Luke is a most vigorous champion of the outsider. An outsider himself, the only Gentile in an all-Jewish cast of New Testament writers, he shows how Jesus includes those who typically were treated as outsiders by the religious establishment of the day: women, common laborers (sheepherders), the radically different (Samaritans), the poor. He will not countenance religion as a club. As Luke tells (his) story, all of us who have found ourselves on the outside looking in on life with no hope of gaining entrance (and who of us hasn’t felt it?) now find the doors wide open, found and welcomed by God in Jesus. The story of Jesus is an account of Jesus revealing God to us, Jesus as God among us, Jesus telling us stories and doing things that make us insiders to God’s salvation, Jesus inviting men and women to follow and trustingly participate with Him in what He was calling the Kingdom of God. Eugene Peterson
We’ll be using Peterson’s transliteration of the Bible, called The Message, for our scriptures in this Holy Week devotional study. I personally believe that Peterson has a wonderful gift of bringing great color and depth to very familiar words, which when read with great regularity, can at times, lose their flavor and taste. The Message has a unique way of sprinkling some light seasoning salt on a great steak.
Now, let me tell you a brief story about how I arrived at what you are about to read.
It was late in October of 2009 when I was awakened early one morning by a very vivid dream. In the dream, I was in my bed and suddenly in the darkness, right above my head and directly outside my bedroom window, an intense light appears. As I focused my eyes on the light, it turned out to be a very angelic-looking being. This angel was pointing to a very large book that was lying closed on a massive church lectern. The book seemed to glow with the same brilliant light that was surrounding the angelic being. At first I wasn’t sure what the book was. While now it seems so obvious that it was a large Bible, my first thought in my dream was maybe it was a ‘book of life’ or some holy book of some sort. The powerful glow coming off the book was quite stunning. As I looked at the book lying closed on the lectern, I heard the angel say just three words…”Open the book.” At that moment, I suddenly woke up and knew that I had just experienced one of the most vivid encounters with the Kingdom of God that I have had in years.
So after a number of other confirmations from God that He was truly desirous of me getting much more serious about my personalized spirituality and devotional life, I decided to begin a newfound journey in God’s Word, responding to the angel’s command to “open the book”.
It was also at this time, I also discovered a powerful phrase that evangelist Henry Varley used to deeply challenge Dwight Moody back in 1867. Moody, a successful traveling shoe salesman from Chicago, was visiting England, looking to learn from some of the great evangelists of his day (Charles Spurgeon, George Muller and others). Sitting on a park bench outside a massive cathedral in Dublin, Ireland, Varley turned to Moody, and said…
“Dwight, the world has yet to see what God will do with a man who is fully consecrated to Him.”
As Moody returned to the States on a slow steamship, he struggled with Varley’s statement. As he stood on the deck of the boat as it pulled into the New York City harbor, Moody decided to take Varley’s challenge personally, asking the Lord to empower Him to be “just that man”…a man or woman who is fully consecrated, or set apart, for God’s unique call and purpose in his or her life. In response to that challenge, Moody went on to become a man of God who made a unique difference in his generation.
So here we are at the beginnings of the second decade of a new century and a new millennium. Is God still looking for a few good men and women to take that same challenge? I believe so.
So here we go. Tomorrow, on Palm Sunday, Holy Week begins. This week in the church calendar is designed to be a holy, life-emptying journey into Jesus. It’s a season of letting go of worldly things in order to be filled with God. I’ve designed this ten-session Holy Week study to begin on Palm Sunday with the story of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. It’s here the beginning of the end of Jesus’ three-year earthly ministry actually begins. We end, of course, with the trial, the crucifixion, the death, burial, and rising of our Lord Jesus Christ. I suggest that you read and digest these blogs on a daily basis or at least at a pace that will allow you plenty of time to reflect on what you’re reading. You’ll notice that I end each blog with a personalized prayer and some reflective questions. I strongly advise you to personalize this portion of my writings for yourself and let God speak to you as you are reviewing what’s been said.
Keep in mind as well that God has so much more to say to you than I do, so please, ask the Holy Spirit to read along with you as you go. May His empowering presence lead you and guide you through these precious ancient words of God’s Word as translated and transliterated so marvelously by Eugene Peterson through his biblical masterpiece, The Message. My words are much less powerful, but with God’s help they just might be as beneficial to you as they have been those in my church and to me. May the Spirit of God read along with you as you go.
Just a fat man from Iowa doing my very best to practice the Kingdom presence of God.