Tag: teaching

Who will enter God’s Kingdom?

Who will enter God’s Kingdom?

Study of Luke 18:15-17

In yesterday’s passage, Jesus told the people that those who cause others to sin would be better off drowned due to the consequences. In this passage in Luke 18, we find Jesus telling the disciples not to reject or push away the children because the Kingdom belongs to people who are them.

  1. Why were the people bringing their babies to Jesus? Why did they want Him to touch them?
  2. Why do the disciples try to push the children away from God?
  3. What does it mean to ‘accept the Kingdom of God as a child’?
  4. In what way/s are children examples of how we should be? What traits is Jesus suggesting we lack?
  5. What is the lesson in this passage for us today?

When Jesus comes again

When Jesus comes again

Study of Luke 17:24-37

In this passage found in Luke 17, Jesus is telling His followers of what to expect when He comes back again. We know that they would not have experienced His second coming as we are yet to experience it, but we know that Jesus did not even know when this would be. He did know that we would be reading this though so perhaps it was intended more for those of us who read this in the Bible than for those who wrote it down in the first place.

  1. What signs are mentioned in the passage that will tell us Jesus is coming?
  2. Can you remember/ find another incidence that Jesus or God shone like lightening like He is depicted to do in His second coming?
  3. Why is this time also described like the events surrounding Noah and Lot?
  4. Verse 33 reads, ‘Those who try to keep their lives will lose them. But those who give up their lives will save them.’ What does this mean?
  5. When the people around who heard Jesus say all this they asked Him where it will happen. Jesus answered, “Where there is a dead body, there the vultures will gather.” What does He mean?
You will be rewarded

You will be rewarded

Study of Luke 14:12-14

In this passage, we find Jesus telling yet another parable to the man who He had attended dinner with. You will see when you read the whole chapter, that both the passage before and the one after are both parables and each of them are related to dinners and banquets also. He must have been hungry when He was telling these stories to have had food on brain each time!

  1. Why does Jesus talk use parables of eating and banquets so often in His teaching?
  2. Who was this teaching intended for?
  3. Why does Jesus tell the man to not only invite His rich friends and family but also the poor and crippled, lame and blind to the banquet?
  4. What does Jesus mean when He says, “But you will be repaid when the good people rise from the dead”?
  5. How can we use this parable to help us be more Christ-like in our lives?
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 be like the Pharisees

Don’t be like the Pharisees

Study of Luke 12:1-7

It’s busy. So busy that the crowd are standing on each other’s toes. They have gathered to see and hear Jesus and what does He decide to talk to this very large, eager crowd about? Love? Grace? Forgiveness? Nope. He tells them not the be like the Pharisees, who are hypocrites! Not a nice message to hear – especially if you are a Pharisee!

  1. Why do you think Jesus decided to talk about hypocrisy at this moment? Was it because He knew He could reach lots of people with a lesson important to Him? Maybe it was because He knew there were Pharisees in the crowd who would hear the message too? What do you think?
  2. Why does Jesus tell the people to ‘Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees…’ What does He mean by that?
  3. Jesus starts by talking about hypocrisy, then about fearing the devil and finally, about how much God knows about and cares for us – more than the sparrows. Why do you think Jesus combined these stories in one session?
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?
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?
Jesus teaches and heals

Jesus teaches and heals

Luke 6:17-26

There are lots of accounts in Luke’s gospel of Jesus teaching and healing and casting out demons because these are the things that he saw first hand and heard about from his friends and he knew they would be impacting on those who read the accounts later. We can’t deny that miraculous healings are pretty incredible and great reading material!

As well as the healings and demon removal service Jesus provides, this chapter goes on to tell us about Jesus’ teachings on the Kingdom of heaven. He tells us that the Kingdom of heaven is for the poor, hungry, sad and those who are hated and insulted by others because they follow Jesus. All of these people will be blessed and be rewarded greatly in heaven and so they should be full of joy for what is to come to them.

Such lovely words. So comforting and easy to listen to. Of course, He doesn’t stop there though. He goes on to say that those who are rich and greedy, and who laugh at the followers of Jesus will be the ones to be sad and cry when everyone else is blessed. He finishes by explaining that those who receive only compliments on the earth should be worried because if you are a faithful follower of God, like our ancestors many years ago, we would be facing conflict from them and our lives would not be easy (obviously this does not mean we should not be kind and compliment one another, but rather to expect negativity if we are doing our job as Christians, sharing about Jesus, properly!).

Jesus does not want us to be comfortable. He wants us to risk a recognised, powerful position in society, and a comfortable life, to spread the Good News with those around us and love and obey God.

That is a challenge if ever I heard one! Hopefully, if we work together, it is achievable. We may mess up and not always acknowledge Jesus when we should, but if we recognise it and repent for doing so, we can start from scratch and try harder the next time to give our lives and the glory to God all the time – even when we’re embarrassed or doubting.

Confusing parables?!

Confusing parables?!

Luke 5:33-39

Although this passage is displayed in the bible as 1 section, it consists of 3 parables, told by Jesus in quick succession. Parables, as you may know, were stories told by Jesus to help make an inconceivable concept more imaginable in the minds of the people at the time. Jesus used common, day to day people, items and events to help make the stories relevant and easy to understand, but if they were clear to the people of the time, sometimes, that means they are not so straight forward for us today, as we are outside of that time, place, and cultural and societal set up.

The first story in this passage refers to the friends of a bridegroom who are being asked to fast but won’t until the bridegroom has gone. There is no more explanation than that which is maybe why we are given the other 2 parables to help us understand each of the other ones in a context.

The second parable is about an old coat which is patched up with part of a new coat, leaving the new coat damaged and incomplete and the old coat, looking odd because the patch doesn’t match the new coat style/ colour/ pattern.

The final parable here is about wine being poured into wineskins. Jesus tells the people that it would be wrong to pour new wine into old skins because they would break and the wine would leak out and be wasted. He goes on to say that no one who tries the old wine (the good stuff!), wants to drink the not so nice wine after. We would always choose the better quality, better tasting wine over a not so nice one.

Now to solve the cryptic messages. First off, the bridegroom story. This is a bit of a mystery. It doesn’t seem to connect with the other parables and it has confused theologians and historians for years with no one being sure what its intended purpose was then or for us today.

Grace Commentary have written an extended version of this blog post and in that, they explain what they believe the message is behind this parable:
‘ Jesus is not opposed to fasting in general, but fasting for his disciples at the present time. Fasting is a sign that a person is dissatisfied with the way their life and world is headed. It is a way of signifying an eschatological hope that God will restore righteousness and justice on the earth, and from a Jewish perspective, send the Messiah to do so (Green 1997:249). But for the disciples of Jesus, that which is hoped for in fasting—the Messiah—is already there. So there is no need for them to fast.’ Although this is a helpful reflection, it doesn’t connect this parable with the other two very obviously, which I believe was Jesus intended purpose of telling 3 stories together.

The other two parables have a similar thread running through them. They talk about the importance of newness and not spoiling new things with old – don’t ruin a new coat to fix an old one and don’t waste good wine by allowing it be stored in old wineskins. It is believed that the new coat and new wine represent Jesus, and the old coat and wineskins represent the old way of thinking, the old laws and set up. Jesus has come to get rid of those and replace them with new ways of living for God. No more animal sacrifices or ritualistic behaviours required!

I encourage you to read more into this passage if you have time. Check out what other writers have found out or believe about the purpose for the parables and their intended meanings. If you find out something new or different, I would love for you to share it with me in the comments below!

Facing shame and guilt due to chronic illness

Facing shame and guilt due to chronic illness

In her book, ‘Illness as Metaphor’, Susan Sontag explains that within many cultures, illness is believed to be the result of something a person has or hasn’t done. Perhaps you’re ill because you ate too much bacon, drank too much wine, did too little or too much exercise, didn’t get enough sleep, put yourself into too many stressful situations, dwelt on a situation too long or even sinned (did something wrong in God’s eyes) etc. etc. 

I know my health problems are not my fault, in fact we are pretty sure that it is likely the result of my genes, but sometimes I still wonder if I should have exercised more or eaten healthier or done more meditation even though I know this is unlikely to make any difference at all. When I think about what I could or should have done differently, I feel guilty as if I could have changed the past, I wouldn’t be suffering but nor would I be making life harder for those around me. 

My parents suffered when I couldn’t eat and was very weak and when I experience high levels of pain because there is nothing they can do to help me. They suffer financially because I cannot work enough hours to earn enough money to sustain myself so are looking after me at home too. There relationship may even suffer because I take up their time and energy so they have less left for each other. I am almost certain they would not want me to think like that but I feel guilty for what I have taken from my family and those around me who I care most about. 

Another avenue that produces shame and guilt is being vulnerable and honest. When I am vulnerable and honest with people, I will tell them when I am in too much pain to continue walking or too tired to stay up and socialise or that I need to have something different on the menu due to dietary requirements or I need to have extra cushions on my bed, a downstairs room in a hotel to reduce energy usage. In real life, it means saying no to baby-sitting because I am too tired or in too much pain to help out despite having done nothing else all day, leaving someone who has done 8 hours work, cleaned and tidied, walked the dogs and already baby-sat yesterday to do it again today. That leaves me feeling very guilty but there is nothing I can do. My body is out of my control. 

Shame is the result of societal norms being broken. If the shame came as a result of wearing bright pink clothes to work in an office where everyone else wears suits, the person may be embarrassed but they can wear a suit to work the next day and the shame will slowly disappear. When the shame happens as the result of something beyond our control, the only we can do is hide it the best we can. For me, that looks like not using the wheelchair when out in public, eating foods that my friends eat even if they hurt so as to not appear ‘fussy’ and provoke questions and doing all I can to keep up with those around me and then going up to my room to sleep and take medications or cry until the pain subsides or I fall asleep. 

As a Christian, I fear shame every time I open up to someone new about my health issues because society says illness is our fault (see above) and many Christians often say that if you are not ‘healed’ it is because you don’t have enough faith/ don’t pray enough. When I have done all I can and prayed everyday for many years, had prayer evenings dedicated to my healing, this not only leaves me feeling upset and frustrated but shamed because I can’t do anything to change those people’s views of me and my condition. 

However, we know that God does not want us to experience guilt and shame. They are not heavenly emotions and do not belong in God’s people. Often, guilt and shame are our own fault in which case, the bible tells us we need to ask for forgiveness but this is different because chronic illness and disability are not our own fault (generally). Even the disciples, who were only out to do good by sharing the good news of Jesus with those around them, experienced shame but instead of letting it overwhelm them, they turned it on it’s head -“rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name” (Acts 5:41). It might not seem like it, but we can use the shame we feel for having disabilities or chronic illnesses and use them for good by using them for His name and glory and for the extending of His Kingdom.

It is likely this will not keep the guilt and shame away completely but we can ask God to protect us and block the unfair attacks that are aimed at us. When we pray, He listens, and He will work in our guilt and shame and stop the devil/ accuser from hurting us through his lies. Overall, we must remember that even when we feel guilty because others are making us feel that way, God is not saying that to us. He loves us and cares for us and has not given up on you.