Tag: blog

Jesus enters Jerusalem as King

Jesus enters Jerusalem as King

Luke 19:28-40

This is it, there is no denying it now. We are much into the traditional Easter story instead of the Christmas one now. This is where things get less pretty, and more intense, full on and emotional…

Christmas is an exciting, fun time for myself and many others, full of great food, presents, laughter, joy and love. It’s easy to get distracted and forget the reason we are even celebrating is because a baby was born. Not just any baby though, the Son of God!

This passage in Luke 19 reminds us that not only should we be remembering and celebrating the moment Jesus was born, but also the moments after that in which He went into Jerusalem, got arrested and died on a cross, knowing that it was required in order that we might be able to live with Him in eternity.

Death and pain are not things we like to think about at this time of year, but this one was special. He didn’t stay dead, He rose from the dead later on, proving who He was and what He was born to do.

As Jesus enters Jerusalem, His followers shouted out, praising Him for what He had done, and even laying down their coats and leaves to make a path for Him (and the donkey He was on) to ride across. If you know the Easter story, you will know that these cries of Hosanna soon changed to be boos of hate.

It can be easy to love Jesus when things are going well and we are surrounded by happy people and good things but when things in life are challenging, Christmas is over and we go back into the ‘real’ world, are we still celebrating Jesus the King? Do we continue to worship Him when He is no longer a baby? Do we lift our voices or hands and give thanks to Him when the cross feels far too heavy for us and life isn’t all tinsel and bells and glitter?

I wonder how many of the people present on this day in Jerusalem, who seemed committed to worshipping and praising Jesus, continued supporting and loving Him when the crowds had to choose between Him and a murderer? How many of them still saw Him as their Lord and Saviour when He died on the cross? How and why would our God allow His Son to die a death like that? Surely it can’t really be Him!?

When Christmas is done, are you still going to be there beside Jesus when life is rough? Or are you only there for the good parts, the celebration? It’s a challenge for us all to make sure we don’t get life get in the way of recognising Jesus in everything and not giving up on Him when things don’t pan out the way we want.

Rightfully righteous

Rightfully righteous

Luke 18:9-14

I am going to make a confession. I was a boring child. Out of all my siblings and friends I was the boring one because I was a rule keeper. Even now as an adult, I love rules and lists and being organised. The Pharisee in this passage seems to be the same. He didn’t steal, cheat or commit adultery, he prayed, fasted and gave one tenth of his earnings as required. Outwardly, he seemed like the perfect person.

Then we have the tax collector. Known to cheat and lie to people, he recognised his faults and sins and asked God to have mercy on him. When they went home, the Pharisee was kept doing the right thing, but didn’t get right with God, but the tax collector opened up to God about his faults and wrong doings and he was right with God – rightfully righteous.

It can be so easy to get carried away doing the right things and looking like the perfect Christian from the outside. But we cannot be rightfully righteous without accepting our faults and opening up to God, asking for His grace and mercy, just like the tax collector.

No one else can judge this because they can’t see what is going on inside. That is down to you to work out with God, and ask for someone to help you work through it if you need or want to open up and get someone else involved.

The Richman and Lazarus

The Richman and Lazarus

Luke 16:19-31

When I am attempting to learn something new, I have to be physically involved. You could give me pictures or say the instructions step by step. I could even watch you do something and have a video recording of it to watch back, but if I don’t get the opportunity to be hands on, I won’t remember it nor will I be able to confidently carry out a task.

In the story Jesus told about the rich man and Lazarus, it seems the rich man was like me. He had teaching from Moses and the prophets, but he only paid attention and fully understood it when it was too late.

I know some people who take advice from others and put it straight into practice and others who ignore advice from anyone other than themselves. I am somewhere in the middle. I appreciate good advice when I need it, but will need to test it before taking it as solid truth. For example, if someone told me that something was hot, I would often have to hold my hand near it before believing them. – not on it though because I am not a risk taker!

With Lazarus in heaven and the rich man in hell, he suddenly realises that he is wrong but it is too late. Jesus explains that once you are in heaven or hell, you cannot switch over to the other. One belongs to the devil and the other belongs to God – no house shares allowed!

This is difficult to hear as Christians with friends who are not believers, but it is the way things work. Good and evil are separated and there can be no contamination otherwise Heaven could not be the perfect place we know it to be. We need to be sharing the Good News of Jesus with everyone we know and love to ensure they don’t end up in the fires of hell. However, we are lucky that in our time, since Jesus’ death and resurrection, we are given another chance. Judgement day is God’s day for Him to ask us one more time if we believe in Him. Therefore, even if we decide to go against Him all our lives, we have another chance to spend eternity in Heaven.

Our God is a compassionate, loving, gracious, merciful God. He is the God who sent His only Son to earth to die for us – He wouldn’t do that if He didn’t care about us. God doesn’t want us to leave Him and spend eternity away from Him so He will always give us the best chance, but if you have the opportunity, say yes to God now – it will save time later.

Lost sheep, coin and son

Lost sheep, coin and son

Luke 15:1-32

Have you ever lost something or someone you loved? I am a very nostalgic person and love to keep as many items that relate to memories as I possibly can. I also treasure people, especially those that have kept in touch after I become ill so when I lose touch with someone, fall out of a relationship, or lose something special to me, it hits me hard!

In each these 3 parables, there is a lost item or person but the reaction to that is different in 1 than the others. In the first 2, the shepherd and the woman actively search for the sheep and coin, but in the third story, the father waits for his son to return home instead of searching for him.

“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep but loses one of them. Then he will leave the other ninety-nine sheep in the open field and go out and look for the lost sheep until he finds it“. – Luke 15:4

“Suppose a woman has ten silver coins, but loses one. She will light a lamp, sweep the house, and look carefully for the coin until she finds it.” – Luke 15:8

“While the son was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt sorry for his son. So the father ran to him and hugged and kissed him. The son said, ‘Father, I have sinned against God and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’But the father said to his servants, ‘Hurry! Bring the best clothes and put them on him. Also, put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get our fat calf and kill it so we can have a feast and celebrate. My son was dead, but now he is alive again! He was lost, but now he is found!’ So they began to celebrate. – Luke 15:20b-24

The parables of the lost sheep, lost coin and lost son (otherwise known as the prodigal son) are all stories told by Jesus to help the ‘tax collectors and sinners’ to understand His teaching. As I grew up in a Christian family and have never turned away from my faith, I had struggled to relate to these stories and apply them to my life. I am not a tax collector, but I am a sinner, as we all are, so this parable is for me too. Though I want to always be a perfect follower of Jesus, I am still just human so cannot be perfect, therefore, there are days or moments that I choose to do my thing and go my way rather than do the things that God would have me do, just like the prodigal son.

Without God’s grace and mercy, the first time I chose my earthly life over His Heavenly Kingdom would have been the last. Grace and mercy are for all. We can’t buy, we don’t deserve it, but God is a loving, gracious, merciful, forgiving Father, so if we turn back, God will greet us with open arms and welcome us back into His family.

Change your hearts

Change your hearts

Luke 13:1-5

Despite the simplicity of this title, this passage contains a lot to think about! Firstly, Luke tells us about some people who died, some at the hands of Pilate and others when a tower fell and crushed them. He goes on to tell us what Jesus said about these situations:

“Do you think this happened to them because they were more sinful than all others from Galilee? No, I tell you. But unless you change your hearts and lives, you will be destroyed as they were!” – Luke 13:2b-3

The purpose of Jesus bringing up these situations was to explain to the people listening that those who died here had no part in this. They hadn’t done anything wrong or chosen to be in these situations, yet they lost their lives. This is a great comfort to us today that when tragedies occur, it is not always the fault of the people involved, or anyone else for that matter. Hurricanes, tsunamis, volcano eruptions, falling towers, death at the hands of others. In all these cases, the people who die are not to be blamed.

When I first became ill, I was told by many people that I needed to pray more, have more faith of a repent of a sin. They told me it was my fault I was ill, otherwise God would have healed me by now, but that is just not true. Sometimes, these things happen, and there’s nothing we can do about it. Not everything is out of our control though.

Although Jesus made it clear that these people did not die due to their actions, or lack of, the same could happen to us at any moment. No day, hour, minute or second of life is guaranteed and we need to prepare for the day we are not on the earth anymore – that means we need to check out and change our hearts.

Yesterday, we read the parable of the servants who are awaiting their master. They don’t know when he is coming, but they are prepared for his arrival. In the same way, we need to prepare for Jesus’ arrival, even though we don’t know exactly when it will happen.

Take a moment to look at your heart. What parts need some cleaning or removing and what parts need some work doing? What could you do today to help you prepare for the day when your heart will be visible to God in Heaven?

Don’t trust in earthly things

Don’t trust in earthly things

Luke 12:32-34

I think there are two groups of people in the world. One group spend their money as soon as they get it and the other group saves as much money as possible, only spending what is necessary. Which one are you? I am a mixture of the two, but I prioritise saving money over spending it on ‘things’.

As you might have noticed, there is often a thread that goes through a few passages in a row or an entire chapter. In this particular one, the message seems to be about not treasuring earthly possessions above God and heavenly things. Although being good at saving money is generally positive on earth (as long as you aren’t greedy!), saving isn’t looked down so well upon in Heaven.

There is a very well known story that you may be familiar with that represents the importance of putting God first. It is the camel and the needle and it can be found in Luke 18:25:
“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God”.

It is not wrong for us to have money or clothes or earthly things that we love, as long as we are not greedy or selfish and don’t idolise those things. It only becomes a problem when we prioritse those over God. If saving your money becomes more important to you than giving it away to people in need, that is when you might need to reconsider what your faith means to you. As Jesus said, ” Your heart will be where your treasure is.”

I need to check myself to ensure that when I save money, I am not doing so for selfish reasons, but that I am doing so with the progression of God’s kingdom and my future in Heaven in mind.

Jesus talks to the experts of the law

Jesus talks to the experts of the law

Study of Luke 11:45-54

As someone leading an online community of Christians (a Church?), this passage in Luke 11:45-54 spoke to me in a big way! Jesus is forced to converse with a group of experts of the law after one of them said they were insulted by what Jesus had been teaching. Jesus was not often on their side, or in favour of what they were teaching the people.

  1. Why do you think the law experts felt insulted by Jesus?
  2. What were they doing that Jesus didn’t like?
  3. Why were the experts of the law enforcing rules on the people but not keeping them themselves? Were they above them? Unaware of them? Did they not really believe they were required to be kept, but wanted control over the people?
  4. When Jesus said, “You have taken away the key to learning about God’, what does He mean?
  5. The passages ends with, ‘When Jesus left, the teachers of the law and the Pharisees began to give him trouble, asking him questions about many things, trying to catch him saying something wrong.’ Why did the experts of the law want to catch Jesus out?
Planting seeds

Planting seeds

Luke 8:4-15

I think most of you who read this will be familiar with this parable that Luke recounts in chapter 8 but here’s a quick summary just in case:

Jesus told this story to help His audience understand the message He wanted to share. A farmer planted some seeds. Some fell on the roadside and was eaten by birds (these seeds represent the people who hear God’s teaching but the devil takes it away so they cannot believe it), some fell on the rock (these seeds represent the people who hear the message and believe it but when something challenges it, they let their faith go), some fell in the thorny weeds (these seeds represent people who let worries, riches and treasures in their lives affect their ability to do anything with the teaching they hear). The rest of the seed fell on good, fertile soil and grew well (these seeds represent the people who allow the Word of God to change them and are fruitful in their work). Jesus challenges those of us who hear the message to listen to the message and really hear it so it can change us.

I am very familiar with this bible text as I have grown up in church and this was a story often told in Sunday School, but every time I re-read/ hear it, I discover something new about myself and the place I am at in my life and faith at that moment. I have defined myself as a Christian my whole life, and got baptised aged 11, at which time I knew I wanted to give my life to God. At this point in my life, I was like the seed that fell in the fertile soil and grew strong and healthy and was fruitful.

Right now, I don’t see myself in any of these seeds. At this moment in time, I am the seed Jesus didn’t talk about (at least in Luke’s version of the story), the one that got caught up in the wind and travelled far from the Gardner and despite being desperate to grow and be fruitful, lacks the sun and water required to do so. Although I know God is nearby, right now, I don’t feel Him . I think most of us have been in this position in our lives, and the most important thing to remember is that although we might feel alone, we are not – God is there with you. The most important thing is to keep trying to grow so that you can get closer to Him and He will use you.

What seed are you right now? Maybe, like me, you don’t feel that you are like any of the seeds in Jesus’ parable. If that’s the case, what sort of seed would you be? This is a scary thing to talk about as it requires a lot of trust and non-judgement from those you talk to so if you don’t feel comfortable sharing in the comments, that’s fine. Perhaps you could share other times when you have been one of the seeds instead? It might be an encouragement to those who read it to know they are not alone that place.

Chosen?

Chosen?

Luke 7:36-50

Did you know that Christ or Messiah means anointed one? Yes? Well did you know that ironically, unlike Levitical priests, Jesus was not anointed? However, just because He didn’t participate in a ceremony in which oil was poured over Him, like David did before he became King, Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit, the oil of gladness (Psalm 45:6-7) and was chosen.

I don’t feel that my life has had a clear purpose. I have done things I have enjoyed, I have helped others where I could and pushed on doors that seemed to be opening in front of me to see where they led, but I haven’t ever felt that I had one main purpose in life that I should be preparing for. I don’t know what I have been anointed/ chosen for. Maybe that’s because I am still in the training phase of God’s plan for me, and will be given my mission when I am done, or maybe I have missed that anointing along the way in the busyness of life.

In the start of this passage from Luke 7:36-50, Jesus is visiting Simon, a Pharisee. I don’t know if Simon hadn’t had people over before (unlikely) or if he was just a bad host, but he had not greeted Jesus with a kiss or washed His feet, as was the custom at the time. The woman who entered the house afterwards was not to know this, yet she took it upon herself to kiss Jesus’ feet and wash them, not only with water and soap, but with her tears, her hair and an aromatic perfume!

There is some confusion about who the woman is that washes, kisses and pours perfume over Jesus’ feet. Some believe her to be a prostitute in the area, as in Luke’s account, she is described as a ‘sinful woman’, but in Matthew’s version of events, this woman is identified as Mary Magdalene who’s brother, Lazarus, is raised from the dead. Many people presume this woman to be a prostitute due to the wording used in Luke’s writing but ‘sinful’ is very unspecific. I am sinful, you are sinful, we all are sinful. Acknowledging that we don’t know, I am going to imagine in this instance that she is Mary Magdalene. Not because I want it to be her but she isn’t a one off ‘perfume pourer’. Later in the gospel, Mary is identified as the one of first people to see Jesus alive after His resurrection, and that is because she and some other women had taken spices and perfume to the grave. Although her name is not mentioned, it is quite possible that she was also involved in helping prepare Jesus’ body after His death. This process involved using various spices, oils and perfume to preserve the body.

I started out by explaining that though Jesus was chosen and anointed with the Holy Spirit, He was never officially anointed (i.e. with oil like a Priest) physically with oil, perfume or other substances. Looking at what we have read and found out in the last few paragraphs, I can see I was wrong. Jesus was anointed with a substance like a Priest, it just wasn’t done in a formal way by a recognised figure. Instead, it was carried out at the time Jesus was doing miracles and other parts of God’s work and at the moment He started the process of becoming more God like, the moment of His death on the cross.

With this in mind, I can recall a couple of occasions which people have spoken things over me which at the time sounded ridiculous, but that now, make total sense. I had been anointed by a Mary character but because it wasn’t God directly, I didn’t pay much notice.

Are there times in your life that you didn’t feel chosen or anointed at the time, but with the understanding that not all of us are formally anointed into a role or position, now you can see where God used others to anoint you into His plan? Take a short time to reflect on this properly. You never know what you might have missed that could take your life in a totally new, God planned, direction!

Lead us not into temptation…

Lead us not into temptation…

Luke 4:1-13

Are there moments in your life that you feel tempted? I am not tempted easily by others, but I am not good at controlling my own temptations. If there is a bag of sweets by my bed/ chair, I won’t just eat one, I will eat the whole packet… and then feel sick, yet I will still do it again next time.

When I started my chronic illness journey, I was unable to eat or drink due to an oesphageal disease called achalasia. I am 5 years on from my surgery now and thankful for the ability to eat and drink again, but because it is nerve related, the issue is not completely fixed, so my consultant gave me rules to ensure that I got the best, long term results. Oddly, these are the ‘rules’ I am most tempted to break, even though they are put in place to protect and help me.

When Jesus was tempted, He had fasted for more than a month and then was faced with bread and water as a temptation. During the times I haven’t been able to eat for a few days, the things I craved the most are the basics such as bread, pasta, fruit and vegetables. I have experienced extreme hunger and thirst and was tempted every day to eat or drink, leading to pain, nausea and spasms/cramps – not pleasant. Jesus was better at resisting, but he still experienced temptation. He was tempted to turn a stone into bread, to have power and ownership over all the world, and to test God’s power, but everytime, He said no, and the devil lost the battle. Though all these things would have sounded great to Jesus, food, power and control over the Father, none of them would have been right or good at that time. If he had submitted, the devil would have gained control and power over him, and the events that followed would likely have been very different.

My example of temptation is small compared to some of the major temptations that people face, particularly those, which like Jesus’, would affect the lives of other people too, but temptation is temptation, no matter how big, it matters. If we can overcome temptation in small situations, such as saying no to eating that extra sweet which we know we shouldn’t really have, then we will be well practiced when we are tempted to join in gossiping with our friends or giving up time with God to sleep in or watch TV.

Although Jesus won the temptation battle this time, the last line of this passage reads, ‘ After the devil had tempted Jesus in every way, he left him to wait until a better time. ‘ He didn’t leave Jesus forever, the devil left as he wasn’t winning this time, but he planned to come back and I am sure he did.

We can try our absolute hardest not to give in to temptation but you can bet that the devil will be back. The only ways we can prevent him coming back with bigger and better temptations, is to keep avoiding temptation in the small ways and ask God to help us overcome them when they come.

In Matthew’s account of this story, he tells us that when the devil left Jesus, God sent the angels to look after him. When we have spiritual battles, such as those of temptation, and we manage to win the fight, God will be there at the end to comfort and care for us, and repair our armour, ready for the next time. We are not alone. God is always with us, and we can call on Him to help us whenever we need to.