28All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. 29They got up, drove Him out of the town, and took Him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw Him off the cliff. 30But He walked right through the crowd and went on his way. (Luke 4:28-30, NIV)
As Jesus faithfully proclaimed and lived the kingdom of God, He faced resistance, even from those who had been close to Him. We will experience something similar as we seek to follow Jesus today. Knowing that resistance will come allows us to be ready. We won’t stand alone, but will follow Jesus in a community that can help us discern what is right and persevere in the face of opposition.
Jesus was in the synagogue of Nazareth, and after reading a prophecy from Isaiah, Jesus claimed to fulfill the prophetic promise of an anointed One who would bring salvation to the poor, the captives, the blind, and the oppressed. At first, those in the synagogue voiced their approval. But when Jesus declined to do miracles for them and suggested that His ministry would serve people on the margins, the people in the synagogue became enraged. In fact, they even tried to throw Jesus off a local cliff, but somehow, He managed to escape.
If we seek to follow Jesus today, there will be times when we will experience something similar. I’m not thinking about the “thrown off the cliff” part. But I do know that faithful engagement in the work of Jesus today will stir up resistance if not outright opposition. And sometimes this antagonism will come from people who are close to us, even as Jesus experienced rejection from those in Nazareth who were his friends, neighbors, and family.
Some years ago, Ben was called to a new church in a city in the southwestern United States. He cared deeply for his congregation and they loved him in return. Everything seemed to be going wonderfully with his pastorate. As he became more connected to the community around the church, he realized that his congregation was not serving a substantial group in town. This predominantly Anglo church had overlooked their Mexican American neighbors. So Ben began working with church leaders to develop programs for this underserved group. In a couple of years, not only was the church able to meet many tangible needs of their neighbors, but also quite a few of those being served began participating enthusiastically in life of the church.
Though some of the elders of this church were pleased by their new outreach, others were not. Even some who had been on the committee that called Ben were unsupportive. They felt uncomfortable having in “their church” people who were not just like them. When they tried to get Ben to curtail the church’s
outreach to the Mexican American community, he declined. He explained that this effort was consistent with the ministry of Jesus, hoping his unhappy elders would change their minds. But this didn’t happen. Instead, they worked behind the scenes to get others in the church to agree with “their side.” In time, resistance to Ben’s leadership was so strong that he decided he should leave the church.
Now, I’m not suggesting that every time someone has a problem with pastoral leadership that person is in the wrong. Pastors can mess up too. (I am one of them!) My point here is that if we seek to follow Jesus faithfully, we can expect resistance from others. Knowing this in advance can help us when resistance comes. In some cases, we’ll know that we need to persevere and will seek God’s strength to hang in there. In other cases, like that of Jesus in Luke 4, we’ll decide that it’s best to leave.
Allow me a word of encouragement here. When, in following Jesus, you face resistance, don’t stand alone. Gather with others who can be with you in this time. Invite them to help you discern what is right. It may be that you need to change course. Ask for prayer from those who are standing with you. Lean on their support. Receive their exhortation. Remember, following Jesus is something we do together.
If following Jesus faithfully today will bring on resistance, what have you built into your life to help you make wise choices and persevere when things are hard?
15Yet the news about Him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear Him and to be healed of their sicknesses. 16But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. (Luke 5:15-16, NIV)
Early in His ministry, Jesus was extremely popular with the crowds. They marveled at His teachings and were astounded by His healings. They wanted Jesus to stay with them. Yet Jesus was not governed by the feelings of others. His clarity about His life’s purpose and His ability to choose this over other tempting options were supported by His practice of prayer. Jesus often withdrew from the crowds in order to engage in conversation with his Heavenly Father. This clarified His sense of purpose and strengthened His resolve to do what He had been called to do. Similarly, you and I need time alone with God if we’re to know and to fulfill our purpose in life. Prayer makes that purpose clear and energizes it.
In Luke’s Gospel, we note the growing popularity of Jesus in His early ministry. Even when He escaped from the crowds to go to “a deserted place” (Luke 4:24), they pursued Him, trying to get Him to stay with them. But Jesus explained that He needed to preach the Good News of the Kingdom of God in other cities. “For I was sent for this purpose,” He said. In other words, Jesus chose purpose over popularity.
Why was He able to do this? What helped Jesus to be so clear about His purpose and to act decisively in light of it? There is a hint of an answer to this question in Luke 4:42, where it says that Jesus went to “a deserted place.” Luke fleshes it out in more detail in Luke 5:15-16. Again, these verses highlight the popularity of Jesus, adding “But He would withdraw to deserted places and pray.” The Greek original emphasizes the repeated and continued nature of Jesus’s actions. He often left the crowds for places in which He could be alone.
And what did Jesus do there? According to Luke 5:16, Jesus prayed. Unfortunately, Luke does not fill us in on the content of Jesus’s wilderness prayers. All we know is that He would regularly get away for a time of solitude, in which He would pray. But it seems likely that His practice of prayer enabled Jesus to gain clarity about His purpose. He did not let popularity govern His behavior because He knew what His Heavenly Father had called Him to do.
Notice that Jesus exemplifies, not just occasional prayer, but a consistent practice of getting alone to pray. It’s not as if He goes out once and prays, “Father, show Me My purpose.” Rather, Jesus’s clarity of purpose comes through His consistent conversation with God.
The example of Jesus encourages us to do likewise. If we want to know our life’s purpose, if we want to be able to decline that which would distract us from what we’re on this earth to do, then we need to establish a practice of regular prayer. We may not be able to withdraw to a deserted place very often, but we can find time, even in our busy days, to get alone for conversation with God. If this was essential for Jesus, surely it should be essential for us as well.
Set aside a regular time for conversations with God about your purpose in life. If you can get away to “a deserted place” for this prayer, that’s great. But, even if not, find a time and place when you can be alone with your Heavenly Father.
Ask the Lord to help you make time in your busy life for prayer. As you talk with Him, ask Jesus to help you know more clearly your purpose in life. Ask Him for the strength to live in light of that purpose, saying “No” even to good things that would distract you.
42At daybreak, Jesus went out to a solitary place. The people were looking for Him and when they came to where He was, they tried to keep Him from leaving them. 43But He said, “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.” 44And He kept on preaching in the synagogues of Judea. (Luke 4:42-44, NIV)
Jesus said that his purpose was to proclaim the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is not a place, an inner state of spiritual awareness, or life after death. Rather, the kingdom of God in the preaching of Jesus is God’s reign, God’s rule, God’s sovereignty.
As we reflect on Luke 4:42-44, I want to invite you to consider the way Jesus described His purpose and how this matters to us. Jesus turned down the invitation to remain in the region where He was popular because, as He said, “I must proclaim good news of the kingdom of God to other towns also; because that is why I was sent.” (Luke 4:43). This is the first time we encounter the phrase “kingdom of God” in Luke’s Gospel. It shows up another 31 times as a central theme in the preaching of Jesus.
What exactly is the kingdom of God? Here is a brief introduction to the kingdom of God in the preaching of Jesus.
First, it may be good to note what the kingdom of God is not. It’s not a particular place, like, for example, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia – though, the kingdom of God is experienced in time and space. It’s not some inner state or spiritual awareness. Additionally, the kingdom of God is not the same thing as Heaven, the place of life beyond this life. Sure, the kingdom of God is closely related to the life in the age to come. But when Jesus proclaimed the kingdom of God, He wasn’t just showing people how to get to Heaven after they died.
If the kingdom of God isn’t a place, or deep spiritual awareness, or Heaven, then what is it? To put it simply, the kingdom of God is God’s reign. It’s God’s sovereignty, God’s rule, God’s authority. The Greek word translated as “kingdom” refers to a physical kingdom, but it was also used for kingly authority. We see this clearly in the prayer Jesus taught His disciples, “Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). When God’s reign comes, God’s will is done on earth, just like in heaven.
So, Jesus was sent to proclaim the good news that God was coming to reign. Indeed, He preached that God’s reign had drawn near. Therefore, the prophecy of Isaiah was being fulfilled in Jesus’s own ministry: “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!’” (Isaiah 52:7). Jesus was this messenger. To be sure, He was more than just the messenger. He was also central to the message.
For us, followers of Jesus, the reign of God is something we can experience each day. When we acknowledge God as the sovereign over our lives, when we allow God to reign over everything we do and say, we experience what Jesus proclaimed. Each time we choose God’s justice over injustice, each time we offer God’s love rather than hate, each time we acknowledge God’s sovereignty, when we allow God to reign over every part of our lives, over every action and every word, we begin in this age to experience the reign of God. We celebrate the good news promised by Isaiah and fulfilled through Jesus “Our God reigns!”
As you reflect on the “kingdom of God,” think of the ways have you experienced God’s reign in your life. Can you intentionally find ways for you to live under the sovereignty of God each day? What can help you do that?
One day Jesus was teaching, and Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there. They had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was with Jesus to heal the sick. Some men came carrying a paralyzed man on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus. (Luke 5:17-19, NIV)
For countless people, the last four months have disrupted plans in nearly every area of life. Schools closed down, business opportunities lost, canceled trips and celebrations, and even loss of income and jobs. We have come to the realization that it is no longer possible for us to live the version of our lives that we had planned on living this year. There is just no way.
In Luke 5, we read that people are gathering because Jesus was healing the sick. Among those trying to make their way to Jesus was a man who was paralyzed. He was carried on a mat by a group of men. The men did their best to make their way to Jesus, but the crowd is just too thick. They couldn’t get in the house. There was just no way.
Luke, the author, does not go into all the details, but we can just imagine one of the friends saying something like, “Ok, so we can’t go in the front door. What if we got up onto the roof of the house, and lowered him in that way? We could set him right in front of the Healer! Jesus would have to help him then!”
Woven into the fabric of our humanity is an ability to find another way. We can think outside the box, we can come up with new ideas, we can suggest alternatives. Think of how many things we enjoy today came from that ability to innovate. Even when it’s hard, we can cope with change, adapt, and thrive in the midst of it. Our capacity to do this is one of my favorite parts of how God made us. I love that our hope and imagination can catalyze perseverance and resilience. As it turns out, much of the time, there is another way.
In quarantine, we can learn a new skill or read more. We can re-organize and clean our homes (who doesn’t need that?). Even though we’ve seen and talked with far fewer people, the conversations can be full and deeply meaningful. Even though this year has not been like you might have imagined, we can actually adapt, deal, and even enjoy aspects of this season.
As you reflect over the last three or four months, where were you able to find another way? What did God teach you through that experience?
Think of a person or persons who have been in your heart during this quarantine. Send them a note or give them a call to encourage them through this season of “finding another way.”
Let us trust that God’s ways are good. Ask God to remind you that you were made to think and act imaginatively and creatively, and to be confident in God’s design of us. Let us thank God because He loves us and the road to Him is always open to us through Jesus Christ.
First Evangelical Church Association
A joint and integrative ministry of spirituality, mission and social concern
FECA Theme for 2020: “Church Renewal: Growing Young”
July 5, 2020
1. Social Concern and Global Missions
Thank you for your support. As of 6/30, $3,641.90 has been collected.
Fundraising goal: $25,000.00 from 6/21/2020 to 7/12/2020.
The world continues to face the challenges brought by COVID-19. Northern Iraq, a place in which we provide ongoing ministries, is particularly affected by the pandemic. Our FECA field workers are supplementing relief efforts to the area they are residing in. There is an overwhelming need for surgical and reusable cloth masks to be distributed to the refugees. Currently, there is an estimation of over one million registered internally displaced people (IDP) and refugees in the Northern Iraq camps.
To support - Please mail check to FECA, memo line: “COVID-19 relief – N. Iraq” (Mailing address: 2617 West Beverly Blvd., Montebello, CA 90640) or visit https://www.feca.org/donation online giving – COVID-19 relief – N. Iraq.
2. Spiritual Exercises in Daily Life (September 2020 to June 2021)
Spiritual Exercises include daily one-hour devotion, weekly one-hour spiritual direction, and monthly group meeting on Saturday, 9:00 - 10:15 a.m. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please pray for the possibility of joining the program.
3. Application for Financial Aid to Seminarians (for 2020-2021 school year)
This Financial Aid to Seminarians program was established to provide financial assistance to FECA church members, on the basis of real financial need, as they receive basic theological training to become Christian ministers or missionaries. The Financial Aid to Seminarians Policy and Procedure, and application form may be downloaded from FECA website (www.feca.org, click "Document Download" at the upper right corner for a list of documents available for download). All applicants should read through the Policy and Procedure before filling out the application form. Application deadlines: Fall admission and returning seminarians: 7/17/2020; Winter/Spring admission: 9/15/2020.
4. The FECA Governing Board Meeting
The meeting will be held on July 21 (Tuesday) in the evening via Zoom. Please pray for God's presence in the meeting.
Glendale SGV FECC Diamond Bar Arcadia
5/20 Sur./Def. (95,137) 93,858 16,997 10,017 43,704
01-05/20 Sur./Def. (145,442) 72,301 (142,410) (28,553) 74,092