Tag: christmas

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?

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?
Is it Easter or Christmas?

Is it Easter or Christmas?

‘While everyone was wondering about all that Jesus did, He said to His followers, “Don’t forget what I tell you now: The Son of Man will be handed over to people.” But the followers did not understand what this meant; the meaning was hidden from them so they could not understand. But they were afraid to ask Jesus about it.’ – Luke 9:43b-45

I am frequently puzzled by the contrast of all the wondrous things I read and hear about Jesus doing, both in the bible and in the world today, and the bad things and the seemingly, unanswered prayers. This must have been how the disciples felt too. They had seen and heard the amazing things that Jesus was doing, but they were held back by their doubts and by their confusion around the things He was saying with regards to His future, and what that meant for them.

I am very curious, and am known to ask more questions than the average 4 year old in a day (my parent are thankful for Alexa for this reason!). I struggle with the not-knowing but God is a God of mystery. Sometimes, because it’s best for us not to understand, sometimes, He uses the mystery to grow our faith, sometimes, we just have to wait and sometimes, it’s too big and complicated for us to understand.

Although we can feel confused and alone in working out what is happening around us, God hasn’t abandoned us, expecting us to struggle with our questions alone. Jesus knew the disciples wouldn’t fully be able to grasp what was about to happen, but He kept giving them clues along the way. To us, these clues can sound really obvious, but that’s only because of what we know. If the disciples had retrospect, I am sure they would understand it too, but that’s not how it works.

Sometimes I hear or read something, and it helps me make sense of a particular situation, or come to terms with not knowing why I can’t find the answer. I believe that this is where God is getting involved by sending clues my way. It’s down to me to accept that, just like the disciples, I might not understand right now but maybe one day, I will. Once Jesus rose from the dead and showed Himself to them, the disciples understood what had happened, but they had to wait for that day to come around.

When he was writing this book, Luke included some of the words that Jesus spoke to His disciples prior to His death and resurrection. These must have recalled by individuals after the event so they could be written down for us to read. I can just imagine Peter turning to Luke and saying, “Oh yeah, there was that time He said He was going to die and come back again, but at the time, I had no idea what He was going on about! Oops.”

It’s okay to be confused by everything that is happening – the good and the bad, and its okay to not know the answers. If you need to know more, ask God, and He will help you make sense of the things you need to know, and settle your mind on things you don’t need to know, at least for the time being. Maybe one day, like the disciples, you will look back and it will all make sense.

Family vs Followers

Family vs Followers

In Luke 8:21, we find Jesus surrounded by a crowd of people, desperate to see or speak to Him, or perhaps to ask for a miracle. Someone, presumably at the back of the crowd, shouts out to Jesus that His mother and brothers were outside waiting to see Him. I hope Mary didn’t hear Him because His response didn’t come across so lovingly:

‘Jesus answered them, “My mother and my brothers are those who listen to God’s teaching and obey it!”

We know Jesus loved and respected His family, and we have been commanded to do the same (see the 10 commandments as one example) so I don’t think these words meant what it sounds like they do to us today. To me, it sounds like Jesus is either uninterested in seeing them or does not feel they are good enough to be with Him. I don’t believe either of these to be true.

  1. What do you think Jesus did mean when He said these words?
  2. How do you think the crowd, Mary and Jesus’ brothers would have understood what Jesus said?
  3. What do Jesus words mean for us ‘who listen to God’s teaching and obey it’ today? Who does that make us?
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.