Let the Weak say “I am strong”

Biblical Truth

As Jesus left the house, he was followed by two blind men crying out, "Mercy, Son of David! Mercy on us!" When Jesus got home, the blind men went in with him. Jesus said to them, "Do you really believe I can do this?" They said, "Why, yes, Master!"

  He touched their eyes and said, "Become what you believe." It happened. They saw. Then Jesus became very stern. "Don’t let a soul know how this happened." But they were hardly out the door before they started blabbing it to everyone they met.

  Right after that, as the blind men were leaving, a man who had been struck speechless by an evil spirit was brought to Jesus. As soon as Jesus threw the evil tormenting spirit out, the man talked away just as if he’d been talking all his life. The people were up on their feet applauding: "There’s never been anything like this in Israel!"

  The Pharisees were left sputtering, "Hocus-pocus. It’s nothing but hocus-pocus. He’s probably made a pact with the Devil."

Matthew 9:27-34, The Message Continue reading “Let the Weak say “I am strong””

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Beauty for Brokenness

Biblical Truth

  When Jesus saw his ministry drawing huge crowds, he climbed a hillside. Those who were apprenticed to him, the committed, climbed with him. Arriving at a quiet place, he sat down and taught his climbing companions. This is what he said:

  "You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.

  "You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.

  "You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.

  "You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.

  "You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.

  "You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.

  "You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.

  "You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.

  "Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.

Matthew 5:1-12, The Message

Musical Offering

Ben’s Offering

My mum proudly states that she was declared a heretic. The accusation came at the Anglican Synod, after she claimed that there was biblical evidence that Jesus favoured the poor. I’ll go into those examples another day, but Jesus does call us to care for the poor and needy – and it’s part of why I love the Salvos so much. They are so focussed on working with the needy and forgotten in our society, to make sure they are looked after.

This reading – the Beatitudes – is one that I find incredibly encouraging for all people. I love the way Eugene Peterson has written this passage. When we’re at the end of our rope, where the only hope we have is in God, it’s then that we have completely removed ourselves and allow God to fully control our lives. When we have lost that which we care about most (the NIV translates it as “those who mourn”), it is then that the one who will always care for us is known. When you are not building yourself up, boasting or bragging, but are content with who you are, you will receive “everything that can’t be bought”. Personally, I prefer the NIV translation of the next verse: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” When you desire equity, goodness, honour, integrity, morality and justice as much as food and drink, it is then that we shall see that which we desire.

I could go on, but I think I might save it for a sermon one day. Goal for today: read the Beatitudes, and reflect on which one you might be needing to hear today.

Love Actually

Biblical Truth

  If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, "Jump," and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.

   Love never gives up.
   Love cares more for others than for self.
   Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
   Love doesn’t strut,
   Doesn’t have a swelled head,
   Doesn’t force itself on others,
   Isn’t always "me first,"
   Doesn’t fly off the handle,
   Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
   Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
   Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
   Puts up with anything,
   Trusts God always,
   Always looks for the best,
   Never looks back,
   But keeps going to the end.

  Love never dies. Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit. We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be cancelled.

  When I was an infant at my mother’s breast, I gurgled and cooed like any infant. When I grew up, I left those infant ways for good.

  We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!

  But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.

1 Corinthians 13, The Message Continue reading “Love Actually”

Jesus, Name above all names

Biblical Truth

The birth of Jesus took place like this. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. Before they came to the marriage bed, Joseph discovered she was pregnant. (It was by the Holy Spirit, but he didn’t know that.) Joseph, chagrined but noble, determined to take care of things quietly so Mary would not be disgraced.

While he was trying to figure a way out, he had a dream. God’s angel spoke in the dream: “Joseph, son of David, don’t hesitate to get married. Mary’s pregnancy is Spirit-conceived. God’s Holy Spirit has made her pregnant. She will bring a son to birth, and when she does, you, Joseph, will name him Jesus—’God saves’—because he will save his people from their sins.” This would bring the prophet’s embryonic sermon to full term:

Watch for this—a virgin will get pregnant and bear a son;
They will name him Immanuel (Hebrew for “God is with us”).

Then Joseph woke up. He did exactly what God’s angel commanded in the dream: He married Mary. But he did not consummate the marriage until she had the baby. He named the baby Jesus.

Matthew 1:18-25, The Message Continue reading “Jesus, Name above all names”

Teach me

Biblical Truth

  "Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults— unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It’s easy to see a smudge on your neighbor’s face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, ‘Let me wash your face for you,’ when your own face is distorted by contempt? It’s this whole traveling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor.

  "Don’t be flip with the sacred. Banter and silliness give no honor to God. Don’t reduce holy mysteries to slogans. In trying to be relevant, you’re only being cute and inviting sacrilege.

  "Don’t bargain with God. Be direct. Ask for what you need. This isn’t a cat-and-mouse, hide-and-seek game we’re in. If your child asks for bread, do you trick him with sawdust? If he asks for fish, do you scare him with a live snake on his plate? As bad as you are, you wouldn’t think of such a thing. You’re at least decent to your own children. So don’t you think the God who conceived you in love will be even better?

  "Here is a simple, rule-of-thumb guide for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them. Add up God’s Law and Prophets and this is what you get.  "Don’t look for shortcuts to God. The market is flooded with surefire, easygoing formulas for a successful life that can be practiced in your spare time. Don’t fall for that stuff, even though crowds of people do. The way to life—to God!—is vigorous and requires total attention.

  "Be wary of false preachers who smile a lot, dripping with practiced sincerity. Chances are they are out to rip you off some way or other. Don’t be impressed with charisma; look for character. Who preachers are is the main thing, not what they say. A genuine leader will never exploit your emotions or your pocketbook. These diseased trees with their bad apples are going to be chopped down and burned.

  "Knowing the correct password—saying ‘Master, Master,’ for instance— isn’t going to get you anywhere with me. What is required is serious obedience—doing what my Father wills. I can see it now—at the Final Judgment thousands strutting up to me and saying, ‘Master, we preached the Message, we bashed the demons, our God-sponsored projects had everyone talking.’ And do you know what I am going to say? ‘You missed the boat. All you did was use me to make yourselves important. You don’t impress me one bit. You’re out of here.’

  "These words I speak to you are not incidental additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundational words, words to build a life on. If you work these words into your life, you are like a smart carpenter who built his house on solid rock. Rain poured down, the river flooded, a tornado hit—but nothing moved that house. It was fixed to the rock.

  "But if you just use my words in Bible studies and don’t work them into your life, you are like a stupid carpenter who built his house on the sandy beach. When a storm rolled in and the waves came up, it collapsed like a house of cards."

  When Jesus concluded his address, the crowd burst into applause. They had never heard teaching like this. It was apparent that he was living everything he was saying—quite a contrast to their religion teachers! This was the best teaching they had ever heard.

Matthew 7, The Message Continue reading “Teach me”

Arise, Shine

Biblical Truth

"Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you.
See, darkness covers the earth and think darkness is over the peoples, but the LORD rises upon you and his glory appears over you.
Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.

Isaiah 60:1-3 (NIV) Continue reading “Arise, Shine”

Respect your Mother and Father

Biblical Truth

The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus and saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were “unclean,” that is, unwashed. (The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders. When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles.)

So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with ‘unclean’ hands?”

He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:

” ‘These people honour me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain;
their teachings are but rules taught by men.’

You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.”

And he said to them: “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! For Moses said, ‘Honour your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.’ But you say that if a man says to his father or mother: ‘Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is Corban’ (that is, a gift devoted to God), then you no longer let him do anything for his father or mother. Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.”

Mark 7:1-13 (NIV) Continue reading “Respect your Mother and Father”

O Let the Son of God Enfold you

Biblical Truth

Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.
When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?”
“Yes Lord,” he said, ̶you know that I love you.
Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”
Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?”
He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you."
Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”
The third time he said to hem, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. II till you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”

John 21:12-19

Musical Offering

Ben’s Offering

I’ve heard a few different interpretations of this reading. Both deal with why Jesus asks the same question three times. One suggests that it is balancing out the three times Peter denied Jesus, while the other went on the translation of the word Love – we have one word where as the Greek/Aramaic languages had many different words for Love. But for me, I’m liking the call. When Peter says he loves Jesus, he is told to feed his lambs, take care of his sheep and feed his sheep. When we say that we love God, likewise we are also called to feed the lambs, that is to bring people to Christ (young Christians), to take care of his sheep, that is, to provide those that are already Christians with resources to further their relationship with God, and to feed his sheep – teaching those who call themselves Christians about the wonder of God’s love, because we can never be reminded about it too many times.

This is a wonderful arrangement of the hymn “Spirit Song” – I love this hymn, especially the chorus: “Jesus, O Jesus, Come and fill your Lambs” and this line in the second verse: “O give Him all your tears and sadness Give Him all your years of pain and you’ll enter into life in Jesus’ name.”

The Death Penalty

My mind has been taken up with the issue of the death penalty for the last little while. It has obviously come about as a result of the reports of the death by execution of the 3 “Bali Bombers.” The problem I have been having comes in two parts – what does my Christian faith say about it, and why did the Australian Government wait until after their execution to say that they will push for an international moratorium on the death penalty? Continue reading “The Death Penalty”