Friday, 31 August 2012

The stones would cry out

And some of the Pharisees called to Him from the crowd, "Teacher, rebuke Your disciples." But He answered and said to them, "I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out." – Luke 19.39-40

The Pharisees looked for every occasion to criticise Jesus. Here Jesus was coming to Jerusalem for what He knew was the last time. As He drew near the people gathered to welcome Him and cheer Him on. They thought Messiah was coming to overthrow the local Roman authorities and send the occupying soldiers back to Rome. Their cheer was excited and hopeful.

‘Blessed be the King that comes in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest.’

The King was coming. Victory was nigh.

But the Pharisees were anxious. They had a comfy relationship with Rome. They didn’t want to see the boat rocked. ‘Tell them to be quiet’ they said.

Jesus let them know that God is going to be praised. It would do no good to quiet this crowd. If they were silenced the very rocks would cry out of God’s glory.

God will be glorified. The heavens declare his glory and very earth itself, including the stones themselves show God’s handiwork.

Creation glorifies God. We see God’s handiwork wherever we go.

As part of God’s creation we should glorify Him at least as much as the rocks do. I wonder how we do on a day to day basis glorifying God in our words and our actions. I wonder if whatever we say or do glorifies God.

It is easy to sing out and shout out praise when we are gathered together in the safety of our assemblies. How do we do day to day and in front of the world? Do we do any better than the rocks? 

Thursday, 30 August 2012

A Seeking Saviour

And Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham; for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost." - Luke 19.9-10

Our grandchildren love the song ‘Zaccheus was a wee little man.’  It is a fun song and having worked with kids forever it is hard to read this account and not think about the song.

One day as Jesus was approaching Jericho the crowds began to gather, as they did all over. Everyone was curious. He couldn’t see because of the crowd. Crowds can be very bothersome. We were in Dublin last weekend for the Tall Ships Festival. There were half a million people there that day. At points we literally couldn’t move because the crowd. I like how the KJV would have described that kind of a situation – just as we could not move because of the ‘press’ Zacchaeus couldn’t see Jesus because of the ‘press.’ Sorry, I just love that word there.

Anyhow, Zaccheus did what I wanted to do, he escaped the press. He climbed a sycamore tree to see Jesus.

As Jesus passed by something strange happened. Jesus stopped, looked up in the tree, and spoke to Zaccheus. Imagine the surprise. My closest experience came about 35 years ago at Tennessee Temple University. We had a ‘Christian Athlete Day’ and one of the athletes there was Billy ‘White Shoes’ Johnson who had been a friend in another college. He was an NFL star and there was a huge queue to get his autograph. Mary and I, dating at the time, joined the queue with little hope that he would recognise me. After all he was Billy ‘White Shoes’ and I was just Roger. But he looked up, saw us in the queue, stood up and called out ‘Roger, come up here!’

Anyway, this must have been something like that – only negative. He knew who he was. He knew he was a thief. He knew he was considered a sinner.

But Jesus said (well, sort of) ‘Zaccheus, you come down, for we’re going to your house for tea.’

Think about all the teachers and rabbis and religious leaders who surely though that Jesus would want to talk to them! But He is going to eat his dinner with a sinner – a tax collector – a crook! So they did what they always did; they condemned and criticised.

But Jesus clearly explained himself, ‘Today salvation has come to this house…for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost.’

Praise God! Jesus came to save, but He also came to seek. He sought out Zaccheus all those years ago just like He sought me out in 1974. Praise God for a Seeking Saviour! 

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

God be merciful

Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, 'God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector.  I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.' And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me a sinner!' I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."  - Luke 18.9-14

Here we have the classic example of two ways to approach God. Jesus told this story to a bunch of guys who felt like they were righteous in their own righteousness and always put down anyone who was not like them.

‘Two men went up to the temple to pray. One was a Pharisees and the other a tax collector.

You can sense the arrogance of the Pharisee’s prayer. ‘I thank you God that I am not like that guy over there! I am not an extortioner, or unjust, or an adulterer, or even a tax collector like him! I am religious! I fast twice a week. I pay my tithe!’

Wow! Pretty self-important guy, isn’t he? His whole claim before God was that he was not so bad and that God was pretty lucky to have a guy like him!

Though maybe a bit overplayed there is a temptation to think about ourselves that way. ‘I am not so bad off, at least like those other people. I know my religious bit. So really, I am in pretty good shape.’

The tax collector stood in the temple to pray. His attitude could not have been more different. He raised his eyes to heaven, beat his breast, and said ‘God be merciful to me a sinner.’

That is pretty direct and pretty clear. He was way beyond where the Pharisee was. He had no delusions of his own grandeur.

‘Be merciful to me a sinner.’

When it comes right down to it that is the core of understanding salvation. Religion says keep doing and keep trying to be religious. That will never be good enough.

What we need is a full reliance on the mercy of God. Praise God that He hears the penitential cry for mercy.

Our only right to approach God comes because of His mercy. His mercies are new and fresh every morning. It is only by His mercy that we are not consumed by our sin.

Only the tax collector went home justified. He humbled himself so God could lift him up.

We have the merit to approach God because He showed His mercy by sending His son.

Indeed, God be merciful to me a sinner. 

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Don’t give up

Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart,  - Luke 18.1

Jesus taught on many subjects. He taught on things the disciples needed to hear and these are the things that we need to hear as well.

Here Jesus gave a very simple teaching. It is the verse before what we normally call ‘The Lord’s Prayer.’ He introduces the concept of prayer with just a few words. ‘Men ought always to pray and not lose heart.’ Here is another place where though I understand the need for a more modern word, I still personally like the KJV wording better – ‘Men ought always to pray and not to faint.’

Sometimes prayer can actually be discouraging if we have the wrong perspective. We pray and we pray and we pray and nothing seems to happen – nothing changes. We can be tempted to wonder and ask if God really hears our prayers.

But Jesus says always pray and don’t lose heart, no matter what.

The problem is a wrong prayer perspective. It is not about moving God to do what we want or to give us our wishes. Prayer is about communicating with God. As we pray we are drawn into closer communion with Him. The more we pray the more we get to know Him and His will.

When we get in those tough situations we need to do what Jesus said – keep praying and don’t give up. After all – God is in control and He knows the whole picture. It is only by praying that we truly commune with Him and learn to trust Him. 

Monday, 27 August 2012

Only this foreigner?

So when He saw them, He said to them, "Go, show yourselves to the priests." And so it was that as they went, they were cleansed. And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned, and with a loud voice glorified God,  and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks. And he was a Samaritan.  So Jesus answered and said, "Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine?  Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?" And He said to him, "Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well– Luke 17.14-19

This is a really sad story – heart-breaking in fact. I guess it is most heart-breaking because the topic is so prevalent. The ‘gratitude attitude’ is something that is sadly lacking in the world in general and the church in particular.

As Jesus passed through the region of Galilee He happened upon ten lepers who called out to Him, ‘Master, have mercy on us!’ All ten men went off to the priests to be checked for leprosy. That was required by the Law. As they went all ten were cleansed of the leprosy.

Wouldn’t you think that these guys would show some gratitude? Leprosy was the scourge of its day. Those who had it were cast off by society. It was deadly and the days leading up to that death were days of misery.

But only one of them came back to say thank you. ‘And he was a Samaritan’ the Bible says. Here we have another, lesser known, ‘good Samaritan.’ I like how God mentions that just as a reminder that the gospel was not only for the Jews, but for anyone. Nobody gave thanks except for the foreigner!

Anyway – isn’t it sad that nine men were healed from leprosy and didn’t think it worth their while to go back and say thank you? Isn’t it even sadder that we can do the same thing? Like the Jews we can get so accustomed to God’s goodness that we take it for granted. May God give us this ‘foreigner’s’ heart when it comes to being grateful for God’s manifold gifts. 

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Persistent forgiveness

Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, 'I repent,' you shall forgive him." – Luke 17.3-4

It is really, really hard to forgive someone when they do the same thing over and over again. I think we have all been there. Someone, maybe our children or grandchild keep doing the same thing over and over again. We pop out with something like, ‘If you were really sorry you wouldn’t keep doing it!’

I realise that we need to teach children that ‘I’m sorry’ doesn’t correct bad behaviour, but sometimes we can carry that attitude into situations with other people.

Jesus’ instruction is clear. If a brother offends you, rebuke and forgive him. If He does it again forgive him again. If he does the same thing seven times in the same day just keep forgiving him.

That’s tough, but that is also love. It is the same kind of love that Jesus exercises when we go back to Him time after time after time after time dealing with the same issues and the same sins.

We are often challenged to forgive like Jesus forgives.

The next time we have a situation where someone does the same thing over and over again and keeps seeking forgiveness let’s try to think about our own need for persistent forgiveness. 

Saturday, 25 August 2012

This place of torment

"Then he said, 'I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father's house,
for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.' Abraham said to him, 'They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.'   And he said, 'No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.' But he said to him, 'If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.' " – Luke 16.27-31

This is a passage that I almost wish we could overlook. It is the account of a rich man who lived for himself and did quite well in this life and a beggar who struggled in this life. In the story they both die and find their positions reversed. The rich man finds himself in a place of torment and poor Lazarus finds himself carried safely to what the passage calls ‘Abraham’s bosom.’

We can argue specifics and theology all day long, but that is already being done. The truth is that one man died and went to heaven and the other died and went to Hell (or Hades). His eventual fate will be the lake of fire. The other went to Heaven.

What is the difference? One had repented and the other had not. The rich men pled for someone to go tell his brothers about this place of torment so that they might repent. He wanted a heavenly messenger to go to his brothers. They would surely believe if that happened.

But no – Abraham said that they have ‘Moses and the prophets (their Bibles) and if they don’t believe that they wouldn’t be persuaded even if someone rose from the dead to tell them.

Sadly, that ‘place of torment’ still exists. Those who don’t repent will spend eternity there. We have the word of God to share. God is not going to send someone from hell to witness to the lost. That is our job. We need to get busy. 

Friday, 24 August 2012

One Master

"No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon." - Luke 16.13

There is always a problem living in two worlds. On the one hand we have to live in the physical world. On the other hand our citizenship is in heaven. On the one hand we have to deal with all the situations here. On the other hand we are to keep our eyes on heavenly things. On the one hand we live in a world that says ‘get all you can get.’ On the other hand we are told to be good stewards of God’s resources.

In our lives the natural inclination is to try and walk a balance between the two choices. There is a strong draw on Christians to live a dual life. On the one hand we want to serve Jesus, but on the other hand we don’t really want to give up our service to the world.

But we have a dilemma - ‘No man can serve two masters.’

Why? ‘Because he will be loyal to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon (wealth)’

The specific object here is wealth. That makes sense because ‘the love of money is the source of all kinds of evil.’

The truth is that we really can’t serve God and anything else. Elijah once challenged the people to stop trying to serve God and Baal. It was time to choose the one they would serve. Joshua said ‘as for me and my house we will serve the Lord.’

We really need to wake up. We can’t keep carrying on trying to serve God while keeping one foot following the world. Following Christ is a full time job. We need to get over our part-time Christianity and follow our one Master. 

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Faithful in the little things

He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much. Therefore if you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?  - Luke 16.10-11

Sometimes we can feel like our role in the eternal scheme of things is pretty small. We can feel like everyone else does so much more and is so much more important than we are. The setting is where a servant who has been accused of not taking proper care of his responsibilities. When questioned about it he works out a way to take care of his responsibly and satisfy his master.

When he does that he is commended for being faithful in the small matter of finances. It shows his character of faithfulness to what he is supposed to do.

Faithfulness is not measured by the amount of responsibility. It is a character trait. The point is that we need to be faithful in whatever task God gives us be it great or small.

So just stay faithful where ever God has you. It may in a big church or a small church. It may be as an executive or a labourer. It may be as a teacher or a student. It may in the workplace or at home.

There is one thing God requires of His stewards – it is that they be found faithful where they are. 

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

He is found

It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.' "  - Luke 15.32

There to too much good in the parable of the lost son to just let it go quickly. I love the father’s attitude while waiting for the son. But there is one other thing I want look at.

We often forget about the older son. I can certainly understand his frustration. Some have critically called him the actual prodigal because of his attitude. If so I have a little bit of prodigal in me because I sure get what he is saying.

The older brother would not go to the welcome home party. He was angry. He stayed home, worked hard, and supported the family while the little brat ran off, wasted his life, and came home with no repercussions.

How is that fair?

But Dad replied – ‘It is a good thing to make merry and be glad. Your brother was dead and is alive again. He was lost and he is found.’

The stay at home brother took his eyes off what was really important. He was more concerned the unfairness of the situation. What mattered to him was that he stayed good and faithful and his brother got rewarded.

I am not sure if the parable is about a lost man or an erring Christian. I have read both views and don’t know what to think.

But the lesson transcends that question. Either way we one who was on the wrong road back on the right road. There is no room for anger who jealousy when that turn-about is celebrated. There is only room to join the party and rejoice. 

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

And when his father saw him

I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants." "And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him.
And the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.' "But the father said to his servants, 'Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' And they began to be merry.  - Luke 15.18-24

Here is one of the most popular and well known stories of the Bible. ‘Everyone’ knows something about the story of the prodigal son.

The younger of two sons acted like an awful lot of young men. He was impetuous and seemed to think that he knew everything. I have read some reports and heard some doctors say that young men’s physical brains are growing so fast that for a time they literally lose the ability to think rationally. Some say that their capacity for considering long term results of their actions is restricted. I have to say I believe it. That’s why so many young men do such incredibly dumb things.

And yes, I do realise that I was that age once – that’s why I think there is something to this.

Anyhow, the younger son ran off and ‘wasted his substance with riotous living.’ Pretty soon it was all gone and things got so bad that the son ‘would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat.’ (I love the KJV wording there). Then he realised the harshness of the cold, cruel world when ‘No one would give him anything.’

So he decided to swallow his pride and go home. I can’t imagine the anxiety and nerves as he approached – what would Dad say?

‘I am going to go home, admit my sin, and ask Dad to take me back as a servant.’ He had it all rehearsed and he headed home.

But the amazing thing is where we find Dad. Long before he got home his dad saw him, ran to him, put his arms around him, and welcomed him home.

What an amazing picture! This son ran off and broke his dad’s heart, yet when he came home dad still loved him and still welcomed him back.

There are a couple of lessons there. One of course is for parents whose children have chosen the prodigal life. When that happens we still need to love our kids, pray for them, and wait with open arms for them to come home. That’s what parental love is all about.

But then there is the lesson of the parable. We have a loving God who, when we get off the track, loves us and wants us to come back home and, like the son, confess our sins and seek His forgiveness.

He hasn’t closed the door, He hasn’t turned His back. He still waits. What a loving Father we have. 

Monday, 20 August 2012

Joy over one

What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbours, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!' I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance. "Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls her friends and neighbours together, saying, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece which I lost!' Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents." – Luke 15.4-10

I love our ministry. I am grateful for where God has put us. I am glad to serve our Lord in this wonderful land of Ireland. But, like anything else we do, there can be frustrations. It’s really nothing new, but we all know that there is a temptation to measure success by numbers – be the people, or production stats, or money in the bank or whatever. There is, of course, a danger that this kind of measurement of success can creep into the church. When that happens the measure of a church becomes their Sunday morning church attendance, or how many we baptised last years, or how many professions of faith, or whatever. When that is the standard it can be tough to be part of a smaller, 'less successful' ministry. 

A danger of the numbers game is that it can eventually make us forget about the importance of the ‘one.’ People can become stats instead of souls. A mind set can develop like ‘Oh, you only had 3 baptisms last year? What are you doing wrong?’

Jesus made it clear that He is concerned about each and every ‘one.’ Here He tells the parable of the lost things. We know the story of the lost son, but before He told that story He told the story of one last sheep and one lost coin.

A shepherd has 99 of his 100 sheep safely tucked away. A woman has only lost one of her ten silver coins. In both cases they search frantically until they find the missing ‘one.’ When they do they invite their friends and neighbours to come and celebrate with them. And why wouldn’t they? These are great things to celebrate!

In both cases Jesus said that there was something even better. ‘I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance…Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.’

Jesus cared about one. He said that even the salvation of one soul causes a celebration in heaven.

If the salvation of one causes such joy – should we not share in that excitement over the ‘one?’ It is great to see vast numbers turn to Christ – but let’s not discount the importance of each and every ‘one.’ 

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Dinner guests

Then He also said to him who invited Him, "When you give a dinner or a supper, do not ask your friends, your brothers, your relatives, nor rich neighbours, lest they also invite you back, and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just." – Luke 14.12-14

There is quite a challenge here. When invited to dinner Jesus used the time for a teaching opportunity. ‘When you give a dinner don’t invite your family or your wealthy neighbours, because they will invite you in return and pay you back for feeding them. Instead invite the people to dinner who can’t do anything to pay you back. Invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, and the blind instead.’

While this is a great truth in and of itself, I think the principle behind it is even more interesting.

The key lesson here is that we don’t do things in order to get in return. We don’t just help those who can do something for us. In fact, we do better if we purposefully do for those who can’t do anything for us.

It is easy to do things for those who can pay us back. It is easy for us to feed family, and friends, and neighbours. It is easy to have a dinner and invite all the right people.

But when is the last time we chose to feed or entertain those who need in the most? When is the last time we did something for those who have no hope of paying us back?

When we do things for those who can’t return the favour we may not have any immediate reward. But we can be assured that God’s blessing is on us and we will one day have our repayment. 

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Unless you repent

There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answered and said to them, "Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish." - Luke 13.1-5

We see it all the time. A man-made or natural disaster strikes somewhere and some Christians jump on the bandwagon and try to claim that this was the wrath of God being poured out because the people there deserved it. They say that God did this to them for this or that sin.

This is what happened here. Some folks referred to two different disasters. Some Galileans had been slaughtered by Pilate. The people said ‘are these people worse sinners because they suffered so?’ Jesus responded ‘I tell you, no, but unless you repent you also will perish.’ ‘Okay, how about the 18 guys who died on the building site when the tower being built at Siloam collapsed and killed them?’ ‘No, but if you don’t repent you will perish as well.’

Sure, Jesus is stressing the importance of repentance. That is clear, everyone must repent or face God’s wrath.

But I also see something else. People are far too quick to look at other people’s sin while ignoring their own. It is easy for us to say that the hurricane wiped out New Orleans because of its wickedness. People say 9/11 happened because of America’s sin. Some sad the Stephen’s Day tsunami struck because the people there we mostly Buddhists (or whatever the story was). This happens all the time.

I think part of what God is saying here is that we all need to think about our own sins and not be so worried about other’s sins. In fact Jesus actually answered their questions in this passage with the word ‘no.’ They didn’t suffer because they are worse sinners than anyone else.

Jesus answered the two questions with the exact same answer. Both times he drove the questioners back to the same point – deal with your own sin or you are going to be in trouble as well.

We need to be careful that we don’t get distracted by situations like this. The debate is not about other people’s sin, but our own. We don’t need to worry so much about why things happen to others, but more about keeping our hearts right with God. 

Friday, 17 August 2012

Doing when He comes

Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes.  - Luke 12.43

Jesus did a lot of teaching in parables. He was the Master Storyteller.

Here He told a story about a man who went on a long journey. While he was gone he left his servants with certain responsibilities. Not every servant was faithful. It was easy to get lax when the master was gone. It is just human nature. When the cat is away the mice are indeed very likely to play.

Jesus said that the servant who remains faithfully at his work when the master returns is truly blessed. Not everyone given a task is going to stay at it. People get distracted, things get in the way, but the faithful man stays at the work.

We are like those servants who have been given tasks to do. . Our Master has left and He has left us work to do. We are to be living lives that honour Him and to share the glorious gospel.

I read a lot about when Jesus is coming back. There is all kind and speculation and headline interpreting and even fighting over His return. We have conferences and seminars and books and videos and websites all dedicated to trying to figure when He is due back.

We can get so busy trying to figure it out that we forget about the doing that Jesus talks about here.

I contend that we spend far too time talking and looking and fantasising and not enough time doing. Jesus, our Master, is coming back. That is a fact. We don’t have a clue when. That is a fact.

It is also a fact that Jesus expects us to be faithfully ‘doing’ when He comes again. In his letter to Titus Paul told the church on Crete what to be doing as we are looking for our Master to return.

‘For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.’

Can we call ourselves faithful stewards in the light of this passage? 

Thursday, 16 August 2012


Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: "The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. And he thought within himself, saying, 'What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?' So he said, 'I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. And I will say to my soul, "Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry." ' But God said to him, 'Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?' "So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God." – Luke 12.16-21

I remember an ad on television a few years ago. It opened when a family was faced with the dilemma of having far too much stuff. It has falling out of everywhere. The presses, wardrobes, and closets were all so full they could take nothing more. So they looked for a solution.

What did they come up with? Buy Rubbermaid storage containers! Once they had everything organised they realised they had more room. ‘What are we going to do?  one of them asked. They said in unison – ‘MORE STUFF!!’

That ad always reminded me of this parable. This rich man had so much stuff and his crops were so plentiful that he decided to tear down his barns and build new ones so that he had room for MORE STUFF!!

‘Ah, now I can take it easy. I can eat, drink, and me merry because me and my stuff are safe.’

Jesus had one response to that kind of attitude – ‘Fool! You have all this stuff gathered together and tonight you are going to have to give an account of your soul. Anybody who lays up treasures for himself is not rich toward God.’

That is kind of blunt, but the message is clear. You are a fool if you focus on your ability to get more stuff and live to get it. There are not many other times – I can’t think of any off the top of my head – when Jesus calls someone a fool.

That tells me that a whole lot of us are acting like fools. Our focus on stuff is obvious. The passage goes on to tell us that of we are seeking God’s righteousness we can trust Him to take care of everything else.

Do our lives reflect faith or foolishness? Only each one of us can answer that question. 

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Take heed of covetousness

And He said to them, "Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses." - Luke 12.15

Jesus well knew the temptation that covetousness would be. It is a battle that man has fought since the very beginning. It was so big a deal that one of the Ten Commandments was ‘You shall not covet…’

As Jesus went through His ministry he would often have people come up to seek his advice. Here a man was upset because his brother would not share his inheritance. ‘Tell him to give it to me!’

Jesus took the opportunity to deal with the deeper problem. If He were saying these words in 21st century English He might have said ‘Don’t get so bent out of shape. Be careful about wanting so much stuff. Your life is not about what you have or don’t have.’

In our current Age of Materialism this is a constant battle. While we millions of fellow believers still struggle in abject poverty most of us in the west have it better than we ever have. Even the average ordinary Christian has a decent place to live, enough food to eat, wearable clothing, a car that runs, electricity, and heat. Many also have a phone or two, a computer, a television, internet service, and a few other electronic devices.

Many of our churches are defined by their opulence. Vast sums of money are sunk into making the place look good and ensuring that there is no discomfort.

If we are not careful we can get the idea that these are thing that define us as churches or individuals. That naturally leads to a spirit of covetousness. Some of us don’t have it as nice as others. Some of us don’t have the newest car or the latest iPad or the nicest house or the best clothes. Some of our churches don’t meet in palatial edifices of grandeur. Some of us still meet in community centres or store fronts or even in homes.

It can be hard to be content. It can be hard to avoid covetousness. That’s why we need to remember Jesus’ words ‘beware of covetousness. All this stuff is not the measure of a man.’

Let’s be sure we keep our focus. Let’s be sure that we don’t measure our lives by the world’s standards. We may not wear the best name brands. We may not drive the best car. We may not go to a fancy church. Our computers might need an upgrade. That’s not what is all about. How is our relationship with Jesus today? 

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

What to say

"Now when they bring you to the synagogues and magistrates and authorities, do not worry about how or what you should answer, or what you should say. For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say." – Luke 12.11-12

Jesus made it very clear to the disciples that the norm for His followers was going to be to face opposition. That had to be a scary thought. The day would come when they would have to stand in Jewish or secular courts and defend themselves for what they believed.

How would they handle that? They weren’t Jesus. They were theologians. They didn’t know the Law in order to defend themselves. What were they going to say when that happened? What were they going to do?

Jesus told them not to worry about it. ‘The Holy Spirit will show you want to say.’

The future ministry of the Holy Spirit was still unknown to them. We know much more about it now that we have the completed Bible. We now know that He opens our eyes to spiritual truth. He guides us into all truth. He comforts and convicts. And here we see that when the time comes He will give us the words to say.

We may never have to face magistrates and authorities, though we very well might. But we all are going to be called on at some time or another to answer for what we believe. Even that thought can be a bit scary. ‘What am I going to do? I don’t know what to say!’

I think we can rest with confidence that the Holy Spirit who told the disciples what to say can do the same for us. Now He indwells us and fills us as we yield to Him. We can rest assured that He is not going to leave us speechless. All we have to do is rely on Him to show us what to say and then trust Him as we speak. 

Monday, 13 August 2012

A lesson from Uncle Tom

"And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do - Luke 12.4

I recently read Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin. I had of course heard of it for many years, but never took the time to read it. All I had ever heard about it was that it was a load of abolitionist propaganda that was a waste of time to read.

But I did, I listened to the story until I got enthralled by it and then started reading it on my Kindle. I found myself moved by a very powerful story of the faith of Uncle Tom. His witness pervades the book no matter what kind of situation he faced several owners and slave dealers. Some were decent, some were cruel, and one was very kind. As the story reaches its conclusion he is sold to Simon Legree

Legree is cruel, vicious, and brutal. One of the things he hates most about Tom is his faith in Christ.

If you have access to a copy of the book and don’t want to read the whole thing, let me direct you to Chapter 38 – ‘The Victory’ where the conflict comes to a head. The book is available to search and read free online.

Legree’s cruelty had Tom is total despair. We pick up the story just after a particularly cruel beating. His faith was wavering. He had stopped reading his precious Bible. He was just about to give up.

He was preparing his meagre dinner when he saw His Bible and picked up to read.

Quotes are from Kindle’s free e-book  - Stowe, Harriet Beecher (2006-01-13). Uncle Tom's Cabin. Public Domain Books. Kindle Edition.

‘There were all the marked passages, which had thrilled his soul so often,--words of patriarchs and seers, poets and sages, who from early time had spoken courage to man,--voices from the great cloud of witnesses who ever surround us in the race of life. Had the word lost its power, or could the failing eye and weary sense no longer answer to the touch of that mighty inspiration? Heavily sighing, he put it in his pocket. A coarse laugh roused him; he looked up,--Legree was standing opposite to him.

 "Well, old boy," he said, "you find your religion don't work, it seems! I thought I should get that through your wool, at last!"

The cruel taunt was more than hunger and cold and nakedness. Tom was silent.

"You were a fool," said Legree; "for I meant to do well by you, when I bought you. You might have been better off than Sambo, or Quimbo either, and had easy times; and, instead of getting cut up and thrashed, every day or two, ye might have had liberty to lord it round, and cut up the other niggers; and ye might have had, now and then, a good warming of whiskey punch. Come, Tom, don't you think you'd better be reasonable?--heave that ar old pack of trash in the fire, and join my church!"

"The Lord forbid!" said Tom, fervently. "You see the Lord an't going to help you; if he had been, he wouldn't have let me get you!

This yer religion is all a mess of lying trumpery, Tom. I know all about it. Ye'd better hold to me; I'm somebody, and can do something!" "No, Mas'r," said Tom; "I'll hold on. The Lord may help me, or not help; but I'll hold to him, and believe him to the last!"

We seem Tom’s faith being restored. He began praying and eventually the Lord began to deal with him and give him confidence in his eternity. Tom’s faith was stirred and he found new strength.

‘From his deepest soul, he that hour loosed and parted from every hope in life that now is, and offered his own will an unquestioning sacrifice to the Infinite. Tom looked up to the silent, ever-living stars,--types of the angelic hosts who ever look down on man; and the solitude of the night rung with the triumphant words of a hymn, which he had sung often in happier days, but never with such feeling as now:

"The earth shall be dissolved like snow, The sun shall cease to shine; But God, who called me here below, Shall be forever mine.
"And when this mortal life shall fail, And flesh and sense shall cease, I shall possess within the veil A life of joy and peace.
"When we've been there ten thousand years, Bright shining like the sun, We've no less days to sing God's praise Than when we first begun."

We don’t often sing the two verses of Amazing Grace that Tom remembered, but what comfort they give!

Here is how Stowe describes the change in Tom –

When the dim gray of dawn woke the slumberers to go forth to the field, there was among those tattered and shivering wretches one who walked with an exultant tread; for firmer than the ground he trod on was his strong faith in Almighty, eternal love. Ah, Legree, try all your forces now! Utmost agony, woe, degradation, want, and loss of all things, shall only hasten on the process by which he shall be made a king and a priest unto God!

From this time, an inviolable sphere of peace encompassed the lowly heart of the oppressed one,--an ever-present Saviour hallowed it as a temple. Past now the bleeding of earthly regrets; past its fluctuations of hope, and fear, and desire; the human will, bent, and bleeding, and struggling long, was now entirely merged in the Divine. So short now seemed the remaining voyage of life,--so near, so vivid, seemed eternal blessedness,--that life's uttermost woes fell from him unharming.’

Shortly after Tom is gladly singing the words of Isaac Watt’s hymn ‘On My Journey Home’ while working in the field.

"When I can read my title clear To mansions in the skies, I'll bid farewell to every fear, And wipe my weeping eyes "Should earth against my soul engage, And hellish darts be hurled, Then I can smile at Satan's rage, And face a frowning world. "Let cares like a wild deluge come, And storms of sorrow fall, May I but safely reach my home, My god, my Heaven, my All."

Legree heard him and was incensed so he beat Tom more severely than ever before, but now it was different –

‘But the blows fell now only on the outer man, and not, as before, on the heart. Tom stood perfectly submissive; and yet Legree could not hide from himself that his power over his bond thrall was somehow gone.

Tom was free. Simon Legree was no more his master. He knew that all Legree could do was to kill his body, but Legree could not control his soul.

‘What more can they do,’ Jesus asked, ‘once they have killed the body?’

‘Nothing’ is the answer. Uncle Tom knew that and the time he had left was spent in loving witness. Two of the overseers who had viciously beat Tom were saved through his witness.’

We can be as free as Tom found himself when we finally realise that all the enemy can do is take our body. When they do that it just hastens the day till we meet our Saviour. 

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Jesus and his mother

And it happened, as He spoke these things, that a certain woman from the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, "Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts which nursed You!" But He said, "More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!" – Luke 11.27-28

I live in a country which has a long history of Marian veneration, or even Marian worship. There can be no doubt that Mary is a person well worth our study and our interest, but it interesting to see what the Bible says about her in her role as Jesus’ mother.

I don’t know for sure, but it looks like some type of veneration of Mary had already started. As Jesus was speaking a woman from the crowd shouted ‘Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts that fed you!’

I imagine that she was expecting an ‘amen’ or at least an acknowledgement of the truth of what she said.

But she said ‘More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it.’

Jesus didn't put Mary down. He didn’t even deny the veracity of the woman’s statement. He didn’t bash her for taking things too far – he just pointed out that there is a way to a surer and greater blessing.

The greater blessing than being Jesus’ mother comes to those who simply hear God’s word and apply it. There is no greater blessing on earth than to listen to what God has to say and then apply it to our lives.

We are reminded once again that it is not enough to just hear the word of God. Anyone can do that. The blessing comes when we keep Gods word by doing it.

Mary was blessed, but not because she bore Jesus. She was blessed the same as we are, by hearing God's word and applying it to her life. 

Saturday, 11 August 2012

How much more?

If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!" – Luke 11.11-13

This passage continues talking about prayer. It focuses on a father and his son communicating about the son’s needs. I love the picture of God as our Father and how Jesus uses the illustration of father and son to illustrate prayer and talking to Him.

I have to acknowledge that not every family is perfect. Sadly the illustration doesn’t fit every family. The curse of sin produces some terrible situations and cruel brutal fathers are a part of that curse. This illustration is of a loving and caring father. For those who tragically don’t have that it pictures God as the Father who can fill that void.

A good father is not going to give his child a stone when he asks for a piece of bread. If a son asks for fish fingers we are hardly going to give him a snake. If he asks for a boiled egg we are not going to serve him a scorpion.

That just makes sense.

Why then would anyone that God refuse the Holy Spirit to those who ask? The Holy Spirit is the gift above all gifts. This was before the Holy Spirit took on His current ministry. Jesus was preparing His followers for the wonderful truth that one day God would pour out His Holy Spirit on all who ask for Him.

We as sinners know how to give our children what is best. How much more does our heavenly Father know how to give the Holy Spirit, that which is best of all. 

Friday, 10 August 2012

The basics of prayer

Now it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, "Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples." So He said to them, "When you pray, say: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, For we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one." – Luke 11.1-4

Prayer had always been a part of Jewish religious life, but now they knew things were different. Jesus was their teacher now. As disciples they were His students.

One day they saw Jesus praying. Here we have a scene where God the Son praying. The disciples waited and then asked Him ‘Lord, teach us to pray like John taught His disciples.’

Jesus did a marvellous job of breaking prayer down into its essential parts. These are not mindless words to be repeated without thinking. It is just what they asked for – a lesson on prayer.

Here are the essentials. Recognise God as Father and as reigning in heaven. Recognise His holiness. Seek His kingdom instead of this earthly realm. Seek His will. Recognise our need of His provision. Recognise the need to deal with sin. Recognise the danger of temptation.

That’s what prayer breaks down to. It is talking to our Father, recognised who He is and who we are. It is like a child taking to a daddy. Prayer is about supplication to His will, not trying to conform Him to ours. 

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Marthaness and Maryness

Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus' feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, "Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me." And Jesus answered and said to her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her." – Luke 10.38-42

Mary, Martha, and Lazarus were friends of Jesus. I think that is pretty amazing in and of itself. How wonderful that must have been to be known as Jesus’ friends.

I am not sure, but I think this is the first time we hear about this friendship. When Jesus and the disciples came to town and passed by Mary and Martha’s house Martha invited them in. I have always liked Martha. I like that she answered the door, was hospitable enough to invite them in, and set about preparing the tea while her sister Mary sat at Jesus’ feet and listened to Him teach.

I also have always understood Martha. Here she was bustling about doing all the work while Mary just sat there. I can almost sense the frustration building as she clattered the dishes and slammed the drinking vessels trying to get Mary’s attention. Finally she had enough – ‘Lord, don’t you care that my sister is making me do all the work? Tell her to help me!’ In fact, I can almost feel the emotion behind it. I can be very Martha like – I like to get things done. I hate to see tasks undone. I can get bothered by those who won’t help when there are jobs to do. The Marys of this world can really irritate me (uh, not my Mary of course).

So Martha, like I would have done, said something. I can see that.

Jesus’ reply was to the point. You can sense His compassion when He says ‘Oh Martha, Martha, you are concerned about so many things. But one thing is needed and Mary has chosen that.’

Jesus was not condemning Martha, there are things that have to be done. The tea needed to be prepared, we have jobs that need sorted. But Mary knew something. She knew that the most important thing was to sit at Jesus’ feet and learn from Him. All those jobs that I think are so important are going pass away, but what we learn from Jesus will never pass away.

Lord, don’t take the Marthaness from me – but give me a dose of Maryness to go with it. 

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Go and do likewise

And he said, "He who showed mercy on him." Then Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise." – Luke 10.37

A rich young ruler came to Jesus asking about eternal life. ‘What do I need to do to have eternal life?’ he asked. Jesus responded ‘how do you read the law?’ The ruler rightly said ‘love the Lord your God absolutely and love your neighbour as yourself.’ ‘Do this and you will indeed live,’ said Jesus. ‘But who is my neighbour?’ asked the young man.

Jesus then told the famous story of the Good Samaritan. A Jewish man was travelling to Jerusalem when he was attacked and left for dead by the side of the road. He lay there while a priest and a Levite ignored him, even crossing the road not to have to look at him. Finally a Samaritan saw him and stopped. Samaritans and Jews did not get along – at all. Yet, the Samaritan helped him, treated his wounds, took him to an inn, and paid for his care.

The young ruler had to admit, in response to Jesus’ question, that the Samaritan was the man’s neighbour.

‘Go and do likewise’ was Jesus simple response.

So here is the test of ‘Love the Lord your God with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your might, and love your neighbour as yourself.’ And it case we missed it our challenge is the same as the young man’s. ‘Go and do likewise.’

We can’t get away from it. The proof of our loving God is in how we love our neighbour, even our ‘enemy neighbour.’ In this case even our religious enemy neighbour.

We seem to think it is okay to hate if the object is those who don’t follow our God. These are troublesome days as evidenced by the vitriol spewed at Muslims and others who are ‘not like us.’ This is not of God. The Samaritan showed us that our neighbours can be the people we tend to hate.

How are we doing in loving them? 

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

I have decided to follow Jesus, but...

Then He said to another, "Follow Me." But he said, "Lord, let me first go and bury my father." Jesus said to him, "Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God." And another also said, "Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house." But Jesus said to him, "No one, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God."  - Luke 9.59-62

Not everyone was so quick to forsake everything and follow Jesus. When Jesus said ‘follow me’ to others one replied ‘Let me go bury my dead father first.’ Another said ‘I will follow You, but I need to go say goodbye first.’

We might think that this is to be expected. These are reasonable request.  What could be wrong with going to your father’s funeral or saying goodbye to your family?

I don’t think that is the point. Jesus knew their hearts. He knew that these were more excuses than reasons. He knew these people had a ‘I will follow You but…’ attitude.’

Those who have this kind of attitude are always going to be able to find another ‘but’ in their discipleship. ‘I am going to get back to church, but first I need to sort a few things out.’ ‘I am going to tell my family about Jesus, but I need a little more time to show how my life is different.’ ‘I will start giving to my local church, but first I need to get buy these few things I really need.’

There really are no ‘buts’ in discipleship. Either we follow or we don’t. We have to decide if we are going to follow the world or follow Christ. If we try to follow both we are going to get frustrated and confused.

How many of us can truly say ‘I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no ifs, ands, or buts.’  

Monday, 6 August 2012

Keeping focus

And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, "Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?" But He turned and rebuked them, and said, "You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives but to save them." And they went to another village.  - Luke 9.54-56

While travelling through Samaria the disciples tried to make preparations for Christ, probably for a meal and a place to stay. Jesus was dead set on going to Jerusalem so the Samaritans would not receive them. The place of worship was a source of contention between the Jews and the Samaritans.

The disciples were furious that the town would not receive them – ‘Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to destroy them like Elijah did?’

These guys were like us when we face opposition – ‘let’s just blow away the opposition and move on. We are on God’s side, if they don’t like us – let’s just wipe them out!’

But Jesus had a different response, ‘I didn’t come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.’ And then they just moved on to a different town.

From all appearances we live in a world that deserves destruction. It makes sense that those who openly oppose God and His work ought to just be dealt with so that we can carry on. It makes sense, in our feeble minds to just have God wipe out the opposition.

But Jesus didn’t have that attitude. His purpose was to save, not to battle the enemy. I think there is something here for us as well. Our purpose is to share the gospel and bring men to Christ.

We have to expect that the world is going to oppose us. That is between them and God. Jesus kept His focus on Jerusalem and would not be distracted. We need to keep our eyes on our task and do the same. 

Sunday, 5 August 2012

They forsook all

For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish which they had taken; and so also were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, "Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men." So when they had brought their boats to land, they forsook all and followed Him.  - Luke 5.9-11

Peter, James, and John were in their fishing boat. They were partners in their trade and apparently pretty successful fishermen. They had had a bad night fishing when Jesus got on the boat and told Peter to put out from shore. They didn’t think it would do any good, but Simon ordered the nets to be lowered.

Immediately they felt the drag of a heavy load of fish. They could hardly drag the fish on to the boat. Peter knew a miracle had happened, was afraid, confessed his sins to Jesus, and told Jesus to depart because he was a afraid of Jesus.

Jesus told him, ‘don’t be afraid, I am going to make you a fisher of men.’

All three of them; Peter, James, and John took their catch of fish to the shore and then they ‘forsook all and followed Him.’

Jesus’ first followers set the pattern for all of us who have followed. When they decided to follow Jesus they left everything to do so. They left their boats, their nets, and apparently even the catch of fish to follow Him.

That’s what following Jesus is all about – forsaking all to follow Him.

Paul pled with the believers in Rome to offer their bodies as a living sacrifice. Jesus said that those who want to follow Him must lay down their lives, take up their cross, and follow Him.

Judson Van DeVenter wrote a song in 1896 that we all know and most of us have sung, but I wonder how well we do at living it?

All to Jesus, I surrender;
All to Him I freely give;
I will ever love and trust Him,
In His presence daily live.

All to Jesus I surrender;
Humbly at His feet I bow,
Worldly pleasures all forsaken;
Take me, Jesus, take me now.

All to Jesus, I surrender;
Make me, Saviour, wholly Thine;
Let me feel the Holy Spirit,
Truly know that Thou art mine.

All to Jesus, I surrender;
Lord, I give myself to Thee;
Fill me with Thy love and power;
Let Thy blessing fall on me.

All to Jesus I surrender;
Now I feel the sacred flame.
O the joy of full salvation!
Glory, glory, to His Name!

I surrender all, I surrender all,
All to Thee, my blessed Saviour,
I surrender all.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

The scripture fulfilled

And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord. And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears. – Luke 4.17-21

Please pardon a little repetition and confusion in these thoughts. I got a little confused in my postings yesterday, but think I may have it figured out.

By the time we get to Luke 4 Jesus has grown to adulthood and entered His ministry. At this stage He was in Nazareth, His hometown. As an adult male He had the opportunity to read the scriptures in the synagogue.  When the attendant handed Him the scrolls He opened them to Isaiah and read the prophecy of Messiah. He read of the Messiah that when He came He would 1) preach the gospel to the poor, 2) heal the brokenhearted, 3) proclaim liberty to the captives, 4) give sight to the blind, 5) to set the oppressed free, and 6) to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.

But then He said something that stunned them – ‘today this prophecy is fulfilled.’

Those who knew their scriptures would have been amazed. Jesus, the carpenter’s Son, was claiming that He was fulfilling the prophecy of Messiah!  

The Jews expected a mighty and triumphant Messiah would come in on a white charger to deliver Israel, but here a meek carpenter’s son claims the role. And his role was to preach the gospel to the poor, heal the broken hearted, give sight to the blind and free the oppressed.

‘To proclaim liberty to the captives’ were the words that everyone wanted to hear, but not from Joseph’s boy. That would take a conquering hero.

We know of course that Jesus ministry was so much more than just a political deliverance. Jesus came to preach the gospel of salvation to those who spiritually poor. He came to heal the broken hearts of those devastated by the results of sin. He came to proclaim liberty slaves of sin. He came to give sight to those blinded by sin. He came to free a world oppressed by sin. He came to proclaim that this was the year of the Lord – that it all started now.

It is true that all of the other things do happen physically as well, but it all happens because sins power is broken.

Praise God for the acceptable year of the Lord. Praise Him as well that He frees, enlightens, and saves those who are captive to sin.

Praise God that He did all this for me. 

Friday, 3 August 2012

With Authority

Then He went down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and was teaching them on the Sabbaths. And they were astonished at His teaching, for His word was with authority. - Luke 4.31-32

By the time we get to Luke 4 Jesus has grown to adulthood and entered His ministry. At this stage He was in Nazareth, His hometown. As an adult male He had the opportunity to read the scriptures in the synagogue.  When the attendant handed Him the scrolls He opened them to Isaiah and read the prophecy of Messiah. He read of the Messiah that when He came He would 1) preach the gospel to the poor, 2) heal the brokenhearted, 3) proclaim liberty to the captives, 4) give sight to the blind, 5) to set the oppressed free, and 6) to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.

But then He said something that stunned them – ‘today this prophecy is fulfilled.’

They couldn’t believe their ears – ‘This is Jesus, Joseph’s son!’ And eventually they were so disturbed that they wanted to stone Him because he claimed to be Messiah, The people in His home town could not accept Him, even though He spoke such gracious words.

Jesus escaped and went to Capernaum where He continued to teach in the synagogues. Here though the people were astonished because as He taught He spoke the words ‘with authority.’

Despite seeing the power of God’s word the people of Nazareth rejected. The people of Capernaum though were astonished that He taught with such authority.

When Jesus left earth and He told the disciples that as the Father sent His, He was sending them. We have the same message to share. As we go in His name we have His authority. His words have the same authority now as they did then. When we speak His words, not ours, we too have authority. That’s why it is so vital that when we speak we don’t ever try to do so in our own authority.

Only when we speak His words do we have any authority to speak for Him.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Jesus grew

And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and men. – Luke 2.52

It is easy sometimes to forget that our Saviour had to grow up like every other Jewish boy. The last we hear of Him before His public ministry was that He grew ‘in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.’

I like the reality of this. Jesus grew in four areas and I think we can see the importance of teaching and training in a balanced manner.

Jesus grew in wisdom – He grew intellectually and with the skills to use His intellect.
Jesus grew in stature – He grew physically.
Jesus grew in favour with God – He grew spiritually
Jesus grew in favour with man – He grew socially

I don’t have a whole lot of theological context for this one, but more of a practical answer.

Jesus sets a natural pattern for child development. He developed in a balanced manner. He developed in all four major areas. (I am not sure how He developed in favour with God; I need to look into that part).

When we work with our children and grandchildren, or whenever we have the chance to minister with children we need to be sure that we take all four areas into consideration. We need to make sure that children have a chance to develop in all four areas. We need to teach them the knowledge and skills to grow in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man. 

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

He went with them

And He said to them, "Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father's business?" But they did not understand the statement which He spoke to them. Then He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them, but His mother kept all these things in her heart. – Luke 2.49-51

I find the brief accounts of Jesus childhood interesting. We don’t get to see much, only a few hints and suggestions.

This is really the only actual glimpse into Jesus’ childhood. When Jesus was twelve his parents (I know Joseph was not his actual father) took him to Jerusalem for a traditional feast. When they headed back they were travelling with family and friends, with everyone talking and catching up. Nobody really thought about where the kids were. They would be fine. 

After about a day’s walk Mary and Joseph realised that Jesus was not with them. I can’t imagine the shock and fear that ran through their minds. I am quite certain that, like any of us would, they were blaming themselves for not paying better attention.

So they retraced their steps. They headed back to Jerusalem and it was three days before they found Jesus. When they did He was discussing matters with the Temple leaders, asking them questions and listening to them. Everyone who heard the discussion was amazed at His questions and his thoughts.

Put yourself in Mary and Joseph’s sandals. Your twelve year old son has been missing for three days! What is your initial response going to be?

‘Where have you been? We have been looking for you for three days! You had us worried sick!’

We all know the tone of voice they must have used – that combination of relief, anger, and love that spills out when this kind of thing happens.

So Jesus answered them – ‘Why were you looking for me? Don’t you know that I have to do my Father’s work?’

They didn’t understand that, and that is fine. Mary kept these things in her heart and thought about them.

But I love what Jesus did next. The Creator God incarnate obeyed his parents and went home with them.

‘He went with them…and was subject to them.’

What a picture of submissive humility. The One who created mankind and established marriage and set the standards for relationships between parents and children submitted to human authority.

If Jesus, God Himself, could submit to the authority of His fleshly sin-cursed parents, should we not be willing to learn the vital lessons of submission?