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True Giving

True Giving

Luke 21:1-4

As my siblings and I have grown up, we have been able to work and earn our own money. This is lovely as it means I get to bless, thank and honour my siblings and parents (and now niece and nephews too), but there is also a pressure that comes with that – the pressure to buy a really good present for each of them! This doesn’t come from an external pressure, but from within me. We often say, “It’s the thought that counts” but deep down I still worry that my present won’t be as good as the one I am given by my parents or that my sister gives to my brother. I know that I have done my best and given them a present worth the amount I can afford but it still upsets me if I cannot afford to give a present of a ‘good’ amount.

In this passage in Luke 20:1-4, Jesus was at the temple and saw rich people putting lots of money into the money box, maybe giving 10-20% of their income to God. Then, a poor woman came and put all the coins she had left into the money box. She gave 100% of what she had. Although the amount was less, relatively, it was much more and would have affected her more than the 10% the rich people were putting in. It is likely that they would not have noticed that money going out of their pockets, but the poor woman may not have been able to buy food that day because she had given all her money to God.

This reminds me that it isn’t what I give at Christmas, or the rest of the year round, that matters, but that it is sacrificial – that is what makes it special, if not to people, then it certainly does to God. So don’t worry if the presents you give don’t seem up to scratch, or if the people you give them to don’t seem grateful, don’t worry about it. God saw and He knows what you have done in that sacrifice and will bless you for it!

The Sadducees try to trick Jesus

The Sadducees try to trick Jesus

Luke 20:27-40

As a young child, my faith was so strong that almost nothing in this world was strong enough to break me away from God. I felt God physically next to me for many years so never felt alone. As I have grown up, that feeling of a physical presence of God has disappeared, not because my faith has gone, but it has changed, as have I, and the the things I worry about have changed too.

In Luke 20:27-40, Jesus is faced with a tricky question about marriage and right relationships – if one man marries a woman, but dies, then she marries another man, but he dies, and another but he dies, until she has married 7 men, when she dies, who is her rightful husband? It is a complicated question, but Jesus answers it perfectly!

Marriage is an earthly event. In heaven, we won’t have husbands and wives because in Heaven, we are all children of God and all love and care for one another. I don’t know if that means we won’t be worried about being with our partners or families, or if we just don’t even remember those events, but it seems it will all be irrelevant in Heaven.

When I was younger, Heaven was Heaven. It was a place I was going to when I died where I would be with God and float around with the angels whilst smiling and singing songs of praise and worship to God. Now I am older, my interpretation of Heaven is different. I don’t think I will be floating around on a cloud and bouncing from one to another whilst unicorns gallop past, but maybe it will!? In this passage in Luke 20, Jesus makes Heaven more real, understandable but also confusing. He knows what it is like to love but we won’t love another as husband and wife as we have done on Earth.

It can be hard to grasp this concept because we want to be with our partners forever, that’s why we get married, but remember, the traditional wedding vows say:

”til death do us part’.

Marriage wasn’t ever intended to go on into Heaven. I don’t know whether when we get there, we won’t remember that we got married, we won’t recognise our partners, or we just won’t be worried about being with them because we have everyone else around us to love too. It’s complicated, and far beyond our human brains can imagine. All I know is that Heaven is going to be amazing! Everyone will love one another and there will be no fears, shame or regret. The perfect place! Whether I get to jump around and float on clouds with the unicorns (like my 8 year old self hoped/ believed) or I just get to be with the rest of God’s children in a big, happy family setting, I can’t wait!

How do you imagine Heaven to be and what are you most looking forward to?

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?