Tag: matthew

Jerusalem will be destroyed

Jerusalem will be destroyed

Study of Luke 21:20-24

The passage prior to this one is a prediction of the end of time and warns us, as Christians, to expect conflict and harm from others. This passage that follows is yet another prediction of times to come but where the previous one ends by telling us faith will save us, this one seems to end as darkly as it begins.

  1. What is different about the way in which Jesus talks about the destruction of Jerusalem here versus in Matthew 24:15-22 and Mark 13:14-20?
  2. At the end of this passage the statement “until the times of the Gentiles” is given – what does this mean?
  3. How do these prophecies of Jesus reinforce your faith in Him?
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.

The Family Tree

The Family Tree

Luke 3:23-38

Genealogies, family trees, names, names and more names. I have always struggled with the parts of the bible where a chapter is just a list of names and doesn’t seem to contain any life application for us today. This one, however, is different. That is not to say that other genealogies in the bible do not contain anything useful (because they do when you dig deeper), but this one is special because it shows us how many seemingly unimportant people, were used by God and eventually became part of the family of His son, Jesus.

One of the most interesting observations I noticed whilst reading this passage was in the last line of the family tree, the very first person in Jesus’ ancestry, Adam. We just know him as Adam, but in this text, he is described as ‘son of God’. When we hear the words, Son of God, we think of Jesus, but physically, we can assume that Adam is more God than Jesus, although as we don’t know where the other half of His DNA came from, this can only be an assumption!

I guess Adam had to be included in this, being the first human, he got a free pass into this family tree but Luke/ God didn’t have to include it here. I love watching ancestry programmes such as ‘Who do you think you are?’ in which celebrities trace back along their family tree and discover members of the family they never existed! Sometimes, these people are royalty, sometimes, simple bakers or weavers, but occasionally, there will be one family member who is a criminal, and the celebrities show shame when they realise they are related to this person. I don’t think there are many people that millions people can fairly blame for making their lives difficult, but Adam is certainly one of them. He and Eve caused us to be separated from God, they brought age expectancy down, caused us pain when child bearing and made it impossible for us to ever see the garden as beautiful as they did! Yet, despite all this, Adam is not only included in the Jesus’ family tree in the book of Luke, but he is referred to as the son of God – no shame or resentment at all!

It would be reasonable to allow one ‘tainted’ character in the family history, but God uses more than just a tempted man to lead up to the birth of Jesus. We don’t know for sure why, but there are two genealogies for Jesus – one in Luke and the other in Matthew. It is Matthew’s version which includes some other questionable individuals. Rahab was a prostitute, David was an adulterer, and there were many others caught up in some dodgy situations, but God still used them to bring about the birth of His Son. He could have chosen anyone. Perhaps a royal family who could give Jesus the upbringing He deserves as King of Kings, but instead He was placed in the care of a humble, hard working, regular family. Why? We will never know exactly why these people were chosen to be participants in this event, but one thing we do know is no one is beyond God’s use, and that means even we can be used by God in incredible ways. If He wants us to, we will do things bigger than we could ever hope or imagine.

What a comfort it is that no one is beyond’s plans and purpose. God is not done with you yet, no matter what you have done or how old you are. He has great things lined up for you. Are you willing to jump in, no matter what that entails?

The Reason for the Season

The Reason for the Season

We know the Christmas story so well as a result of the Christmas films and Nativity plays we watch but there is so much we don’t know. Despite it being one of the most important stories we have, only two of the 4 gospel writers include Jesus’ birth in their books, Luke and Matthew. As we can see here, even then, neither of them go into a lot of detail about the birth itself:

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.’Luke 2:1-7

’18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. 20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.’Matthew 1:18-25

Behind all the magic of the Christmas story is a historical event that really happened to a young couple, shamed by society for an unbelievable virgin pregnancy, who travelled for miles by donkey whilst heavily pregnant, slept in a stable and gave birth to the Son of God there with the threat of a jealous King trying to kill their special baby boy. Whilst we get caught up in the beautiful, fun, incredible aspects of the birth of Jesus, Mary and Joseph balanced that with all the real, difficult parts of this time in their lives. It is likely Luke didn’t bother including these details because the people of the time would have understood the background context, or maybe because those details distract from the point of the story. That is, the birth of Jesus, God in human form, born to a young girl who lived a normal life with her fiance, a humble carpenter, who took her to Bethlehem, as was required, to be counted in the census, where Mary gives birth and puts her baby in a manger.

This is the reason for the story so why add any frills? Anything beyond these facts is unnecessary distraction to it. Jesus is the reason for the season and let us always remember that. We can enjoy all the decorations, food, presents and other festivities that come in December but let us make sure never to forget what, or rather, who, it’s all about – Jesus.

Preparations

Preparations

When this subject first came to my mind I didn’t feel I could blog about it because in the Christian calendar, we often associate preparation with the end of the world and Jesus coming back again, not Christmas. But with major Christmas adverts already on the TV, light switch ons taking place around the country, Christmas food in the shops, Christmas songs starting to squeeze onto the radio, we cannot deny that Christmas is on the way and with it, all the busyness and preparations it brings.

In my household, Christmas food, music, decorations and movies (other than the cheesy Hallmark movies on TV on a lazy Saturday evening), aren’t allowed until 1st December. That doesn’t mean there is nothing Christmassy going on behind the scenes though throughout these weeks leading up to then. My family are preparing the mixture for the Christmas cake, looking at where to get our Christmas tree, organising which local events to attend, budgeting for presents, designing cards and working out when we can visit family.

Besides Christmas, I am in a time of preparation right now in my personal life and with regards to YouBelong. At the end of this month, I leave my office job to focus on YouBelong and improving my health. It’s exciting but there’s so much I want and need to do that it has become a bit overwhelming.

I mentioned at the start then when I think of preparation from a Christian perspective, my brain automatically goes to Jesus second coming. But Lent is also a time of preparation. Traditionally, Christians use up perishables such as eggs, milk and butter, ready to fast for 40 days. Fasting is used by many Christians, and people of other religions too, as a way to focus on God in the days, weeks or months leading up to a big event or moment so as we can pray to Him about a particular thing with an element of sacrifice and without distraction.

After all that has happened in 2019, all the encouragement, affirmations and prayer, I feel more strongly than ever that I am making the right choices around leaving work and using my time to do YouBelong, despite it not being a financially secure, simple option. But as I head into this time of preparation, God feels far away and silent. This brings doubt to my mind. Am I doing the thing God wants me to do or is it what I want to do? Is that why God isn’t talking to me? If God isn’t making it very clear that He is with me in this, is it right to be plowing ahead?

For a long time, this has concerned me but someone very important spent 40 days in the desert, the same person who we fast for, and it was in this time that God was silent. Jesus was alone. He was challenged and faced conflict, doubt and extreme hunger and thirst but still God didn’t show up. But at the last moment, when Jesus pointed to God the Father saying, ” Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only. ” At that point, God sent His angels to tend to Jesus and after that, He came back into the towns and villages and the miracles and wonders of Jesus started flowing bountifully!

My plans haven’t worked out, but God’s have. When I sit down to take steps forward, doing careful planning and trying to do the right thing, I don’t get anywhere. But when I sit back, and allow God to take control, He brings the right people to me at just the right time and shows me where to go next and gives me glimpses of what the future will be.

Sitting back and doing nothing over the Christmas period might mean we go without Christmas dinner, our family don’t get presents and the house doesn’t get decorated but in our lives, preparation can be just as, if not more, successful, when we sit back and wait on God to do His thing. If you are heading into a busy time in your life, or perhaps you feel like God is far away, maybe He is preparing you right now for something big and you need to take some time out to be with Him in the silence. Maybe try fasting – it doesn’t have to be food. Giving something up like watching TV in the evening, going on social media etc. are all things we can give up and that when we think of them, we can instead pray to God and listen for His direction without distraction.

There is more to think about, and some action points from Joyce Meyer here if you want to dig deeper into this topic. And if you are going through a time of preparation, I would love to hear from you so we can travel down this road together.

Peace in the Storm

Peace in the Storm

As some of you will know, I have been very absent from social media as a result of illness. When I first became unwell on Thursday, I didn’t think much of it as I often have Thursday reserved as a rest (which often turns into a crash) day but this one was worse than it has been in a while. As the day went on, I felt worse instead of better as I would expect to do so. I work in the office doing my 9-5 job on Wednesdays and Fridays so needed to be ready for that but as Thursday night came and I hadn’t left my bed and felt too nauseous to eat and too dizzy to stand and too exhausted to even make sense of basic words on social media, I knew something wasn’t right. I was aware that a bug was going round but I didn’t really have regular symptoms in the way I would expect. I felt awful.

If this was a stomach bug, I figured I would have had these symptoms before the rest of it and if it was the flu, I would have more of the cold symptoms which I did not have. In desperation, I cried out for relief from it all but mostly, my mind was focused on being afraid. Terrifed that this would be more than just a virus which would go away in a few days but instead a new normal. My new way of life due to over exerting my body. If this was the case, it would mean that I would be unable to work to pay the bills or spend time on YouBelong or engage in fun activities such as spending time with friends and family.

I felt like I was caught up in a storm. Rains that brought pain, wind that brought dizziness, fog that brought exhaustion and waves that broughht nausea and sickness. This analogy rolled around my mind as I lay in bed but still the connection didn’t come – until now:

‘Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”’ – Matthew 8:23-27

When the wind, fog, rain and waves ecumulated into a massive storm around the boat the disciples were in, they didn’t hesitate to wake Jesus. They knew He had the power to calm it and calm it He did. I did cry out in desperation for it all to stop but mostly out of frustration. I for sure never cried out that Jesus would bring peace to my storm. I wonder what might have happened if I did?

Peace is something that Jesus promises us – ‘I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.’ – John 16:33, but did you know that peace is a fruit of the Spirit. It is not something we just have or get, but something we grow and work towards. Often, this happens by enduring our own storms and asking God to work in us in those situations to help us rest peacefully in Him. If we do that, He promises to give us the peace that we need.

What area of your life do you most need peace right now? Ask God to bring peace into the situation and think of ways in which you might be able to action that peace. If, like me, your storm is a sickness, pray for peace and then take the opportunity to sit or lay quietly and rest in God’s peace and rest for you. If it is a rocky relationship, ask God for peace and perhaps send that person a nice text or a gift to help mend the breaks. Whatever it is, be a peace grower in your world but remember, you are not alone – God is always with you.