Come…

Posted on Updated on

Jesus took the initiative and left heaven to come to us, in Luke 18 there is a set of five parables/encounters that are all about how we ought to come to Jesus…

Come with persistent faith in prayer

The widow (vs1-8) eventually gets the justice she has been pleading for from the unrighteous judge.  Jesus uses this to contrast how much more God who has chosen us in love (elected us) will give us justice (answer our prayers) speedily.  This is because of our relationship with God that was established by God when we believed (John 1:12).

Jesus urges us to be persistent like her and to have faith as we ask because we know who we are asking when we pray.  We are not coming to some unknown official in the sky, but to our Heavenly Father who loves us!

Come with humility acknowledging your brokenness 

Next (vs9-14) Jesus contrasts a self-centered (note the five “I”‘s in the text) self-righteous, proud Pharisee with a humble sinner who knows he has messed up.

These are like the two types of people in the world;

The one is trying to save themselves by human effort trusting in their morality and performance to save them and so asks for recognition and praise for their efforts…

The other knows there is no hope in self-salvation projects and rather humbly admits their moral failings, their brokenness and asks for mercy.

Here Jesus reveals that the only way to being justified is not performance but grace which is only accessed by humbling oneself before God and asking for mercy and grace.

Come believing as a child

Next (vs15-17) Jesus urges us to come ‘like a child’ for only such people shall enter His kingdom.  What does that mean?

Children are eager to believe, they are uninhibited in their believing and they are full of wonder and amazement and unrestrained in expressing joy…

Such a provocation for stuck up, cynical, staid, doubting, questioning adults…!  May I, may we be more like children in our coming to Jesus.

Come prepared to relinquish other loves, other idols

In the encounter with the rich ruler (vs18-30) Jesus refused to let the man put Jesus in the box he had in mind for Jesus!  He tried to call Jesus “good”, good teacher – someone you might learn from…  But Jesus wouldn’t let him do that.

‘I’m not good, I’m God’ Jesus basically says to the man.  ‘You want me to be good teacher but actually I am God and as God I call you to relinquish all other loves, all other things (idols) you have worshipped or put your trust into’…

Teachers don’t make demands, but God does.  Only God is worthy of our worship, our trust, our full attention.  Sadly, the man doesn’t want to let go of what he loves, let go of what he is trusting and holding on to in order to hold on to God alone.

We need to come to God, relinquishing other loves, other things we place our trust in, love Him with all our heart would, mind and strength, knowing that to relinquish all to get God is in fact to get more than all we ever had (vs29-30).

Come boldly with faith

Lastly in this little grouping is the blind beggar, who cried out loudly for Jesus to have mercy on him.  He pressed through etiquette, pressed through the opinions of others and boldly got his request before Jesus.

Jesus interpreted this boldness and this determined action as faith (vs42)!  Faith that Jesus was God and that Jesus could heal him was the fire that motivated him to call out so boldly.

Sometimes I/we come to Jesus in prayer that is so far removed from this man’s bold faith, we come apologetically masking often our lack of conviction that God is able or that God does want to answer with words hat are anything but bold.

Let’s come as God’s beloved children with faith when we pray.

Advertisements

A perplexing parable…

Posted on

53009-4763594-Journey_of_Life

This is a perplexing parable that speaks about the link between this present life and eternity (Luke 16:1-13)

In my previous post “Jesus, You said what?” I encouraged us to not be put off by perplexing, difficult or challenging passages but to be drawn in by them and to ask questions that help us to hear our Father speaking to us from them.

So let’s ask some questions;

What questions does it address, ask or answer?

This parable speaks to the relationship between this present life and eternity (vs 9&11) and that we will be held accountable for our actions (vs2).  We will be held to account, God as the owner cares about how we steward the resources entrusted to us.

Specifically, this parable links our present management or stewardship of God’s resources in this life to eternity (vs9-12).  Like this guy – for us there is a time of stewardship (our life) during which we should use wisely the time and resources we have at our disposal, before our term of stewardship is done and they are no longer any use to us.

This parable also speaks about our relationship to money & possessions – we are managers/stewards, not owners.  When it comes to money/possessions, we big idea is that in this world we are managers/stewards not owners with regard to money/posessions.

Finally, this parable speaks about our time on earth and that it is finite.  There is a day when we will no longer be able to make the decisions we do still get to make still today, before that day that either we die or the day on which Jesus returns.

What tension/mystery does this text create or resolve?  

Why does Jesus’ parable ‘honour’ this ignoble manager?  Why is a dishonest person being commended?

In what way did this dishonest manager act that is worthy of being called shrewd? 

He knows that he is about to loose his job, loose control of the wealth he manages for the owner, but he still has this moment in the present while he is still manager and he knows he can act now in ways that will affect his future.

This is what he is commended for, having a future perspective that changed his life now in the present, changed his actions now.  

In the same way, one thing is certain in every man’s future: his ‘dismissal’ from his present sphere into the unknown regions of eternity.  

We too are managers/stewards now, we too are wise if we use the possessions under our control for the purpose of affecting the future while we still can.

The tension here is that Jesus can’t be commending the dishonesty in the manager, he is commended surely his forward thinking which affected his present actions, because in contrast to the manager, Jesus’ followers must not be dishonest, must not use the money they steward for God unrighteously, but like the manager they must use their money in such a way that they prepare for their future life, while they still can.

What does this text say about God, myself or others?  

God cares about how we utilise the money/resources entrusted to us.

I have a finite period of time here on this earth, after which there will be a time to give account for how I utilised the resources entrusted to me.

What should I do now as a result? 

Do I see myself as an owner of my money or as a manager/steward of God’s money?

How can I best use the worldly wealth (be it little or lots!) God has entrusted to me in order to hear God’s ‘well done’ on the day when I give an account?

How can I use what’s been entrusted to me to gain eternal friends for myself in heaven?

___________________________

Thank you Jesus for this perplexing parable!

Jesus, You said what..?

Posted on Updated on

Jesus-said-what_t

As you read the bible, there are many passages that are going to be perplexing or difficult to understand, and Luke 16:1-16 is one of those. So, how do you approach such a difficult passage, or approach any passage so as to allow your Father to speak to you from it?

Firstly, we need to begin by valuing all of Scripture, believing that ‘all of Scripture is breathed out by God and so is useful for teaching, correcting & training us in what following Him looks like.’ (My paraphrase of 2 Timothy 3:16-17).  I have learnt to not be put off by perplexing passages but rather drawn in by them.  So value all of Scripture, ask God to speak to you from it, don’t be quick to move on to more comfortable, less challenging or more easily understood passages.

Secondly, get into the habit of asking questions of the text.  Bombarding the text with questions is a great way of extracting the original meaning and so being able to understand what it means for you today.  Who said it? Why? To who was I said? Where was it said? What did they say? What does it mean for me? What should I do now?….. Apart from the who,why,what, how, to whom & what now type of questions I have learnt to ask the following questions as well:

What questions/mystery does this text address, ask or answer?

What tension does this text create or resolve?

What issues in life does this text address?

What does this text say about God, myself or others?

I urge you to not just read what others have gleaned from Scripture but to develop a hunger to hear God speak to you from all of Scripture, even from the challenging, difficult or perplexing passages. Your Father wants to speak with you, wants to guide, encourage, correct & inspire you as you seek to follow Him and His ways and mission for you life.

God dances!

Posted on Updated on

joy_fruitsosp

The word picture is of the Creator of the universe, spinning and revelling in joy before and audience of angels, and more than likely calling them onto the dance floor to join Him…

“Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” – Jesus

Jesus has just told the second short parable of three lost-found parables that are in told sequence.  Jesus has just told the gathered hostile Pharisees and scribes is the parable about the woman who lost one of her valuable coins but then after a dilligent search finds it and throws a party!

Then Jesus makes this statement in Luke 15:10.  So, what can we learn from it?

Firstly, maybe surprisingly, God is the one who is celebrating with joy before the angels!  God Himself is compared to the woman who lost the coin, God is the primary one experiencing joy because of one person repenting!  There is joy ‘before the angels’, and who is before them? None other than God Himself.

So why does God rejoice?  What is it about sinners repenting that makes God so happy?

Just as the shepherd who receives back 1 of 100 sheep (1%), just as the person who receives back 1 of 10 coins (10%) and just like the Father who receives back half (50%) his family – so too God rejoices, celebrates greatly the text says when even one sinner repents.

Why?

  • Because every person God created, He loves.  He is their Father whom they have estranged themselves from and He wants to be reunited with them and so there is joy in every person’s repentance because repentance is the only way for people to come back to right relationship to the Father.
  • Because there is joy over every one person who repents because every person has immense value to God.
  • Because every person who repents honours Jesus’ life and work on the cross and because in repenting they acknowledge His Lordship, His rightful reign in their lives as King of kings.
  • Because another saved sinner is another true worshiper of God.
  • Because every saved sinner is another one rescued from the control of the evil one.

This second of the trilogy of lost-found parables is not the climax, the lost son is.  But there again, one of the major themes is the joy of the Father in having His son back with Him, running to meet his son, embracing & kissing him, quick forgiveness, throwing a party and calling others to join in with the Father’s joy.

God dances, delights in every single person who comes to repentance.  And therefore we know how to make God exceedingly happy while simultaneously transforming people’s lives here on earth and forever into eternity.  When we share the Gospel with people and they believe and repent – we make God happy and we bless people forever and ever.

Let’s make God happy and truly bless those all around us!

The Problem of pain 

Posted on Updated on

pain-emotion

We live in an age of incredible medical knowledge and technology.  Just the other day I myself needed a diagnosis for something and had multiple blood tests, ultrasound, echocardiography and computerized tomography all to give the doctors an understanding of what was going on inside of me.  I am so grateful to all that technology and medical knowledge and skill…

But then I read a passage like Luke 13:10-17 about the woman who could not stand up straight for 18yrs and the bible’s assessment of the source of the physical problem was not medical at all!

Luke the author was a medical doctor writing this gospel from eye witness accounts and he records the source of this woman’s pain and suffering over all these years not as some medical condition but as a result of a spiritual condition or influence.

Jesus, seeing her one day while teaching in the Synagogue heals her with a simple command declaring freedom for her from her infirmity and she is instantly healed, and she stands up straight there and then!

No operations, no physio rehab just freedom of movement and absence of pain.  Unsurprisingly, she is elated and glorifies God for this remarkable miraculous healing.

You could reply, but medicine in that era was unsophisticated and intertwined with the prevailing worldview of the day and so unknown conditions could have been attributed to spiritual forces but simply because of the deficit in medical knowledge when compared to today…

However, in vs16 Jesus is recorded by Luke as giving His perspective on what was the source of her problem.

“And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?”

Jesus makes it plain in making his argument with the synagogue ruler that the source of her pain and suffering had been bondage from satan, a demonic oppression sin her life.

The source of pain and suffering are not merely medical.  The source of pain can be physical, psychosomatic or spiritual or a mixture of these, and it will not always be easy to discern what’s happening.

In our modern era of incredible medicine technology and knowledge the source we are most likely to miss entirely is the spiritual one which the Scriptures indicate was the source of this woman’s suffering.

May I, may we have the discernment of Jesus to know how to help people in pain and suffering, not ignoring sources of pain merely because of our culture’s prevailing world view and so not praying as we ought to some times.

The good news is, regardless of the source of our pain or the pain of others, Jesus has authority in all realms, the physical, the mental and the spiritual!  So let’s thank God for medical technology and let’s pray with faith in the name of Jesus.

Lord?

Posted on Updated on


Who is following who?  Who serves who?  Our consumer culture is impacting our discipleship, our followership of Jesus…

You see, consumer’s are those who acquire goods and services for the sake of fulfilling their own needs, desires and objectives.  Like you I consume everyday, making choices based on a grid of that which suits my needs or my families needs best…

I just experienced this replacing a kitchen appliance for our family.  As the consumer I mulled over what I was willing to give in exchange for what benefit we will receive from the exchange.  We bought one item, but then stood on our consumer rights taking it back the next day as we changed our minds again..!

Consumer’s have rights, they get to choose, they get to be served, get to be right in some stores even, they get to take back what doesn’t suit their needs.
Sadly however, these same attitudes these lines of thinking easily slip into our faith, into our followership of Jesus and into our view of His church and what it is there for!

And yet Jesus said;

“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? ” (Luke 6:46)

One of my spiritual father’s, Simon Pettit, used to say; “you can’t say ‘no, Lord'”!  Jesus is saying the same here.  It is incompatible to call Jesus Lord (which means master) and yet disregard His commands, desires and instructions.

‘But isn’t our following Jesus all about love?  What’s all this about commands and obedience then?’ – some might be thinking.  And yet, we know that Jesus defined loving Him as obeying Him (John 14:15).

There are two things that matter in this regard; firstly it matters to at we do obey our Lord and secondly, it matter why we obey Him.  Tim Keller contrasts the Gospel and religion when he says;

‘I obey therefore I am accepted by God’ equals religion but ‘I am accepted by God because of Jesus, therefore I obey’ equals the Gospel.

When it comes to our faith, we are not consumers – we are beloved servants, sons and daughters of the most High God accepted by His glorious grace because of the finished work of the Son, Jesus on the cross for us.

But, that free grace doesn’t turn us into consumers but rather into grateful obedient sons and daughters who respond to this lavish love and grace by living to please Him who died for us, living out lives of obedience to Him because of the love in our hearts for Him who loved us first.

We are on shaky ground if we have slipped into thinking along the consumerist lines of; “what can the church do for me” or “is this church meeting MY needs/desires.

This is Jesus’ church, it’s His bride whom He is preparing and through whom He will fulfill His plans and purposes and in whom He will glory in that Great Day to come and in whom He will be glorified!

If Luke were recording the eyewitness account of this moment with Jesus today, he might have heard,

“Why do you call me Lord, Lord and yet expect to be served rather than serve me, serve my purposes in and through the church that bear’s my name?”

Or maybe; “Why do you call me Lord, Lord and yet you live in perpetual sexual sin and immorality, as if I didn’t care?”

In this age of consumers, may we be those who live out lives of radical obedience and radical servanthood inspired by verses like 2 Corinthians 5:15;

“He (Jesus) died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.”

Full…

Posted on Updated on

overflow

full (fʊl/), adjective
containing or holding as much or as many as possible; having no empty space.

And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness (Luke 4:1)

My eye is drawn to this phrase ‘Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit’ in Luke 4:1. This sentence is translated in the same way in 7 of the 8 translations I looked at. So the underlying meaning is clear, but what does it tell me about Jesus and what does it mean for us for me today?

Matthew and Mark use the same word translated in Greek to describe the measure of leftover bread after Jesus fed the thousands and they collected the excess. Luke uses the same word to describe the man covered totally by leprosy. John uses the same word when he describes Jesus and tells us about the measure of total grace and truth Jesus possessed. Luke later in his account uses the same word to describe how the early church were instructed by the Apostles to look for men ‘full of the Spirit and of wisdom’ and uses it to also describe the measure of Stephen’s faith and of Tabitha’s good works and mercy gift.

Today the word means, to contain as much as is possible and it’s safe to say that the same meaning is apparent in it’s original context.

From Luke and the other eye witness accounts, we know that as Jesus was coming up out of the water at His baptism, the Holy Spirit came upon Jesus. Now we read about the measure or the result of that anointing, that coming upon by the Spirit, in the man Jesus. He was full of the Holy Spirit.

Before continuing the narrative, Luke wants to tell us something descriptive about Jesus. It is meant to help us understand who He was and what He was like and how or by what power He was acting. Luke describes Jesus as full of the Spirit, overflowing in the Spirit like the baskets of bread, covered with the Spirit like the man who had leprosy all over – Jesus was filled to capacity by the Holy Spirit.

This is a key description of Jesus for Luke who later explains the source of Jesus’ ministry power in the following way;

“you yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him” (Acts 10:37-38)

For Luke then, there is an intimate connection between Jesus’ acts of power and His being full of or anointed by God with the Holy Spirit. The source of Jesus’ being guided into the desert and having power to resist the temptation of the devil, the source of Jesus’ ministry effectiveness was His being ‘full of the Holy Spirit’.

It is vital that we see that this being ‘full of Holy Spirit’ as an attribute of Jesus’ humanity, not His deity. Like Luke’s description of Jesus here, Elizabeth, the first deacons, Stephen & Tabitha are all described in the same way by Luke as Jesus is being described here. None of these other people were divine but rather human in every way, just like you and I. And yet they too were described as being filled or full of the Holy Spirit too!

This means that being filled/full of the Holy Spirit is a possibility for us a believers too.

More than that is a necessity that we be full of the Holy Spirit, which is why Jesus told the disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit before they embarked on fulfilling His great commandment and great commission (see Luke 24:49 & Acts 1:1-8) and why Paul commanded the Ephesian believers to “be filled with the Spirit” in light of the evil days in which we live out our followership of Jesus.

Luke describes Jesus as full of the Spirit, Paul exhorts us to be filled (crammed to the full – literal meaning of the word he used). Some questions arise; ‘Is this fullness automatic?’ ‘If it is possible/necessary to be full of the Holy Spirit, then is it possible to not be full?’ ‘How can I/we be filled/full of the Holy Spirit?’ and ‘What caused Luke to describe Jesus in this way, what did he observe in Jesus that resulted in this description?’

Luke’s description of Jesus as full of the Holy Spirit would have been superfluous and just literary padding if it was not necessary, if it were not distinguishing Jesus’ state from other possible states (like not being full of the Spirit).

Paul’s commandment for us to be “filled with the Holy Spirit” would be non-sensical if it were not possible for one to be in a state of ‘not-being-full-of-the-Holy-Spirit’, and it would be a non-sensical command if it were not possible to in fact be filled with the Holy Spirit, like Jesus was!

Much more could be written, but for today my prayer is simply; “Father, fill me to the full with the Holy Spirit, anoint me as You anointed Your Son. Amen.”