worst of ways!” Finally, if there was anyone left, he orders them them abandon everything they own, terrible things like a roof over your head, food in your stomach.

Jesus isn’t being hyperbolic. He hammers it home by three times using the phrase “you cannot be my disciple” if you do not forsake family, carry a cross, give up all possessions.

It begs the question; “Why?” Families are bad? Long life is wrong? Possessions are evil?

The answer to this is given in this earlier parable…

Luke 14:16 Then Jesus said, “Someone gave a great dinner and invited many. 17 At the time for the dinner he sent his slave to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come; for everything is ready now.’ 18 But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of land, and I must go out and see it; please accept my regrets.’ 19 Another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to try them out; please accept my regrets.’ 20 Another said, ‘I have just been married, and therefore I cannot come.’ 21 So the slave returned and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and said to his slave, ‘Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.’ 22 And the slave said, ‘Sir, what you ordered has been done, and there is still room.’ 23 Then the master said to the slave, ‘Go out into the roads and lanes, and compel people to come in, so that my house may be filled. 24 For I tell you, none of those who were invited will taste my dinner.’”

These seemingly harsh words of Jesus we’ve read today aren’t spoken against being a part of a family, having some possessions or enjoying life. They are harsh words against how easily we are pulled away from the things of God. There is something in us that desires to attach ourselves to things. A pull from inside from our true purpose in life.

We desire, distract, separate ourselves from the Kingdom. We sacrifice what’s important for what’s immediate. Jesus tells us plainly, simply, nothing is worth losing our seat at the great banquet table. We must be ever on our guard or we’ll settle for other things instead of the only thing that matters, Him.

Reflection

Psalm 27 says “… Teach us your way, O Lord, and lead us on your good path… 13 We believe that we shall see the goodness of the Lord in our lives. 14 We wait on you Lord; helps us be strong, help our hearts take courage; we wait on you, Lord.”

Repeat and reflect on these phrases:

“Lord, Teach me your way…

Lord, lead me on your good path…

Lord, keep me strong and encouraged…

Lord, I wait on you…”338435765

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