No Layaway Available

layaway

Luke 14:33 In the same way, therefore, every one of you who does not say good-bye to all his possessions cannot be My disciple.

Have you ever bought something in part? It’s called lay-away. In the 80’s ad 90’s, layaway was the craze. Consider for a moment what happens at the transaction counter.  You’ve shopped and made a decision on what you want.  You pull the item off the shelf and take it to a check-out counter. The clerk rings up 10% of the cost which you gladly shell out. The clerk takes the item, puts your name on it and shelves it on the counter behind her.  You leave the store with nothing in your hands and a little less in your pocket.

Sadly, some might say, “That sounds like church.”

Strangely, in some ways, it does describe much of the church in America today. A hired clerk from the pulpit makes a deal with the shoppers. If they’ll put up 10%, they can put heaven on layaway. Every Sunday becomes a “check on investment” day where people come and sit to listen about their layaway item they hope to see someday. Some contribute a little bit more toward it and then they leave with nothing in their hands. Why? Because they haven’t paid in full.

What’s Christ wanting here? At face value, the verse seems crystal clear. He wants us to give up all our own possessions.  Some versions read “renounce all possessions.”

If you want to follow Him, you have to give up everything.

“Everything?”

“Everything.” 

“Might as well die.”

“Exactly.”

“I can’t do that.”

“Why?”

“Because I can’t let go of this and I can’t quit that and I don’t know how to give up everything.”

“You’ve got it all wrong. The transaction Christ calls us to is an instant one. It occurs at the moment you fully, wholly let go… of everything; Yes, when you die.”

Jesus starts this lesson out a few verses earlier letting all know that to follow Him requires us to deny ourselves and take up our cross. That’s death.

Celebrate that the point of death is an instant in time. Growth is a process, but death is an instance. It’s not about a process of letting go or a process of getting free. It’s about dying at the transaction counter where your new life awaits. It’s really that simple. Die and get a new one.

Jesus wants you and I to have the Kingdom of Heaven today. He doesn’t want us to wait for new life on the other side of the grave. He wants us to have it now. That’s gracious. But what gives?

We’d rather put it on layaway.

There’s a real conundrum here. Many believe that when they die, they will have paid enough into the layaway plan to receive the product. But the very thing that was required for the product in full was the very thing you wouldn’t let go of and if you’re dead, it’s the very thing you no longer have.

You have what it takes to swap. Forget layaway. Give your old life for the new one now.

Fully Restored

restore

Luke 13:11 a woman was there who had been disabled by a spirit, for over 18 years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all.

Somewhere she had lost track. Had Eliana been able to keep her counter going, she would have marked this particular morning number 6,582. It was the six thousand five hundred and eighty-second morning that she didn’t feel like getting out of bed. Even before the sunrise, it was the pain in her lower spine that greeted her. Soon that pain would be overtaken by the one in her neck after standing to her feet and then straining to look ahead rather than toward that which she was unforgivably bent; the ground.

For these last 18 years she had been plagued with this disability but she’d never given up hope to be restored. And on this particular morning, she knew that a man was to be at the church who had a reputation of healing the sick. It wasn’t the first time she’d tried something so apparently ludicrous. In fact, it was the umpteenth. But her hope had not died and it was that (hope) on this morning that gave her the extra she needed to prepare herself for the Sabbath. In fact, she could feel something rising from deep inside that she hadn’t felt in a very long time. It was a little skip in her step.

Then the voice started talking.

“Eliana, you’re sick and tired. This will be a wasted trip. Stay at home.”

“Eliana, people will see your disability and know how greatly you’ve sinned. Stay at home.”

“Eliana, you know the only reason your son stays with you is to help you. If you were better, you’d lose him. Keep him around to help you. Stay at home.”

“Elaina, the doctors have told you time and time again, this is a slowly progressing problem that will never get better. You’ll just have to live with it.”

She’d heard all of these voices before but for Elaina, hope in God and faith that He loved her and had an answer always prevailed. And it did again on this morning. She finished preparing herself and braced one hand against the wall as she shuffled to her door. There in the corner were two very worn hickory stick canes. This corner had been their home for those 6000 plus days. And as she put one in each hand and hobbled out the door, she had no idea that it was the last day she would ever use them.

13] Then He laid His hands on her, and instantly she was restored and began to glorify God.

I wish I could have been there to see that! Less than the miracle itself, the joy and exuberant praise of a woman who had suffered for 18 years being completely restored is an event for which I would have paid a great price to attend.

The word “restored” is ana-orthos. It’s a compound word indicating to be made upright (orthos) as in the beginning (ana). Inherent in this word is more than something analogous to a restore point on a computer, a time when the computer worked better than it does now. Rather, the word indicates something being put back as it was intended to be “in the beginning.” (It would be like hitting the restore key on a computer and it then putting itself back in the box, unopened with a price tag still attached.)  It’s the essence and end of true biblical justice; life being restored to what God intended in the beginning. Full restoration is truly renewal.

After 18 years, it would be easy to believe in nothing. But for those who have struggled that long and longer, we’re called to believe in God for everything.

Otherwise, we’re left to meander in a world of growing chaos that we’d like to slow down instead of fix. We’ll be left with a populous of angry souls that we’ll try to temper rather than transform. We’ll be left to swim in a sea of sickness that we’ll try to bandage rather than cure.

It’s not that slowing, tempering and bandaging are wrong. They’re just not fully right.

Loose Ends

amputation

Luke 12:[35] “Be ready for service and have your lamps lit.

Over the last 15 years I’ve worked in the mission along side thousands of people. During that time, I’ve watched a lot of them come and go. The ones that aren’t prepared for the “service” Jesus talks of in v.35 go pretty quickly. But the ones who are “ready” have fruitful seasons of ministry. Some of that difference has to do with how a person views his service.

Are you a volunteer or a steward?

A volunteer serves someone else’s purpose. A steward serves out of a God-directed purpose.

A volunteer serves out of external, lawful pressure. A steward serves from an inward passionate compelling.

A volunteer serves with expectations of “clean, tidy and safe.” A steward serves understanding he’s a soldier in a battle on the front lines.

There really is no difference between the good steward that Jesus teaches here in Luke 12 and when Paul instructs Timothy to share in suffering as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.

Suffering? Soldier? I just wanted to volunteer!

He’s not calling us to volunteerism.  He’s calling us to be, at once, both stewards and soldiers and to know there is no difference between the work and the fight.

Just consider that every person you want to help through volunteerism is someone the enemy wants to steal, kill and destroy. It’s a real battle. If that’s true, then what you and I do to advance His Kingdom through showing and sharing the gospel to men, women and children is dangerous.

And here, Jesus says, “Be ready.”

How?

One of my patients had quite the deformity. He was missing his arm at the elbow. During my assessment, he admitted that a piece of his shirt or the end of his glove had gotten caught in a piece of machinery at work and before he could get free, it grabbed his finger, his hand and then his arm.

Loose ends are dangerous.

In this passage, Jesus says, “Be ready for service.” More literally, the King James text reads, “Let your loins be girded about.” This practice of girding was to tuck the loose ends of a robe into one’s belt in preparation to do one of two things: work or fight.

Whether you see it as working or fighting, loose ends are a real risk. Here, Jesus warns us. Tie them up. It’s the first step of preparing for service, of being a good steward.

There was once when my life was full of dishonesty, unhealthy relationships and criminal activity.  That lifestyle made for a lot of loose ends and, as you might guess, my attention and focus was on each one of them. The risk of getting caught, injured or even worse was too great for me to focus on anything else!

How many loose ends do you have? Where is your focus?

Resentment    Guilt    Fear    Selfishness

These four are very common loose ends, dangerous in that they represent what at first might only be a mere finger-hold by the devil, but a finger-hold that will surely lead to a strong-hold and eventually loss of limb or life.

Gird yourself with a belt of truth and tie these loose ends up.

Resentment? Cry out to God for grace to really forgive.

Guilt? Hit your knees and ask Him to forgive you, then pick up the phone and make that call to the one you’ve hurt.

Fear? Get lost in the perfect love of God.

Selfishness? Go ahead and get sick of yourself. Climb up on the cross with Jesus and then bury yourself in the tomb with Him. You know what comes next.

These loose ends must be dealt with for proper attention to be on the work at hand and right focus for the fight at hand.  It’s my experience that no one lasts on the battlefield for long with loose ends. Do what He instructs here. Tie them up.