Together, we serve to know Christ and to make Christ known for the glory of God

19 February 2018

Luke 21
Psalm 13

All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.

Luke 21:4

Jesus was a keen observer of human nature. On this particular day in the temple, he watched those who came in to bring their offerings. Much like in Luke 18 with the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector, Jesus here compares two kinds of people coming to worship through giving.

The first is the rich. In the Mark 12 account of this event, it says that many rich people “threw in” large amounts. The word “threw” implies it was given haphazardly, carelessly, almost as if it didn’t matter. The choice of verb suggests that had they given sacrificially, they would have taken more care in how they deposited their gifts.

But here the poor widow comes forward and puts in two very small copper coins. The fact that Jesus notices the details of the size and worth of her offering demonstrates that she probably took great care in giving her gift. It was worth a lot to her because it was sacrificially given. Jesus, knowing all things, tells his disciples that she gave out of her poverty. Her offering was not “thrown” into the temple treasury. Her gift was humbly given, not to “earn” her salvation or somehow gain favour with God, but because she loved the Lord. Otherwise Jesus would not have made an example of her.

What is our attitude towards the offering we give towards God’s work? Do we “throw” our money into the offering bag carelessly, as the rich people did? Do we even remember what we give because our offering is submitted via EFT? Are we still giving the same amount monthly as we did three years ago because we haven’t thought about giving more sacrificially?

To Jesus, it was never about the amount of money given, but rather about the heart of the giver. What would Jesus say about our giving? Oh that we would be praised as the widow was!

16 February 2018

Luke 20

20 Keeping a close watch on him, they sent spies, who pretended to be sincere. They hoped to catch Jesus in something he said, so that they might hand him over to the power and authority of the governor. 21 So the spies questioned him: “Teacher, we know that you speak and teach what is right, and that you do not show partiality but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. 22 Is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?

Luke 20:20-22

The world loves to poke holes in Christianity. It loves to prove scripture wrong by pointing out contradictions. The world points fingers at God by asking how a loving God can allow tragedies to happen, especially if good people suffer. In the verses above the teachers of the law and chief priests try and catch Jesus out and find a way to arrest Him. Sarcastically they indicate that Jesus teaches what is right and true in accordance with God’s word. However they are not being truthful as Jesus often spoke against them; highlighting their hypocrisy and sins.

The world today acknowledges Jesus as a good teacher but is not prepared to follow His teaching. Jesus gives a brilliant answer to the Jewish leaders’ question, and as a result the Jewish leaders walk away defeated.

Today Jesus is the answer to the most important question of all – how can we inherit eternal life. Jesus answer back then was that he was “The way, the truth and the life”. What we do with Jesus’ answer to this important question is critical. We can walk away like the Jewish leaders and see Jesus just as a ‘good’ teacher, or we can take Jesus at his word, i.e. that he is the answer to life today and for eternity.

If we take Jesus seriously we will not be swayed by the challenges of the world and we will remain firm in our faith. The way in which we live our lives trusting in the Lord should reflect that Jesus is the only answer. Our daily walk with Jesus should be attractive to a cynical world so that our families, friends and colleagues see the difference that Jesus makes. As we give our lives to God we also will give the world what the world needs.

 

15 February 2018

Luke 19
Proverbs 4

In Proverbs 4 we see the writer encouraging his sons to seek wisdom just as his father taught him. The search for wisdom may even be costly but it is worth it in the end. Interestingly, the wisdom comments made in this chapter are expounded upon in the New Testament. It is in Jesus that we find true wisdom.

Paul says that when we seek God in prayer, the peace of God will guard our hearts and minds in Christ (Philippians 4:7). Paul also encourages us to focus on the prize of heaven (Philippians 3:14). James warns us to tame the tongue and be careful about what we say, indicating that we need God to help us. James closes chapter 3 by commanding us to gain wisdom from heaven.

The wisdom given at the end of Proverbs 4 instructs us to watch the path we walk and to stay on the right path without wavering. Jesus in Matthew 7:13 & 14 says that we need to enter through the narrow gate and follow the narrow path that leads to life.

Proverbs reminds us that we need to seek the Lord and we will find wisdom. God’s wisdom is clearly set out in His Word. The pursuit of God’s wisdom in Scripture may be costly in terms of time; but it is well worth the cost.

Help us Lord to persevere in Your Word and give us the obedience to put into practice what You instruct us to do.

14 February 2018

Luke 18
Psalm 12

14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

Luke 18:14

In the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector Jesus gives us a clear indication of how He views self-righteousness. The Pharisee praised himself before God and set out all his personal achievements and compared himself with others. The tax collector on the other hand came before God and begged for mercy. Jesus then says that it was the tax collector who was justified before God and made righteous.

The Pharisee looked at his achievements and compared himself against others; people who he saw as sinners. He did not come to God to seek God but to tell God how good he was. Instead of comparing himself with Jesus and seeing his own sinfulness; he in effect tells God that he is okay and does not need God’s forgiveness and justification.

The tax collector meanwhile sees that his life is not acceptable to God. He is embarrassed to even look up to God and asks God for mercy because he knows that he is not living as God wants him to. He knows that he does not measure up to God’s standards. He acknowledges that it is God alone on whom he must depend.

Jesus’ teaching is that we need to seek God with humility and an attitude of being poor in spirit. We don’t bring anything in and of ourselves that makes us acceptable to God. Daily we need to consider others better than ourselves and acknowledge our dependence upon God. This is not easy to do as the world tells us to do the opposite; this shows us that we need God’s help and mercy. Walking humbly before God (James 4:10) and others will be a great witness to the world around us.

13 February 2018

Luke 17
Psalm 11

15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16 He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.

Luke 17:15-18

Our response to God’s work in our lives is an indicator of our faith. One would think that all the lepers who were healed would be grateful for their healing and come to thank Jesus. Self-righteously we would respond by thinking that we would act in the same way that the healed Samaritan did.

When we consider our salvation how thankful are we for what God has done in our lives. Our salvation is the greatest act of healing; as it is our souls that are healed forever. Our healing from the curse of sin through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross should lead us to give God all the honour, thanks, and praise every day of our lives. Our thankfulness also implies that our faith is strong – that we live with the assurance that our salvation is secure.

Our thankfulness should be evident in our prayers, the way we live each day; in the words we speak, the acts we do, and the time we spend in communion with the Lord. We should never take our salvation for granted and just move on and live like the rest of the world. Thankfulness takes the focus off ourselves and onto Jesus who died for us. Thankfulness moves us from being selfish to an appreciation for what God has done for us. Thankfulness changes our outlook from being woeful to rejoicing in the goodness of God. Thankfulness is doing what God’s Word tells us to do.

Thank you Jesus.

12 February 2018

Luke 16
Psalm 10

27 “He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, 28 for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’

Luke 16:27-28

The parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man presents a strong warning to non-Christians and a call to Christians to share the gospel. The rich man does not even ask to cross over to Heaven but asks for a brief respite from the pain and torment that he is going through. The rich man cries out that his family at least be warned about the terrible future that awaits them. The rich man’s cry should convict the unsaved hearer, as he is speaking from experience that hell is not a place to spend eternity.

The rich man thinks that if someone who has died goes and warns his family that this would be enough. Jesus response is frightening – even if someone rises from the dead (referring to his resurrection) and gives this warning that this would not be enough.

This desperate picture should galvanise us as Christians to go and warn the world of its eternal damnation. This parable challenges us to go out and be the watchmen (Ezekiel 3:16-19) that God calls us to be. To go out and warn the unsaved that their sin will lead to death, our message though should not be one of bad news, but of good news. The good news that Jesus saves them for a glorious future. The good news that the brief life on earth with all its struggles and heartache mixed with joys and pleasure can be followed by eternity in heaven in a right relationship with their Creator God.

9 February 2018

Luke 15

Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’

And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’

32 ‘But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’

Luke 15:6,9,32

With the water crisis that we are facing, I am reminded with shame of those times when I have wasted and abused the privilege of having more than enough water. That sad, bleak feeling overwhelms us when we don’t have something that we used to have and have become accustomed to, and most probably have taken for granted! We have literally moved from having plenty to very little or nothing!

In today’s reading (v6, 9, 32) we see exactly the opposite: what was once lost has been found and instead of sad, bleak feelings there is much celebrating and rejoicing!

Think about the time in your life before you became a Christian. Do you remember how bleak and sad your life was in comparison to today as a disciple of Jesus Christ? Do you remember the terrible things you did and were involved in and how much pain and suffering it caused you and your loved ones? Do you remember the joy in your heart and the celebration of those around you when you were enabled by the grace of God to cross that invisible line?

Well, this reading today must motivate you to stop and consider the lost-ness of so many people. But it must also make you stop and pray intentionally and earnestly for those who are near and dear to you who do not know how much they need to be saved from this world. Pray for those who are unknown to you and who are ignorant of God and His Son Jesus Christ. Pray for all those who minister God’s Word wherever they are. Pray that perishing souls be saved and the whole Church revived for great rejoicing and celebration to continue on earth and in heaven. Because what was once lost – through our prayers and the faithful work of many – will be found!

For the Glory of God.

8 February 2018

Luke 14
Proverbs 3

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight.

 Proverbs 3:5-6

The Book of Proverbs speaks of the way of wisdom and the way of foolishness:

  • The way of wisdom will lead to life.
  • The way of foolishness will lead to devastation and eventually death.

This passage invites us to follow the way of the LORD. It is a great invitation urging us to trust in God wholeheartedly. To trust means “to lean your whole weight upon” and here we are invited to place our whole weight upon God. We do that by not leaning on our own understanding. Not our knowledge, or speculation, life experience, gifts, or financial wealth.

So we don’t know what 2018 will bring, do we? But we can put the whole weight of our worries upon God because He is bigger than the problems that we face. He is SO superior to “our own understanding”. And that must affect the amount of trust (if we can quantify in human terms) we have in Him.

The Proverb says that the quality of our trust must not be partial and half-hearted.
What would it look like for you to trust God wholeheartedly with your finances?
What would it look like for you to trust God wholeheartedly with your marriage and your many human relationships?
What would it look like for you to trust God wholeheartedly with your faith?

Listen: “in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight”. And the result of trusting God wholeheartedly is that He will make your paths straight. That is a powerful statement!

How have you experienced God’s leading in your life? What does it look like? He will direct you and lead you.

  • He led Abraham out of his country of Ur of the Chaldeans into Canaan.
  • He led the Israelites out of Egypt.
  • He led Nehemiah in the restoration of the walls of Jerusalem.
  • He led the disciples to be His witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth.

God will lead you too, all it takes is trust. Will you trust Him today? Will you use these two verses to inform your prayers for yourself today and will you pray this for everyone who is reading Proverbs 3 today?

7 February 2018

Luke 13
Psalm 9

10 Those who know your name trust in you,
    for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.

Psalm 9:10

In Luke 11 and 12 we see how prayer is an act of faith as is seeking God’s Kingdom an act of faith. Today the Psalmist presents us with another similar concept – trust.

People can know the LORD because He has revealed Himself in no uncertain terms – whether it is through all His wonders or the defeat of all His enemies (vs 1-6). Those who know Him are assured of many great and wonderful blessings. The LORD reigns forever. He rules justly. And the LORD’s just rule is His people’s security, especially for those who are oppressed, troubled, needy, and afflicted.

What does that mean for us today then? Well, people can know the LORD because of what He has done for us in Jesus Christ. And because of what Christ has done for us, we can trust Him.

The Bible is not removed from the reality of the suffering in the world that we live in. God’s word deals with it! The reality of life is that there are people who are terribly oppressed, many are troubled and needy and afflicted! However, God’s word speaks to all these trials and difficulties.

The LORD Himself is a refuge, a hiding place, a shelter. In Him, we are utterly secured. We are never forgotten by God even though it seems like it sometimes. Our hope in Him and the security that He brings will never perish because it is an eternal hope. As the Bible deals with the reality of pain and suffering and a host of troubles it – at the same time – offers us a solution. The only real solution is this: “know Him” (vs 10) and “seek Him” (vs 10).

Pray for help to grow deep in your knowledge of Him so that the trouble of life doesn’t surprise you. And pray for help to single-mindedly seek Him and His Kingdom.

6 February 2018

Luke 12
Psalm 8

22 Then he said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, don’t worry about your life, what you will eat; or about the body, what you will wear. 23 For life is more than food and the body more than clothing. 24 Consider the ravens: They don’t sow or reap; they don’t have a storeroom or a barn; yet God feeds them. Aren’t you worth much more than the birds? 25 Can any of you add one moment to his life-span by worrying? 26 If then you’re not able to do even a little thing, why worry about the rest?

27 “Consider how the wildflowers grow: They don’t labor or spin thread. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was adorned like one of these. 28 If that’s how God clothes the grass, which is in the field today and is thrown into the furnace tomorrow, how much more will he do for you—you of little faith? 29 Don’t strive for what you should eat and what you should drink, and don’t be anxious. 30 For the Gentile world eagerly seeks all these things, and your Father knows that you need them.

31 “But seek his kingdom, and these things will be provided for you. 32 Don’t be afraid, little flock, because your Father delights to give you the kingdom. 33 Sellyour possessions and give to the poor. Make money-bags for yourselves that won’t grow old, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Luke 12:22-34

Having looked briefly at prayer yesterday, we now look at the opposite – worry.

A survey that was done in 2015 shows that people spend a large portion of their lives worrying. The average adult spends an hour and 50 minutes a day fretting about work, money, their relationships and even their appearance. That amounts to 12 hours and 53 minutes of each week or the equivalent of almost 28 days of each year. And that means a staggering four years and 11 months of the average adult lifetime is spent worrying.

It is into this situation that Jesus speaks to us in Luke 12“Do not worry” He tells His disciples because it is indeed a waste of time! We cannot make any difference at all worrying about our lives, our relationships, what we will eat and drink, whether we will have enough water, or what we will wear. Life, eternal life, is so much more important than these things.

Those of us who are faced with the reality of these troubles, instead of worrying about it, instead of being overwhelmed by anxiety, we need to apply the antidote to worry – prayer! We pray asking God to help us shift our gaze from the troubles of this world towards the Kingdom of God (vs 31). That is: God’s rule, His reign, His sovereign action in the world to redeem and deliver a people and then at a future time to complete the work by renewing His people and the universe fully.

So, we go against the running after the things of this world and instead chase after our eternal treasure of heaven forever.

5 February 2018

Luke 11
Psalm 7

He said to them, “When you pray, say:

“‘Father,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins,
    for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.
And lead us not into temptation.’”

Luke 11:2-4

These three verses present Jesus’ discussion on prayer. A disciple asks Him how to pray and Jesus responds. He assures the disciples that their heavenly Father will hear and respond accordingly.

Jesus’ teaching begins with Luke’s version of the Lord’s Prayer that He teaches His disciples. So it really is the disciples’ prayer. Prayer is thrusting our utter dependence, our complete trust, on a good and gracious Father with whom we, as His children, are in a relationship – a personal relationship.

It is to Him that we pray.

Here Jesus teaches when you pray, not if you pray, meaning that prayer for the Christian disciple is to be non-negotiable. Being in a relationship with someone is to be in regular communication with that person – listening to them and speaking to them. It is no different with God our Father.

Here we have a simple, yet powerful and effective prayer. The Church is the poorer when we forget the simplicity of Jesus’ teaching on prayer. It covers salient prayer points. It is a prayer for:

  • Daily provision
  • Pardon for sins
  • Protection from the enemy

And we are told what the result of praying is further down the passage in verse 10:
When we ask – we will receive.
When we seek – we find.
When we knock –the door will be opened.

Isn’t it just so wonderful that Jesus, knowing our daily needs, tells us not just how to pray, but also what to pray!

May we take hold of this and apply it even today!

2 February 2018

Luke 10

…rejoice that your names are written in heaven.

Luke 10:20

Serving the Lord and His Kingdom purposes is a profound privilege given to those who belong to Jesus. We are caught up in a cosmic and international reality of building God’s Kingdom. This Kingdom is God’s priority into which He is pouring His attention and power, building up the eternal Kingdom over which He will rule forever and dwell with His people. There is no greater privilege than to serve to this end.

It is not only a privilege but a matter of pride. We take pride in what we do for the Lord, from the smallest act of kindness to the greatest act of faith; from the time we give to serve tea to the time we give to teach; from folding church bulletins to feeding the poor and from the mundane to the exciting. Taking pride in what we do for the Lord is not a bad thing, but we must not let it become the ultimate thing. Jesus’ disciples rejoiced in the fact that demons submitted to them, but Jesus corrected their reason for rejoicing. He pointed them to the most important thing, “Rejoice that your names are written in Heaven.” That is, their identity and the place they belong is with God; and because their names have been written by God, this is a permanent reality, for nothing that God writes will ever pass away.

It is easy for us to put our confidence, justification, and joy in the things we do for God. But this is misplaced! Our joy and confidence, our pride and privilege, is that our names are written in Heaven, on nameplates bought by the precious blood of Jesus, securing an eternal home that waits for us.

1 February 2018

Luke 9
Proverbs 2

1 My son, if you accept my words
and store up my commands within you,
turning your ear to wisdom
and applying your heart to understanding –
indeed, if you call out for insight
and cry aloud for understanding,
and if you look for it as for silver
and search for it as for hidden treasure,
then you will understand the fear of the Lord
and find the knowledge of God.

Proverbs 2:1-5

Our longing as human beings is to know and be known, to love and be loved and to find fulfillment and rest. We search high and low for these things, often in the wrong places. Truth is, we search in the wrong place because we think they are found primarily within ourselves and in others. It’s no surprise that we are constantly on a search, hardly ever fulfilled and often disappointed. But there is a search that leads to fulfillment. The Search for God!

In God, we find the knowledge, love and the rest we long for. The question is how do we find this God, the one who will fulfill, will love and will give rest? The answer? He has spoken and He gives wisdom freely. God has not left us blind to grapple in the dark towards Him. He has given us light and a treasure in His very words. It is as we accept the Word, store up the Word within, turn our ear to it, apply it to ourselves and call out for it that God reveals himself to us. This revealing gives us knowledge of Him and a right attitude of reverence and fear for Him. It is a revelation not for judgment, but for a relationship; God revealing Himself to be known and loved; God desiring to love us and know us. This is where the search begins and ends and where fulfillment is found. Not a fulfillment that dwindles, but one that grows as we journey with God.

I thank God that He has given us His Word. I praise Him for his enduring love and compassion. And I hope for eternity with Him, through Christ our Lord.

31 January 2018

Luke 8
Psalm 6

26 They sailed to the region of the Gerasenes, which is across the lake from Galilee. 27 When Jesus stepped ashore, he was met by a demon-possessed man from the town. For a long time this man had not worn clothes or lived in a house, but had lived in the tombs. 28 When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell at his feet, shouting at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, don’t torture me!” 29 For Jesus had commanded the impure spirit to come out of the man. Many times it had seized him, and though he was chained hand and foot and kept under guard, he had broken his chains and had been driven by the demon into solitary places.

30 Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”

“Legion,” he replied, because many demons had gone into him. 31 And they begged Jesus repeatedly not to order them to go into the Abyss.

32 A large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside. The demons begged Jesus to let them go into the pigs, and he gave them permission. 33 When the demons came out of the man, they went into the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.

34 When those tending the pigs saw what had happened, they ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, 35 and the people went out to see what had happened. When they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting at Jesus’ feet, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. 36 Those who had seen it told the people how the demon-possessed man had been cured. 37 Then all the people of the region of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them, because they were overcome with fear. So he got into the boat and left.

38 The man from whom the demons had gone out begged to go with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, 39 “Return home and tell how much God has done for you.” So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him.

40 Now when Jesus returned, a crowd welcomed him, for they were all expecting him. 41 Then a man named Jairus, a synagogue leader, came and fell at Jesus’ feet, pleading with him to come to his house 42 because his only daughter, a girl of about twelve, was dying.

As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him. 43 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her. 44 She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped.

45 “Who touched me?” Jesus asked.

When they all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.”

46 But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.”

47 Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed. 48 Then he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.”

49 While Jesus was still speaking, someone came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. “Your daughter is dead,” he said. “Don’t bother the teacher anymore.”

50 Hearing this, Jesus said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed.”

51 When he arrived at the house of Jairus, he did not let anyone go in with him except Peter, John and James, and the child’s father and mother. 52 Meanwhile, all the people were wailing and mourning for her. “Stop wailing,” Jesus said. “She is not dead but asleep.”

53 They laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. 54 But he took her by the hand and said, “My child, get up!” 55 Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up. Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat. 56 Her parents were astonished, but he ordered them not to tell anyone what had happened.

Luke 8:26-56

What hope do we have as broken people?

Luke 8 presents us with three stories of real people affected by the reality of our sin-affected and sin-infected world. A man possessed and oppressed by spiritual evil, a father desperately watching his daughter die, and a woman bleeding and humiliated for 12 years. It’s easy to gloss over their situations without feeling the weight of their hopelessness. Each of them is in an undignified position, their humanity scarred with brokenness. One living, out of his mind, naked in caves; one certainly ostracised for being unclean; and even the synagogue leader has to swallow his pride and plead for help. Each person has no power in themselves to change their situation and neither do they have anyone else to go to that can help. Disease, death, and evil are having their way being no respecter of man or woman. That is until Jesus does something about it.

If we read too quickly through these accounts we will miss the beautiful pictures of restoration and healing that Jesus brings. Dignity and life restored to the possessed man who now sits at Jesus’ feet, dressed and in his right mind (vs 35), self-respect and life returned to a woman (vs 44), and joy returned to a family whose daughter was dead but is now alive. This is truly what Jesus came to do, the only one able to help us in our need and brokenness.

“Surely he took up our pain
    and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
    stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
    and by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:4-5)

The hope we have in Christ is that he is able to restore our dignity and place us on the path of eternal life, in the hope that one-day all sin and brokenness will be done away with. We may suffer now, but glory awaits. This is the amazing and praise-worthy work of Jesus.

30 January 2018

Luke 7
Psalm 5

36 When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 37 A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. 38 As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.

39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”

40 Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”

“Tell me, teacher,” he said.

41 “Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”

43 Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”

“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.

44 Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”

48 Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

49 The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”

50 Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

Luke 7:36-50

The source of our love for God, and its enemy.

Luke 7:36-50 has a beautiful picture of love, devotion, and humility. A woman labeled a sinner, ignores the etiquette of a religious house. Not only has she entered a house she is not welcome in but she also unashamedly discards her ‘societal dignity’ and openly weeps, washing Jesus’ feet with her tears and anointing Him with expensive perfume. The host, a Pharisee, is horrified! Jesus, on the other hand, is honoured by the woman’s actions. In fact, Jesus points out to the Pharisee that he has been outdone in hospitality and love by this so-called ‘sinner’.

The difference between the woman and the Pharisee couldn’t be starker. She had the right view of herself and Jesus, while he did not. She had a deep love for Jesus, while he could hardly muster a decent welcome of Jesus into his home. At the heart of it, the difference between them is their understanding of their need for forgiveness. The Pharisee did not see any need for Jesus, let alone forgiveness. He was ‘righteous’, according to himself. The woman, on the other hand, knew she was a sinner, in need of forgiveness. She knew that this Jesus was the one who could give it. What fuelled her love for Jesus was the knowledge of the depth of her sin, and the depth of the forgiveness needed. She loved much because she was forgiven much.

The contrast pictured in Luke 7 gives us a diagnostic for ourselves and a way to fuel our love for Jesus. Has my love and service to God become stale and distant? Has my ‘self-righteousness’ caused me to trust in myself, keeping me distant from Jesus, at the other side of the table, rather than at his feet? The enemy of love for God is self-righteousness and self-reliance. But the fuel for our love is a humility, the knowledge of the depth of our sin, and the depth of our need for His forgiveness.

Do you know how much you have been forgiven? Perhaps we need to be reminded of the cross, the depth of the anguish of Christ, who died and who took upon Himself my sin and yours and reminded us of the depth of the love of God. The lengths that God went to shows the depth of our problem of sin, but also the length and width, height and depth of God’s love for us (Ephesians 3).

29 January 2018

Luke 6
Psalm 4

Answer me when I call to you,
    my righteous God.
Give me relief from my distress;
    have mercy on me and hear my prayer.

How long will you people turn my glory into shame?
    How long will you love delusions and seek false gods?
Know that the Lord has set apart his faithful servant for himself;
    the Lord hears when I call to him.

Tremble and do not sin;
    when you are on your beds,
    search your hearts and be silent.
Offer the sacrifices of the righteous
    and trust in the Lord.

Many, Lord, are asking, “Who will bring us prosperity?”
    Let the light of your face shine on us.
Fill my heart with joy
    when their grain and new wine abound.

In peace I will lie down and sleep,
    for you alone, Lord,
    make me dwell in safety.

Psalm 4:1-8

Where do we find comfort and guidance after a rough day, week, month or year?

Usually, we think the answer lies within ourselves, we vent, stew over the situation and scheme the many ways we can solve our problems. Often our problems and difficulties, we think, are rooted in other people; and because relational difficulties are the most complicated and emotive, we think the solution lies in changing people or dealing with them in our way.

The psalmist, David, takes a different avenue, he directs himself and his life to God, (vs1) “be gracious to me and hear my prayer.” He has come to the end of a long day (vs8), having endured disrespect and insults (vs2), which have stirred up anger within (v4). Instead of self-resolve, he finds refuge in the Lord, “Know that the Lord has set apart the faithful for himself; the Lord will hear when I call to him” (vs3) and more than just refuge he finds comfort and the blessing of joy and rest (vs9).

The Lord not only provides comfort but guidance too, “Be angry and do not sin; on your bed, reflect in your heart and be still” (vs4). Jesus says in Luke 6:27-28, “But I say to you who listen: Love your enemies, do what is good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” The truth is, in our natural selves, our response to life’s conflict is to hate and curse or set people straight with our power but in God’s economy, it’s very different. God’s way is love, He will change people, He will help us and He will comfort us.

So, as we come to the end of a rough day, week, or month we find comfort and guidance in the Lord. Psalm 4:8, “I will both lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, Lord, make me live in safety.”

26 January 2018

Luke 5

17 One day Jesus was teaching, and Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there. They had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was with Jesus to heal the sick. 18 Some men came carrying a paralyzed man on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. 19 When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus.

20 When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.”

21 The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, “Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

22 Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, “Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? 23 Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? 24 But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralyzed man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” 25 Immediately he stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on and went home praising God. 26 Everyone was amazed and gave praise to God. They were filled with awe and said, “We have seen remarkable things today.”

In Luke 5, a paralysed man comes through the roof to be lowered right before Jesus – the owner of the house couldn’t have been happy about that! But what Jesus says next is extraordinary, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.” To our ears, Jesus demonstrates a staggering lack of priority and appears politically incorrect? How can He say such a hurtful thing to a paralysed person? Why doesn’t He heal this man? Why does He talk about sin?

We often don’t understand why because we have a small view of sin. Many think of it as just a spot of grown-up naughtiness; not very serious; a bit of fun on the side. But, there’s nothing nice about it.

Jesus shows that sin is this man’s biggest problem; is our biggest problem. Not paralysis but sin! Sin is not just doing naughty things; it is not just lust or laziness or whatever. No, sin is ignoring God in the world He has made. It’s rebelling against Him by living without reference to Him. And, it has consequences. The Bible links sin with death – not just physical death, but eternal death. Sin matters.

The staggering claim Jesus makes is that He has the authority to forgive sin.

You can see the shock from the way the religious leaders react. They don’t mind the paralytic being called a sinner; they know everyone’s a sinner. Their problem is with what Jesus’ words reveal about Him (v21).

That’s the point! As He provides an abundance of fish, as He casts out demons, heals the sick, and as He forgives sins; He acts in God’s world with God’s authority. He acts as the Ruler of God’s world because He is!

And because He is, it gets very personal. Will I recognise Him? Will I recognise that He has authority over my death because He has the authority to forgive my sin or leave it unforgiven?  Will I turn to Him? Will I recognise that He is my Lord (v8) too?

If Jesus is who He shows Himself to be then it is a scandal that we haven’t lived under his authority. But, if we have submitted to Him as our Lord, then the good news is that we too can hear those words: Friend, your sins are forgiven! What good news for sinners; what good news for me!

25 January 2018

Luke 4
Proverbs 1

Luke 4 paints the picture of a very real, very “normal,” Saviour – who can relate to us in our human experiences and to whom we can relate in response.

Jesus’ experiences are our experiences: From the understatement that after eating nothing for forty days, that he was hungry (vs2); to the reality of Him facing the temptation to enjoy worldly success by adopting the world’s ways and personal compromise (vs3-13). Or the sadness of being rejected by your own people, your hometown, because you dare to speak the truth in love to those who don’t really want to hear it (vs14-30); and the pressure of being distracted by those who have their own, often selfish, agenda for your time and talents.

Jesus knows what it is to be human and to experience what we experience on a daily basis.

And yet, He is able to navigate through them in a way we often don’t. Led by the Spirit and in obedience to the Father, Jesus remains true in every situation, amidst temptation, rejection, and distraction – He stays the course without sinning.

He remains true to who He is – the Son of God. He is clear about His identity and lives up to it always. Even though the time is not yet ready for Him to be fully revealed (hence, His habit of keeping the demons from speaking and giving too much away too soon) – He remains true to His identity.

And He remains true to why He came – as the Messiah to bring good news, freedom, recovery, and salvation (vs18-19). He has come to save His people as the promised Messiah (vs41). But there is no shortcut to achieve that end (hence He resists the Devil’s offer); there is no easy way to save (hence He endures hardship and rejection); there is no alternative reason for His coming (hence He refuses to be distracted). No, He will proclaim the good news of salvation at hand and when the time is right, He will become the sacrificial Lamb who brings salvation.

In Luke 4, we meet a Saviour who we can relate to in so many ways; and yet we also meet the Saviour we so desperately need to overcome the temptation, rejection, hardship & distraction that sin places at our door. This is the Saviour for me!

24 January 2018

Luke 3
Psalm 3

23 Now Jesus himself was about thirty years old when he began his ministry. He was the son, so it was thought, of Joseph,
the son of Heli, 24 the son of Matthat,
the son of Levi, the son of Melki,
the son of Jannai, the son of Joseph,
25 the son of Mattathias, the son of Amos,
the son of Nahum, the son of Esli,
the son of Naggai, 26 the son of Maath,
the son of Mattathias, the son of Semein,
the son of Josek, the son of Joda,
27 the son of Joanan, the son of Rhesa,
the son of Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel,
the son of Neri, 28 the son of Melki,
the son of Addi, the son of Cosam,
the son of Elmadam, the son of Er,
29 the son of Joshua, the son of Eliezer,
the son of Jorim, the son of Matthat,
the son of Levi, 30 the son of Simeon,
the son of Judah, the son of Joseph,
the son of Jonam, the son of Eliakim,
31 the son of Melea, the son of Menna,
the son of Mattatha, the son of Nathan,
the son of David, 32 the son of Jesse,
the son of Obed, the son of Boaz,
the son of Salmon, the son of Nahshon,
33 the son of Amminadab, the son of Ram,
the son of Hezron, the son of Perez,
the son of Judah, 34 the son of Jacob,
the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham,
the son of Terah, the son of Nahor,
35 the son of Serug, the son of Reu,
the son of Peleg, the son of Eber,
the son of Shelah, 36 the son of Cainan,
the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem,
the son of Noah, the son of Lamech,
37 the son of Methuselah, the son of Enoch,
the son of Jared, the son of Mahalalel,
the son of Kenan, 38 the son of Enosh,
the son of Seth, the son of Adam,
the son of God.

I love the genealogies in the Bible! Don’t get me wrong, I can’t pronounce half the names and I often don’t have a clue who the person is. But I still really appreciate that the genealogies are there… just like the one on Luke 3. Let me tell you why:

Because the genealogies connect me to history and the past. They put faith, my faith, into a much bigger context. They remind me that I am standing in a strong tradition along with many who have gone ahead of me. I am neither alone nor isolated in my belief. Indeed, my faith is rooted in history. The genealogies remind me that I can trace that historic line; I can verify actual people (& events too) within that history because they have been named – there is substance to my faith and to the Christian tradition.

Because the genealogies remind me that people matter. Here is a list of people who are named – they are known by their generation, by future generations and, more importantly, God knows them. Our faith is not impersonal and anonymous; it is about people who have names & identities. People matter, they are valued and have significance… that’s why the church should be, to quote the line from an old TV sitcom, the place “where everybody knows your name!” And the genealogies don’t just tell me their names, but it connects them together in a personal & intimate relationship – not just in a biological family, but in the family of God.

Because the genealogies remind me that grace abounds. I don’t know all the people on the list, but I recognise some of the names – like the man who got drunk and laid naked on the floor; or the husband who gave his wife away – twice; or the son who stole a birthright through deception; or a brother who sold another into slavery; or a king who committed adultery… to mention but a few! And yet all of these men were used by God in His plans to bring the Saviour into the world. Surely, that can only be a sign of God’s amazing grace to treat us in ways we don’t deserve. So there’s hope for me too – God’s grace to use me in His plans!

And, because the genealogies connect me to God. In Luke 3, I am reminded that if in Jesus by faith, then I am in not just a son of Adam, but I am also a Son of God. The genealogy takes me back to my Creator, the One who made the very first person in His image & likeness and reminds me that if I am with Jesus, I will not just be like that Adam but I will be like the second Adam – the true Son of God; that I too, by faith in Jesus, will be included in a long tradition and a big family of God’s children. For God, who knows my name, is not just my Creator but my Father too.

I can’t pronounce most of the names, I’m often tempted to skip them for the sake of time and expediency… yet I love the genealogies and am always blessed when I take time to pause and read them slowly.

23 January 2018

Luke 2
Psalm 2

Why do the nations conspire
    and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth rise up
    and the rulers band together
    against the Lord and against his anointed, saying,
“Let us break their chains
    and throw off their shackles.”

The One enthroned in heaven laughs;
    the Lord scoffs at them.
He rebukes them in his anger
    and terrifies them in his wrath, saying,
“I have installed my king
    on Zion, my holy mountain.”

I will proclaim the Lord’s decree:

He said to me, “You are my son;
    today I have become your father.
Ask me,
    and I will make the nations your inheritance,
    the ends of the earth your possession.
You will break them with a rod of iron;
    you will dash them to pieces like pottery.”

10 Therefore, you kings, be wise;
    be warned, you rulers of the earth.
11 Serve the Lord with fear
    and celebrate his rule with trembling.
12 Kiss his son, or he will be angry
    and your way will lead to your destruction,
for his wrath can flare up in a moment.
    Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

Psalm 2:1-12

All around us is evidence of a world that has distanced itself from God as Creator & Lord of all. Perceiving dependence on God as wrong, bad and undesirable; they have mistaken independence from Him & His rule as freedom – which they have pursued with all their power & might. Nations, and their people both collectively & individually, have plotted & planned, banded together & boycotted, broken chains & pursued an ever-elusive independence – they have walked away from God.

But, their pursuit of freedom is nothing more than folly! For how can we ever live apart from the One who gives us life & breath; who gives us identity & significance; who gives us purpose & meaning? Who are creatures to dismiss their Creator – as if that’s even an option? It is not just folly; it is laughable! Indeed, God’s response is to laugh and scoff at the futility of such foolish behaviour. But don’t mistake His laughing as Him taking such rejection and rebellion lightly – for laughter gives way to righteous anger and terrifying wrath.

Interestingly though, in His anger & wrath He does not destroy the rebels – they are creatures in His image after all. Instead, He establishes a King on a forever-throne; a beloved Son who will reign and rule over all mankind and who, in time, will determine the eternal destiny of all humanity. A destiny determined by the creature’s – by our – response to this King.

Of course, Psalm 2 points us to Jesus Christ, that forever King – the One before whom every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that He is Lord (Phil 2); the One who has been appointed as Judge through His resurrection from the dead (Acts 17).

Whether we enjoy true freedom or face the consequence of human folly is entirely determined by our response to this King. Those who reject Him will be destroyed – dashed to pieces like pottery; those who take refuge in Him will experience blessing.

Psalm 2 is a powerful warning to our modern world – it is folly to think we can ever live independently from God. True freedom is only ever found & experienced when we realise our complete dependence on Him and take refuge in His King. Then we are free to be all who He created us to be! This is the warning we must proclaim and the promise we must cling to.

22 January 2018

Luke 1
Psalm 1

Blessed is the one
    who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
    or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and who meditates on his law day and night.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
    which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
    whatever they do prospers.

Not so the wicked!
    They are like chaff
    that the wind blows away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
    nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,
    but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.

Psalm 1:1-6

Is it worth it?

Is it worth walking in righteousness? That is, is it worth walking in the way that pleases and honours God in a world that seems to have rejected Him wholesale? Is it worth avoiding the downward spiral caused by bad company (whether walking with them, standing with them or even sitting with them) – especially when it seems they have more fun? Is it worth pursuing the daily disciplines of Bible reading and prayer; developing a life of godliness in a world where there is so much competing for our time and energy? Is it worth it?

Psalm 1 assures us that it most definitely is!

The path of righteousness is the path that leads to blessing – blessed are those on it. They are the ones in right standing and right relationship with the Creator, Redeemer & Judge of the universe.

The path of righteousness is the path that leads to fruitfulness. Like a well-watered and nurtured fruit tree; the righteous produce the fruit in keeping with their standing – whether the fruit of Christian character that overflows from within them or the fruit of Christian conduct as they love their neighbours and serve them in acts of kindness and mercy. They yield fruit season after season. And, although things don’t always go as they had planned (and sometimes not even as they desire), their pursuit of righteousness always prevails – they prosper in it as they are daily conformed to the likeness of Jesus.

The path of righteousness leads to protection – both today and tomorrow. The great assurance for the righteous is that they are God’s and that He watches over them – every step of the way. There is never a time when He is not with them or watching over them to fulfil His plans for them. His watching and protecting them is their ultimate security for eternal life & blessing. It is because He watches over us that we can be assured of eternity – our hope and assurance is in Him and His protection of His righteous people. Unlike the wicked who have nothing to look forward to; we have the assurance that, with God watching over us, we will always arrive at our eternal home!

Is the way of righteousness worth it? It most certainly is. So don’t give up – persevere; don’t be distracted – stay the course. Blessed is the way of the righteous!