Missed you this week, at Woodland …!

It’s just doesn’t feel right, you know. The week starts with the Lord’s Day (i.e. Sunday), and that’s the day God’s people, since the beginnings of the church of Jesus, have gathered: Acts 20.7; 1 Cor 16.2; Rev 1.10.

We gather on this first day of the week: because that’s the day Jesus arose from the grave … because we begin the week as new creations in Christ (2 Cor 5.17), and because we begin (not end!) the week in the rest Jesus has earned for us.

And, then, comes this:

And, this …

And, this …

And, this:

And, just like that, no big gathering for worship on Sunday. And that feels disorienting. A big letdown, like falling through a hole in your roof when you’re up there shoveling. Be careful up there, everybody!

But, we did gather. Just six of us. And we did pray for you all. And we did sing the doxology. And the tradition of SOMEBODY meeting at Woodland each Lord’s Day did continue. And God’s big-picture plan for his worldwide church did continue to move toward that precious return of Jesus our Lord. And God was and is glorified.

And we’re planning to meet again this coming Lord’s Day. Right, everybody?!

So, hang in there and lean forward—just like when you step from your ladder to your snow-covered roof. The snow will (probably) catch you, and the Lord will do His good work in each of us when we rely on Him this week.

And don’t be discouraged about the weather. Think on what is true (Col 3.2-3). And, if you’re a local reader around here, plan on joining us this coming Lord’s Day, at Woodland.

See you then …

Authority of Jesus: Luke 4.31-44

With a winter storm moving in and decisions being made about gathering everybody together tomorrow morning, we’re thinking about the authority of Jesus.

Have you ever worked with a real authority? If you’re a teacher, maybe you’ve been trained by or worked with somebody who knew how to manage students, content, time and the teaching environment. Students would finish the course and then go on to succeed in other venues. If you’re a home builder, you’ve hopefully worked with somebody who not only knew how to draw up the house, but then build it, and have others move in and make the structure a home.

In authority, there’s a connection between what is said and what is done and what is believed and who is followed.

Luke 4.31-44 describes Jesus’ move north to Capernaum. The passage contrasts with his ministry in Nazareth where he wasn’t received and did no miracles … Is not this Joseph’s son?

This passage is a ministry sampler documenting demonstrations of power that accompany Jesus’ speaking ministry. The passage ends with a summary message about Jesus’ purpose.

Jesus will demonstrate power over the supernatural world (:31-37). Unlike the synagogue service in Nazareth that appeared dead and formal, the service in Capernaum is attended by a man with a demon! (How interesting that Jesus responds in the latter setting, but not the former). The demon speaks in the plural (using “us”) and appears to believe that he cannot be exorcised without the man being destroyed. Jesus, however, separates the two—the demon (not an image-bearer and unredeemable) is sent away, the man is “unharmed”. And they were all amazed and said to one another, “What is this word? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits …?”

Jesus demonstrates power over the natural world (:38-39) and demonstrates power for those in bondage (:40-41). Two other demonstrations of power follow. We meet Simon (Peter), and his mother-in-law is healed of a disease with a high fever. Once again, Jesus “rebukes” the disease, but this appears to be a natural ailment and not the direct result of demonic activity. A further healing scene shows Jesus touching “every one” brought to him. Demons cry out and flee at his very presence. No discussion.

Jesus will show that his Kingdom message is in keeping with his mission and God’s purpose (:42-44). Then, after a long night of ministry, Jesus departs. People come to him and beg him not to leave (how different than those at Nazareth and the demons). And, Jesus claims his teaching mission: I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose (:43).

Jesus has displayed power to demonstrate the authority of his kingdom message.

Zoom out for a second. Jesus isn’t physically with us. That’s the reason people aren’t coming up from the dead. That’s the reason diseases are still with us. But, what about us? How does God show His mighty power where we are between Jesus’ two comings?

Right now, God doesn’t normally raise people from the dead and heal all our diseases. That is part of the future or “not yet” fulness of the kingdom involving the restoration of all things that includes the resurrection of our bodies to sinlessness (1 Cor 15) and glorification (Rm 8.31). At the same time, there is a “now” aspect of the Kingdom of God where God shows His power in our lives.

Look for God’s present power in these verses: He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins (Col 1.13).

And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses … He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him (Col 2.13, 15).

This release from sin’s stronghold on our lives in no less miraculous than Jesus’ display over demonic power in his earthly ministry. In fact, it’s more miraculous, because Jesus has now been to the cross. We see his power each time a life is changed, and one of us image-bearers turns to him in dependance! And then, we give praise to God and talk it, because Jesus has done his work in our lives!

The authority of Jesus is demonstrated in and proclaimed by those who belong to him!

How about you?

  1. If you know Him, where has God shown His power in your life? What did it look like when you trusted Jesus the first time?
  2. What strongholds has God broken down in Jesus’ name?
  3. Where do the habits of your heart need a word from Jesus?

And, if you’re in the Midwest, with our record-breaking snows this weekend, do stay safe and warm. If you’re elsewhere, envy us for all our exciting weather! And give thanks that we each have our special places to live …

Responding to Jesus: Luke 4.14-30

Have you ever felt coolness toward God and His things? Sure, you have. Me too.

Having given his account of Jesus’ baptism and temptation, Luke now records the actual beginning of Jesus’ ministry. And, well, Jesus is turning the place upside down. He’s going about Galilee in the power of the Spirit, teaching in the synagogues, being “glorified by all” (:15, ESV).

Things go well when he arrives in his hometown of Nazareth, at first at least. Luke gives us the interesting account of a 1st century synagogue service in which Jesus is chosen to speak, and then reads and expounds passages from Isaiah 58 and 61.

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor … to proclaim liberty for the captives … recovering of sight to the blind … liberty to those who are oppressed … to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. 

Everyone must have sat up when Jesus concludes the reading by saying, Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing (:21).This must have been exciting! Jesus’ kinsmen and neighbors had heard of Jesus’ teaching in the surrounding region. Now, Jesus has come here. Imagine the expectations.

Even with as much momentum as Jesus appears to have in this first part of the account, there’s a little hitch. Do you see it? Like a chair that gets tripped over in the dark, there’s a stray comment that hangs out in the passage: Is not this Joseph’s son? 

This is revealing of their expectations. They’re saying, Since this is our local boy, certainly God is going to bless us over-and-above those other places where Jesus has been teaching. Maybe, if he does something really good, we’ll respond … maybe?

It’s also revealing of their heart condition. They’re saying that they are good enough the way they are; they’re content in their own righteousness. And that’s where Jesus goes with a little parable: Physician, heal yourself. He’s reading their minds, and they’re saying, Because you’re one of us, give us a double shot of that good medicine you’ve given others in those Gentile regions, like Capernaum. Bring it on!

In response, Jesus tells two stories from Israel’s past. And, believe me, they’re momentum changers, because his meaning is unmistakable. The first is from 1 Kings 17-18, during the time of Elijah, when evil king Ahab ruled. God’s people didn’t get any goodies in those days, but an outside in Zarepheth did, a widow unrelated to God’s people. The second and better known story comes from 2 Kings 5.1-14. Many lepers in Israel were left untreated, but God chose to work in the life of one Namaan, a Syrian.

The response of those who but minutes before had lauded Jesus is swift and terrible. They drive him to the edge of a cliff and attempt to cast him off.

Why did they get so angry? Well, Jesus had exposed and touched a nerve. And, it’s the same nerve the Spirit of God touches in me and you, sometimes, when we’ve grown cool toward God.

The stories Jesus told recounted why God chose not to act. The Israelites in the 1-2 Kings accounts were content in their own self-righteousness. They wanted God’s wonders, but on their terms, not God’s. The Nazarenes in Jesus’ day were the same: they wanted a double-shot of God’s kingdom blessings, because they thought they knew who Jesus was, but they didn’t want to change.

All this gets a little close to home! Many times I want to see God do extraordinary things in my life. And, I might even get a little jealous at God’s work in those who seem a bit more undeserving than I am. This usually takes place when I’m weary of my routine. Get up … load the stove … dishes … drive places … take people places … emails and phone calls … work like crazy on my message, just like last week … Oh, where did the day go? Oh, why doesn’t God make my life bigger and better?

How would it be if, more often, I recognized God’s extraordinary work in the ordinary? Yes, this is “Joseph’s son,” but he’s the one bringing the kingdom. How do I change to know your blessing, God, through Jesus? Forgive me my spiritual pride that makes me want your blessing on my terms, not yours!

The reason people often refuse to respond to Jesus (or grow cool when they already have) is spiritual pride that expects God to work on their terms, not on His terms.

And, you know what, when I bring those bits and pieces of my day to God and ask the Lord to change me and redeem the ordinary business of my life, God is going to do extraordinary work, because that common business becomes the entry-point for His kingdom work.

Really! It’s not the fullness of the kingdom. The healing of all sickness and the release of all those in poverty await Jesus’ second coming. But, God’s kingdom work takes place, extraordinarily, when my conversation with a teenager now leads to Jesus’ work and an opportunity for redemption and spiritual release. God’s work takes place, extraordinarily, when I join those stacking chairs so his people can meet again and hear God’s word.

None of God’s extraordinary work happens when I’m proud, or on my terms. Like in Jesus’ own day, Luke 4.14-30 helps us understand what God is doing now. And, it helps us understand what God won’t do, ever.

How about about you? Take a minutes to reflect on the passage and think about some questions:

  1. One challenge in this passage involves discerning why Jesus’ kinsmen and neighbors would turn on him so quickly? Can you put in your own words why you think this happened? What spiritual condition were they revealing? 
  2. Have you ever know anybody to reject Jesus? Why did they say they were rejecting him, and how were their reasons like those in Nazareth?
  3. How are those who are trusting Jesus not exempt here? How is our coolness toward God not unlike those who reject him entirely? Is there a sense that we, also, have our expectations set on the way we think Jesus ought to act toward us?
  4. We won’t really see this till next week, but what is the proper response we ought to have toward Jesus? How do you think those in the 1-2 Kings stories who were blessed by God and those in Capernaum responded to Jesus? What set them apart and made them different than those who reject Jesus in this passage?
  5. How do you need to depend on Jesus so that “Joseph’s son” will touch the ordinary events of your life? What do you do in the business of the day that could become the starting place for God’s kingdom work in someone else’s life?

Jesus, Faithful Son: Luke 4.1-13

Have you ever fallen to temptation? Of course, you have.

Falling to temptation is part of our fallenness that’s all part of our present state of humanity. Sounds complicated, doesn’t it? But, not really.

In Adam, our first parent, we fell (Genesis 3; Romans 5.12). That’s where humanity is stuck at the moment. But then … (leaving a lot out here) … Jesus came! Jesus, the Son of God, serves as the new Adam, the head of a new, redeemed humanity. And, when we place our faith in Him, He becomes our new representative.

That’s the backstory to Luke 4. At His baptism the young man Jesus has been declared to be God’s choice to represent this new humanity: You are my Beloved Son; with you I am well pleased (3.22). Then, we get Jesus’ genealogy, taking us all the way back to the first Adam. Now, in 4.1-13, Jesus will stand in for temptation where Adam failed.

But, it’s hardly an academic exercise. What’s really at stake is Jesus’ mission, and our destiny. Reading the account as though we don’t know the end of the story (which we do), it would seem that God’s plan of redemption and our eternal destiny both stand on the edge of a knife.

As the Spirit of God leads Jesus into the wilderness for temptation, Jesus is tested for 40 days. We don’t know details here, but we are told that at the end of that period, Jesus undergoes three summary tests, offered by God’s adversary, the Devil. These involve a stone to be turned to bread; the kingdoms of the world that Satan says he has the power to offer to Jesus, in exchange for worship; and, a flying leap off the porch of the temple into the valley 450 feet below—the natural consequences of which will be avoided by angelic intervention, Satan says. These three temptations amount to a test of trust (Will YOU meet my needs?); a test of worship? (Are YOU enough for me?); and, a contrived test of God’s goodness (Do I trust YOU to protect me, in YOUR time and in YOUR way?).

Where Adam failed, amidst the lush, green provisions of Eden, Jesus succeeds, by clinging to God’s Word and being obedient to God’s mission.

My representative in temptation (by faith)—proving faithful where Adam failed—is JESUS, the Son of God.

Application for us isn’t hard. We don’t want to turn stones to bread, but we live in the tension of wondering whether God is worthy of our trust—for wisdom in our jobs and families, for material provision, for companionship and emotional wholeness. Will YOU meet my needs, God? 

And, most of us wouldn’t think of falling down to worship the Devil, but we face a dizzying constellation of potential idols that might take God’s place in our lives. Even good things—our children, our ministries, youth sports, technology and entertainment, in its many forms. Are YOU enough, God? 

Finally, we wouldn’t throw ourselves off a high building, I hope, but we have a human propensity for manufacturing tests for God: IF You are God, please heal this disease … bring back my wayward child … get me a husband, or a wife!

In the midst of all these temptations, we can stand the tests, because Jesus did … because Jesus has been to the cross … because we’re filled with one and the same Spirit that now points to Jesus.

We’re part of God’s new humanity (Romans 5.12-21; 1 Corinthians 15.20-28, 45-49). Jesus is our mighty hero. Jesus is God’s obedient Son and our representative.


Spend some time in Luke 4.1-13 and have a look at these questions:

  1. The story of Jesus’ temptation by the Devil is a multi-layered, true account of Jesus’ victory over Satan where others failed. Look at Jesus’ response and note where the Old Testament citations come from. Consider also that the temptation took place in the wilderness. In addition to Adam, who else failed to obey God? What do you think Luke is suggesting about Jesus’ place in the Nation of Israel?
  2. Of the three temptations we read about, which of them (tests of trust, worship and God’s goodness) do you find yourself most susceptible to? Do you have any stories where God has brought these struggles to your attention and led you through confession and victory?
  3. Is Jesus necessarily your representative? We’re all born “in Adam,” but something must take place for Jesus to represent us. What is it?
  4. How does this account help you trust Jesus with your life? Why is He worthy? (Think of what He could have gotten out of by giving into Satan’s temptations. In that case (perish the thought), who would have been left behind?
  5. What does this account suggest about the importance of clinging to God through His Word? What did Jesus do? How did He counter Satan’s distractions?