04 March 2021
Luke 12 22-30
There is always someone who puts their hand up to ask a question, it could be at a meeting and as soon as you see the hand going up you can almost hear the groans from the audience. Some questions are completely irrelevant while others are pertinent.
Luke tells us about one man's question. “22 Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. 23 Someone asked him, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?”
He said to them, 24 “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. 25 Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’
“But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’
26 “Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’
27 “But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!’
28 “There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out. 29 People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God. 30 Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last.”
The question from the man was “ are only a few people going to be saved?”
Probably most Jews thought that they would be saved but Jesus warns about those will not be saved. He gives him three points
Make every effort to get through that narrow door because there will be others trying at the same time.
When the door is closed and you are not in, you will question why you didn’t make it. You feel you know the owner of the house as you spent some time with him.
You will be disappointed when you see the company that you have missed, all the great prophets will be there but there will be others too and you will be surprised at who made it in.
Sinclair Ferguson makes a great point here. He says we should never be more interested in theological questions than we are in knowing Jesus himself. In verse 26 Jesus warns him that people might say “we ate and drank with you”. But is that all it takes to be saved? Being able to make a good theological debate is all to the good but if we don’t know the man Jesus, if we don’t aspire to live like him, knowledge is nothing.
Final question. Did the man want to be saved? Do you?
Thought for the day? How can we get to know Jesus that bit better? To quote the famous song "to see thee more clearly, love thee more dearly and follow thee more nearly." So how can we achieve that?
03 March 2021
Jesus Heals a Crippled Woman on the Sabbath
10 On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, 11 and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. 12 When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.” 13 Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God.
14 Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue leader said to the people, “There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.”
15 The Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie your ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? 16 Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?”
17 When he said this, all his opponents were humiliated, but the people were delighted with all the wonderful things he was doing.
We are told that there were at least two people in this story who will call the Sabbath a delight. Jesus was one and the crippled woman was the other.
Imagine the scene as Jesus places his hands on this woman who is bent over double. She is probably in excruciating pain and possibly has to glance sideways to see what's going on. Sinclair Ferguson says “you can almost see his hands straightening her back out after all these years. When once she was diminished in stature she now stands straight looking Jesus in the eye. It must have been a joyous sight."
But the onlookers were not happy the Sabbath was not being observed. But Jesus knew different, he knew that the Sabbath was one of God's creation gifts and all while the Pharisees looked on with disapproving nods and whispers. “They were neurotic about what could and could not be done on this special day.“
Mark2:27 reminds us that the Sabbath was made for man, it was a great time and motion exercise for the whole week. Work hard for six days and “rest in God's presence on the seventh''. Jesus knew that his father had blessed the Sabbath. But it was a problem for those in the synagogue and there was a lecture forthcoming on the spiritual dangers of Jesus healing on the Sabbath. Sinclair Ferguson reminds us that some people can be hypocritical about the Sabbath but we should try and be more like Jesus and use it well. He tells us that has a knock-on effect as it helps us to use the rest of the week well too.
Again as I said. Two people in the story called the Sabbath a delight Jesus was one and the woman became the other.
Would it make any difference how you live your week for the glory of the Lord if you called the Sabbath a delight?
02 March 2021
In today's world we don’t even have to wait for the news on the hour to get the latest, we all have social media feeds that can tell us what the latest tragedy is before the dust has settled. Of course in biblical times it was much different. ln Luke 13 some people are anxious to share their news. We read “About that time some people came up and told him about the Galileans that Pilate had killed while they were at worship, mixing their blood with the blood of the sacrifices on the altar. Jesus responded, “Do you think those murdered Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans? No. Unless you turn to God, you, too, will die. And those eighteen in Jerusalem the other day, the ones crushed and killed when the Tower of Siloam collapsed and fell on them, do you think they were worse citizens than all other Jerusalemites? No. Unless you turn to God, you, too, will die.”
Today it is so easy to attribute tragedy and downfall to past sins. The wrongs that have been done. In his book “To seek and serve,” Sinclair Ferguson tells us that “we need to avoid the folly of trying to work out the incomprehensible.” Why did that happen to them?” while failing to recognise what our own sin deserves at the hands of God of love that we daily offend.”
Jesus reassures us that we cannot draw straight lines back from human tragedy to personal sin. Of course, all actions have consequences. Only God can make the true connections between actions and consequences. Only God has the knowledge and the wisdom and the justice to do that. But we have to repent of our own sin and turn to God in prayer and in faith. As the last verse says ”Unless you turn to God, you, too, will die.” But we all know that when we turn to God and his Son Jesus Christ our faith will reward us with eternal life. Amen
01 March 2021
Luke 12 22-34
Something that you may not know about me is that I have a label. I suffer from what is called “high functioning anxiety” apparently I do not know when to switch off, I chatter out of nervousness and then later analyze everything I have said. Another issue is my mind frequently jumps to the worst possible scenario and I don’t think I am naturally talented. Now I know all of this because a certain kind of doctor told me this. Now my point in telling you all of these things is that the same doctor ( reading my notes) said “Oh A Christian? I thought you would have all the answers then?”
We continue our Journey with Luke and his interaction with the disciples. In relation to "worrying about life." In Luke 12 Jesus has some advice for his disciples “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?"
27 “Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labour or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these.28 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well."
“Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
Sinclair Ferguson asks “was Jesus a poor psychologist?” The answer is clearly NO but he adds it's all down to the language that is being used here. Jesus follows up his advice with some logic. For instance “do not worry” is followed up “For life is much more than food, and the body more than clothes.”
When we look at those two words “much more” we realise that what once seemed enormously important to us is of a lesser significance when you think of life and living in general.
What brings the disciples some relief is knowing that If God cares for the smallest of birds and the most fragile of flowers “how much more do you think he cares for you." Sinclair then says “you can worry so much less”
Fast forward to Romans 8 reading from v31 and using The Message translation I find these words so reassuring and so "jigfit". These words are like the missing piece of a jigsaw that stops you worrying to an early grave. Romans 8 says "So, what do you think? With God on our side like this, how can we lose?" If God didn’t hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn’t gladly and freely do for us? And who would dare tangle with God by messing with one of God’s chosen? Who would dare even to point a finger? The One who died for us—who was raised to life for us!—is in the presence of God at this very moment sticking up for us. Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture.
And for me? I will still be anxious but I know who has got my back. Amen
28 February 2021
So far in Luke we have been reading about what following Jesus is all about. The pitfalls that we can find ourselves in and basically the dangers of “talking the talk” and not “walking the walk." People obsessed by the temporary and holding onto the wrong stuff. People who boast about the wrong thing, say one thing and then do another.
A great way for Jesus to get his point across in a lot of situations was to illustrate his point by telling a parable. Today's reading is one of the greatest parables in the Bible and gives clearly an example of why a lot of people fall at the first hurdle in Christianity. But it is also a good illustration of where we need to start in becoming a better Christian. It all starts with two things. The heart and the seed.
In Luke’s reading “While a large crowd was gathering and people were coming to Jesus from town after town, he told this parable: 5 “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds ate it up. 6 Some fell on rocky ground, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown.”
When he said this, he called out, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”
9 His disciples asked him what this parable meant. 10 He said, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that,
“‘though seeing, they may not see;
though hearing, they may not understand.’
11 “This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God.12 Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. 13 Those on the rocky ground are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. 14 The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature.15 But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.
To understand this mystery, we cannot use our intellectual ability, which only lets us see things that are understandable. Jesus says that we must use our ‘heart’ to understand, a spiritual heart. This mystery is only revealed to those who are followers of Christ. A spiritual person can understand, while a worldly person cannot. The different conditions of people’s hearts determine whether they can understand the truth of the kingdom of God.
Some people’s hearts are just like soil on the roadside, giving no chance for the truth to grow before it is taken away by the devil. These people have no idea of the mystery of the kingdom of God. Although they come to church every week, the word of God has no effect on them. Some other people’s hearts, though yearning a little for truth, are still hard like rock. Their spiritual soil is still not well prepared to receive God’s word. No root can grow and no fruit can be borne. In times of testing, these people will just back out.
There are others who want to get the benefit of both worlds: they want the kingdom of God as well as the world. They end up living a weak and painful life. Only those with a noble and good heart are well prepared to bear good fruit. As the state of the heart is so important, it should be our priority to nurture and cultivate it, making it good soil for the Word of God to grow.
Thought for the day: In what way is God encouraging you to make more of your life into a fruitful soil?
27 February 2021
Luke 12 v 13-21
My mother had an expression that is well known in Scottish circles. "There are no pockets in a shroud." It's very judgmental and sometimes borne out of jealousy. But my mother always used it referring to people who boasted about their money and their possessions and at the same time were not being very nice about it.
Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”
Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”
And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’
“Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’
“But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’
“This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”
Since the dawning of family life (Adam and Eve) a family can be looked upon as the most important thing. It’s the glue that can hold us together or the catalyst for an all out war. Of course we are always looking at, and given examples of, family life all through the Bible. And because of that we have seen the devil at work in some of them as Satan seeks to destroy what is the most important thing to a Christian.
The guy in this story has an attitude. Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me. ”The danger here is telling the Lord what to do, that’s just not done. Jesus hits back at him by replying, “who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”
Sinclair Ferguson in his book tells us that, “The relationship is all wrong here as the man is treating Jesus as a servant. The man himself is not aware of his own bondage and what he needs to do” And so Jesus tells him a story. The story is of a man who is obsessed with the word “I”
What shall I do? I have no place? I will tear down my barns. I will store my surplus grain, I will take life easy and eat , drink and be merry.
The man's possessions, his grain, and his barn is the “glue” that will hold his life together. His God is possession and riches that accumulate and benefit his life. Sinclair Ferguson puts it very wisely when he says that, “ the glue that this man thought was permanent is temporary and contains a fatal poison that kills him and he ends up with nothing."
Listening to the words of Jesus can be very sobering but that’s because he has our best interests at heart and wants to save us. His story about the boasting man can teach us a lot about attitude, loyalty and priority.
Thought for the day? How loyal are you to Jesus and how strong is the glue between you and your possessions?
26 February 2021
The pandemic has brought a lot of new rituals to our door. Have you got your mask before you go out? Some stores sanitise the trolley while you wait and as soon as you get back home ( in my case) shoes off at the door and then go and sanitise your hands.
While Jesus was literally walking this earth hand washing was very important especially before a meal. It would be an insult if you didn’t.
Luke 11 37-54
37 When Jesus had finished speaking, a Pharisee invited him to eat with him; so he went in and reclined at the table. 38 But the Pharisee was surprised when he noticed that Jesus did not first wash before the meal.
39 Then the Lord said to him, “Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. 40 You foolish people! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also?41 But now as for what is inside you—be generous to the poor, and everything will be clean for you.
42 “Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone.
43 “Woe to you Pharisees, because you love the most important seats in the synagogues and respectful greetings in the marketplaces.
44 “Woe to you, because you are like unmarked graves, which people walk over without knowing it.”
45 One of the experts in the law answered him, “Teacher, when you say these things, you insult us also.”
46 Jesus replied, “And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.
So I guess that’s why the Pharisee is annoyed when Jesus sat down to the meal and never bothered to wash his hands. More so, as it appeared Jesus was ignoring the rituals of the Pharisees and their traditions.
When this is brought to his attention Jesus calls them “fools” Sinclair Ferguson tells us that this means “someone who is lacking spiritual understanding. A person who despite appearances is not living before the face of God.” To that person the superficial becomes important and the important becomes superficial.
If there is a lesson in there (and there is ! for me) it has to be how I personally can become tied up in the superficial and hold the importance at arm's length when it should be the closest thing to my heart.
And this is what Jesus was trying to teach the Pharisees by reminding them about the way they clean cups, garden herbs and have favourite seats. All of these things are superficial when their minds should be on things more important. Ferguson reminds us that this is something that didn’t die out with the Pharisees.
Our thought for the day? Jesus describes Pharisees as “hypocrites”. It’s a greek word for actors who wore masks to play parts in a play. These people were one thing on the stage but another in real life. Buy you see hypocrisy disappears when you are dealing with God as he sees us for who we truly are. Now that can be uncomfortable or reassuring.
25 February 2021
It is well documented that my favourite story in the Bible is the woman at the well. For me it's not just about the story of the woman who meets Jesus at the well. But it's about who the woman is. What kind of life brings her to the well. And how her life changes after her encounter. Now my feeling about this story is all down to Max Lucado who tells the story so well but asks you to read into the story, and to look for the little gems in the Bible like “and she put down her pot” and “come and see a man that knows everything I have ever done.”
We don’t have a lot to go on today with the woman that Jesus comes across in Luke 11 v 27 & 28
As Jesus was saying these things, a woman in the crowd called out, “Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you." He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”
Do you ever feel you just say the wrong thing? I do it all the time, in fact I think it's one of my biggest failings. I have words in my head that I am convinced are well meaning and then when I actually speak them, in my head I am saying, “Alex, what were you thinking?”
I say that as I wonder what this woman thinks after she shouted out “Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you”. Maybe she genuinely thought it was the right and proper thing to say. More interestingly is Jesus' response, “ Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”
Now we all know that Mary was blessed. Elizabeth reminded her of this when she was carrying Jesus. But at this point Jesus is trying to tell the woman that there is more she needs to understand. In fact it is she, the woman, who could be blessed if she hears and keeps the word of God.
Like Sinclair Ferguson in his book, I too would like to know more about this woman. What was her motivation? What kind of life did she have and what was she feeling at that moment she saw Jesus? We don't know, we are not sure and we are not told.
Another thing that Ferguson says runs along with what I said previously about the Lord's Prayer. We say it but do we hear it?. Ferguson says when we hear the word of God but do we keep it? We are all lucky to have Bibles but the knack is to not only read them but asks ourselves, “what is God telling me? What is he teaching me? What can I take away from this today and use it?"
So our thought for the day has to be. How will you ensure that you are not only a reader but a keeper and a hearer of God's word?
Our Prayer for Thursday
Our Loving Heavenly Father, we give you thanks for your presence with us each day - for your love towards us and for the assurance that we can have in your good purpose for our lives. We are glad that we can call you Our Father, and for the special feeling that brings us, especially during this time of uncertainty, restriction and anxiety, when we have not had close contact with people and we have missed out on the social aspects of our lives. Despite this Father, we are indeed a privileged people - all because of your presence and your love.
Father, we remember our Church family - our brothers and sisters in the faith - we pray for those who are preparing for hospital appointments or procedures and they may be feeling anxious; we pray for others who have recently been bereaved and are feeling the loss even more keenly just now due to the restrictions and ask you to bless and minister to them in a way which is special and unique to them.
We think too of people in countries far away from us who are living in difficult and hostile environments who feel that their situation is hopeless. We think of the people of Yemen who are facing a humanitarian crisis during the civil war; the people of Myanmar who are living under a military dictatorship; the Uighur people who are living in China and have seen their human rights eroded - all this at the same time as coping with a pandemic. Father, some of the situations do seem hopeless, and so we pray especially today for people who are 'under the cosh'. We pray that the love and compassion demonstrated by the Christian men and women who work to bring comfort, food, and hope to the most needy will bring assurance to them that you care for them.
Father, we are grateful that we can bring all of this to you knowing that You do indeed, hear and answer our prayers - Amen.
24 February 2021
Luke 11 14-24
14 Jesus was driving out a demon that was mute. When the demon left, the man who had been mute spoke, and the crowd was amazed. 15 But some of them said, ‘By Beelzebul, the prince of demons, he is driving out demons.’ 16 Others tested him by asking for a sign from heaven.
17 Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them: ‘Any kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and a house divided against itself will fall. 18 If Satan is divided against himself, how can his kingdom stand? I say this because you claim that I drive out demons by Beelzebul. 19 Now if I drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your followers drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. 20 But if I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.
21 ‘When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are safe. 22 But when someone stronger attacks and overpowers him, he takes away the armour in which the man trusted and divides up his plunder.
23 ‘Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.
There is a lot of healing in the Bible, miracles performed on the lame and the blind but this incident of the mute demon being cast out is different. There are two parties here who are berating Jesus.
Jesus had just cast out the demon on the man who was permanently silenced when suddenly Jesus gave him a voice. The divided crowd thought one of two things. Some thought he performed an exorcism because he was in league with the devil while the other lot were telling him to prove to the crowd he really was The Messiah and perform another sign from heaven.
Sinclair Ferguson in his book tells us “Jesus’ response is intriguing. A kingdom or a family in which there is internal division cannot survive” You see Jesus’ opponents were hopelessly divided. One group complaining about the sign he had just given them ( restoring the man's speech) while the other group were moving the goal posts all the time and demanding even more signs.
If you take this further some of these men were claiming that Jesus was in league with Satan while the other lot were looking for him to be more like the Messiah.
You see that was what this journey was all about. Setting the record straight. Telling the truth. It was all about making his mark and he was doing that on a daily basis. Already he had defeated the devil in the wilderness and now he is about to claim a decisive victory over Satan on the cross.
Sinclair Ferguson at the end of this chapter reminds us that while we are living in the aftermath of that victory we are still waiting for the final destruction of Satan's Kingdom and until that happens “the evil one will try to get revenge on Jesus by attacking his disciples." That is you and me. The Christian life is a life of battle right to the end but those who belong to the Lord are truly on the winning side. Amen
23 February 2021
Luke 11 v 1-13
How many times have you said “The Lord's Prayer”? How many times have you heard the Lord's prayer? Now think about this one, how many times have you actually listened to the Lord's Prayer.
Last year I was in a church and was warned that the congregation used a translation from what it called “The Passion translation”. To help people out, there were cards dotted around the church to help those who didn’t know it. The minister of the church said to me “ just hang back and listen to them as they say it. SO I did and I was surprised by what I heard.
“Our heavenly Father may the glory of your name be the centre on which our life turns. May your Holy Spirit come upon us and cleanse us. Manifest your kingdom on this earth and give us our needed bread for the coming day. Forgive our sins as we ourselves release forgiveness to those who have wronged us and rescue us every time we face tribulations.” Amen
I think I was surprised because for the first time in a long while I listened. I think my point here is that sometimes we say something over and over again like the Lord's Prayer but we don’t actually listen to what is being said. We are over familiar with the words and we repeat them verbatim as if it is one of our daily chores.
But this prayer, this Lord's prayer is said by Jesus. Tom Wright reminds us that it's not just a string of loosely connected string of petitions. It’s a prayer for people who are following Jesus on the “kingdom journey” Jesus was breaking bread which was to be a sign of his presence in our churches and he was offering forgiveness which would be accomplished through his death on the cross. He was demanding the graciousness of God in forgiving our enemies. It’s a prayer which grows out of the mission of Jesus himself. It’s a prayer that stands as a framework for further prayer or as it stands. It's not only a prayer but a springboard to prayer. But to understand it we have to listen.
11 One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”
2 He said to them, “When you pray, say:
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come.
3 Give us each day our daily bread.
4 Forgive us our sins,
for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.
And lead us not into temptation.
22 February 2021
Luke 10 38-42
The first Monday of Lent
My brother and I are chalk and cheese. I always saw him as the golden child, called “the wean” even when he was forty. He did as he liked in life and was always free from stress and worry. The exact opposite of me. We are still two very different brothers.
Today we read of two very different sisters in this case, Martha and Mary. In Luke 10 v 38-42
As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
We usually refer to these two as “Mary and Martha” but Sinclair Ferguson makes a great point here when Luke calls them “Martha and Mary”. Ferguson tells us we are clearly entering Martha’s domain here. It was Martha who welcomed Jesus and it was Martha who seemed obsessed with domestic affairs while her sister Mary sat at the feet of the Lord.
Martha seems angry with Jesus almost saying “can't you see what she’s doing? She's doing Nothing! And while I am doing everything?” "Don’t you care?”. It's interesting when Jesus talks to her, Ferguson says he has an “emotional response by repeating her name twice." “Martha, Martha” he says as he is trying to calm her down. She is angry with her sister and angry with Jesus too.
We all get like that sometimes, we feel that we seem to be doing the right thing while others do the opposite. We feel we are the ones putting in all the hard work while others seem to “coast along”. Or for me personally, I always think I am doing the right thing and can't understand why others are not.
I know for me there are a great many lessons to be had from the story of Martha and Mary and I am sure you will agree that sometimes that’s the fatal flaw “distraction”. We seem to go off kilter.
When we are distracted by information and events outside ourselves it prevents us from fully developing spiritual maturity.
I read in a book the other day “We can’t worship when we are distracted. If, like Martha, we are preoccupied with our worries we remove ourselves from the here and now and live either in the past of regret, or in the future of anxiety, when the only time we really have is the now, and the only place we really have is right here.” I have read that sentence over and over again to try and get to grips with it and even to make myself a better person. Maybe you could read it again to get a better grasp of it.
We are called to love as Jesus loved and if we find that hard then it's down to prayer and worship. And that in itself might be hard but there are consequences if we don't. I also read the other day that “there is a kind of frenetic activism that can lead us to burn out and bitterness and when that happens we need to sit back and have a rethink. The same book tells me that Christians and Churches are often too guilty of valuing busyness over their focus on God. A lesson for us all.
So you see there are a great many lessons to be had from Martha and Mary, and a great many reasons to stay focused in prayer and in discipleship. Amen
21 February 2021
Luke 13 : 31-end
Jesus’ Sorrow for Jerusalem
31 At that time some Pharisees came to Jesus and said to him, “Leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you.”
32 He replied, “Go tell that fox, ‘I will keep on driving out demons and healing people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.’ 33 In any case, I must press on today and tomorrow and the next day—for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!
34 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. 35 Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’[b]”
As Jesus continues on his journey to the cross he is approached by some Pharisees who say, “get away from here, Herod wants to kill you.”
We are told that this is secular opposition, something that is non religious and in this case from a government authority. Herod Antipas is the same man who beheaded John the Baptist. He was a crafty cunning and cruel guy who cared little for others, especially Jesus who he would see as a potential rival. Jesus sees him as a fox but just shrugs him off.
What’s interesting is that Jesus turns away from secular opposition and in verse 34 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.
He is now facing religious opposition. He knows the cross is coming but Jerusalem represents the religious authorities who are seeking to kill Jesus because they hated Him for His teaching. Like Herod, the most likely reason the religious authorities wanted Jesus dead was because they viewed Him as a rival.
Jesus faced two main types of opposition during His earthly ministry, secular and religious. What is remarkable is that Jesus is not concerned about either but continues to do the work He is called to do.
Jesus was not afraid of Herod and was not afraid of Jerusalem because He was confident that He was doing the will of God. Jesus had a divine commission and knew it would be completed.
Our thought for this day is. What would happen if Scotland or the United Kingdom became hostile to Christianity?
What if other religions grow to such a degree that we as Christians are oppressed?
Jesus represents us, we will boldly proclaim the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ! The reason we have this confidence is because we come in the name of the Lord! We are His followers, we have His message, and we have His power. We will finish the work He has called us to do and we will not stop until it is done.
Verse 35 . I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’
Praise the Lord!
20 February 2021
When Sinclair Ferguson put together this book for Lent we were not living with a pandemic outside our front door. I’m only saying that because I would like to put a twist on our story today. Just a slight twist though. Mr Ferguson talks today about the parable of The Good Samaritan from the gospel of St Luke.
The lawyer asks of Jesus, ”so what do I have to do to inherit this eternal life?” Jesus answers almost saying to this man “well you’re the lawyer? What’s your understanding of the law that covers this?" In verse 27 he answers, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.” Jesus approves of his answer and says “do this, and you will live”. The lawyer still has got one more question, “well then. Who is my neighbour?” Jesus then went on to tell the story of the good Samaritan.
30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he travelled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii[ and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
There are two questions here “who is my neighbour?” and how do we “ go and do likewise?” living as we are with masks, no contact and living six feet apart from anyone we come in contact with. There is so little we can do under restriction.
We all know that your neighbour doesn’t necessarily live next door to you. Sinclair Ferguson tells us that “ the neighbour figure in the parable is the one who shows mercy to the injured fellow man—that is, the Samaritan.”
So in bringing this bang up to date how can we show compassion living under the restrictions that we find ourselves in. Compassion can be shown without leaving your own front door. It can be shown through prayer or through a phone call. Try and think of someone that you know who is struggling and surprise them with a call or with a card. I know someone whose gran lives off Byres Road in the West end of Glasgow. And for one hour a day she sits at her bedroom window and waves to people who walk past. I am told that people are even looking for her now to wave to her.
Compassion, carried out in the name of Jesus Christ is rewarding. Rewarding for me and you and for the people we show it to.
The Bible teaches us so much about compassion and today’s thought for the day is a verse from Galatians 5. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” Now consider what are the qualities that you have and how can you use them today, tomorrow or next week?
19 February 2021
Luke 9 57-62
This morning I am looking at the Peterson translation of this verse
“ On the road someone asked if he could go along. “I’ll go with you, wherever,” he said.
Jesus was curt: “Are you ready to rough it? We’re not staying in the best inns, you know.”
Jesus said to another, “Follow me.”
He said, “Certainly, but first excuse me for a couple of days, please. I have to make arrangements for my father’s funeral.”
Jesus refused. “First things first. Your business is life, not death. And life is urgent: Announce God’s kingdom!”
Then another said, “I’m ready to follow you, Master, but first excuse me while I get things straightened out at home.”
Jesus said, “No procrastination. No backward looks. You can’t put God’s kingdom off till tomorrow. Seize the day.”
Many a time I’ve looked at something and said “ I don’t get it!” Many times I have questioned people's motives and thought “ I don’t get it” and for me this usually means I’m not “in tune” with what the other person wants from me. I “don’t get the picture” you might say. Well the three men that Jesus encounters “didn’t exactly get it either”. They all wanted the same thing and that was to follow Jesus but there was something holding them back.
Number one is a volunteer and asked if he could go along but he seemed to like the nice things in life may be, and Jesus didn’t think he could give them up.
Number two was called by Jesus he was keen but not for a couple of days yet as he had a funeral to arrange.
Number three said he was ready but not in the eyes of Jesus as he wanted to go back home first and see that everything was OK at home.
There are tough lessons to be learned here because what I am reading is that family ties don’t count when you are following Jesus. Sinclair Ferguson in his book says “ nothing and nobody must take priority over Jesus.
In every case something took priority over following Jesus immediately. I think Jesus is making the point that when he calls you you have to be ready.
Sinclair Ferguson makes an interesting point and that is we don’t have to drop everything to follow Christ. Earlier in the gospel ( Ch8 38-39) Jesus told a man to go home and serve him there. So we know that we can still work for the Lord even at home.
There is a famous story about Cliff Richard. He went out to Africa with the Tear fund and when he saw the devastation, it is said he told a nurse that he was going to go back home and give up everything and come and work with the Tear fund. It was also alleged that he would have become a missionary. But the nurse is said to have told Cliff to go home and keep singing. "Keep making the money for The Tear Fund" because you see that was his work, without his money the work could not be done.
Sinclair Ferguson says at the time Jesus wanted “willing to give up everything, go anywhere and do anything disciples” but today disciples are needed in every corner of the street, every street in the town and in every country of this world. Even if it's sitting at home praying and reading your scripture, that is the work that you are doing.
As scripture reminds us “ I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful” and more importantly ….you are needed.
Thought for today. In the book I am using, Sinclair Ferguson asks “ what reservations do you have about Christ's lordship over your life and what gives you confidence that he is worth following?
18 February 2021
Same reading as yesterday but today focusing on verses 51 -55
51 As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. 52 And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; 53 but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem.54 When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” 55 But Jesus turned and rebuked them.
Do you have a nickname? I've had a few in my day. When I was a call centre manager, my team called me Willie Wonka as I always brought them sweets to make them work harder and happier. My father, who was a docker, had the strange name “ Deary Me” in the huge Granary that he worked in on the Clyde. His name was this as he always refused to swear and this is what came out of his mouth when he was under pressure. Sometimes nicknames avoid us and sometimes they stick for life.
James and John were given the nickname “Sons of Thunder” as their reaction to things was often extreme. Jesus sends an advance party ahead to a Samaritan village to find accommodation, but they were refused and had to move on. On this occasion the camera is not focused on the Samaritan's reaction to Jesus and his party but the focus is on James and John and how they reacted.
“ Lord do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” Jesus turned and rebuked them.
Sinclair Ferguson asks us to look at those specific words “ Jesus turned and rebuked them” Was Jesus annoyed with them? Did the two brothers literally stop him in his tracks? Were the brothers being rude to their lord and master? Were they telling him what he should be doing? Interestingly the Rev Ferguson reminds us that Jesus came to save the Samaritans and not set fire to them.
John was one of the sons of Thunder but after walking with Jesus for a lifetime, the “Son of Thunder” earned a new nickname: the “Apostle of Love.” But this only came about because of the journey he took with Jesus. John did not get his own way with Jesus and neither do we for that matter. Jesus did not get his own way either in the Samaritan village but it was love that he was promoting not confrontation.
Thought for the day. Sinclair Ferguson asks us to think about an occasion when we were rejected. If the great test of love is how we handle rejection what did your response reveal about you. And lastly does John's story give you hope?
Final thought? has your walk with the Lord changed you?
17 February 2021
Luke 9 51- 62 ( looking at verse 51)
At the moment a lot of people are out exercising, going for a walk they would never have taken if it was not for the circumstances we are in. The exercise is good for you, fresh air and all of that. But one of the other benefits is meeting people. At the moment it can only be a shout and a wave, maybe even a long distance chat and it gives us a story to tell.
Sinclair Fergusons' book to seek and serve is about the people that Jesus met according to the gospel of St Luke. I am using the daily passage that he is allocated for the day but giving my own take on it rather than copy what Rev Ferguson has to say.
So verse 51 “ As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem”. As usual Jesus has purpose and journey that has a destination. But this is the final destination and that is Calvary. Everywhere he went Jesus met people, some of them were impressed some of them were repelled. Sinclair Ferguson makes it clear that the people that we will meet along this specific journey are not the focal point of our study. It is Jesus himself that we have to concentrate on.
Verse 51 As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. The KingJames version makes it a bit clearer “As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem”
Just think about that for a minute. He knows the time is coming for his ascension and he knows where he has to go. But the important thing here is his mood, his manner, and how he is making his journey and that word is “resolutely”. Jesus resolutely set out to Jerusalem. I looked up resolutely in the dictionary, just to put it into perspective and it informs me that it means “in an admirably purposeful, determined, and unwavering manner.”
So now we have a clearer picture maybe of how Jesus was feeling. Purposeful.Determined. Unwavering
Sinclair Ferguson again says “ Jesus kept his sights fixed on his destination all the way along the road to Jerusalem” and we must keep our eyes fixed on him, to love that bit more to learn even more and to become that better disciple thanks to his journey.
Finally before the whole reading. Ferguson asks us to ponder this question” when you read the Gospels do you tend to look for Jesus or for a reflection of yourself. And secondly he asks “ what do you see of Jesus in this verse that moves you to praise him today” Just something got you to think about as you journey along today.
51 As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. 52 And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; 53 but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem.54 When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” 55 But Jesus turned and rebuked them. 56 Then he and his disciples went to another village.57 As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”
58 Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”
59 He said to another man, “Follow me.”
But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”
60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”
61 Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.”
62 Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”
Alex, who faithfully provides us with our daily dose of Words For Life, is taking a short break. We will be back soon. Keep watching........
07 February 2021
The translation might not be perfect but the picture it sets up in our minds is awesome. Just like our God. Amen
06 February 2021
A need for patience and not anger.
A few weeks before last Christmas I was told I needed new socks so with this in mind I went online chose the socks that I preferred and ordered them.
I thought about getting 12 pairs of socks. They were a bit pricey but they were special diabetic socks so I duly ordered them. A few days later something strange happened.
The Royal Mail van turned up, I thought this must be the socks but it wasn’t cos the driver had two very large black bags. It must be for a neighbour I thought. No, he rang our bell so I answered the door and took delivery of two very large black bags.
You see inside these bags were 144 pairs of socks not 12. I was a bit peeved about this and was about to phone and give the mail order company a piece of my mind when I realised the socks were sold in multiples of 12 on the offer so because I ordered 12 I was sent 144. My mistake my fault and I was about to give someone a piece of my mind ...........but it was all my own doing
The Bible tells us in JAMES 1:19-27
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.
Tom Wright says that ‘over the years human wisdom regularly produces proverbs,' 'a stitch in time saves nine,’ ‘ a rolling stone gathers no moss,’ ‘ sticks and stone may break your bones but names willl never hurt you,’ but we know that’s rubbish sticks and stone do break bones and my goodness the damage that can be done with a few mis placed words can have a devastating effect.
Paul warns us that unchecked anger gives the devil a foothold in your life -Ephesians- Jesus labels anger as the the root of all evil and God did say to Cain before he murdered his brother ‘ why are you so angry.’
Sometimes when I am angry I ask myself ‘whose needs are being met here?' Being angry some times gives power to the wrong people. We are angry and it debilitates us and the person who made us angry are sometimes not even aware of how debilitated we have become. Its such a waste.
So all of the old proverbs that we grew up with and know and love all come somewhere from the Bible. Today more than ever there are things for us to learn from the bible.
Even today, just now, I got a call from someone telling me that my internet was vulnerable and I should give them my bank details for a new product from Sky. I wanted to shout at them but in the end I hung up. Why waste words in anger ?
A prayer for today .
Lord we use so many words but our voices cannot offer you the praise that you desire, we sing so many songs but our praise can not reach the heights of heaven. But we offer you this prayer and even if our hearts are far away from you and our lives are betrayed by the words that spill from our lips and even if our anger makes us feel isolated and alone. We know that still you are you, and you are there for us Lord, touch our lips with wisdom, shelter our ears from danger and give us patience this day and always. Amen
05 February 2021
Q. What was the greatest female financier in the Bible?
A. Pharaoh's daughter. She went down to the bank of the Nile and drew out a little prophet.
04 February 2021
There is a thing in Facebook at the moment where you have to list your ten favorite books or even your favorite ten favorite films. Another page was asking you to describe yourself in ten words but the one that really got me was the Facebook page that asked you to list the ten things you missed most while you are in lockdown. The author of this page actually used the word “separation” too. He asks “ try and think of the ten things that separate you from your loved one.”
A wee while after that I was reading Billy Graham and he talked about the fact that we will never be separated from the love of God. He was asked by someone to validate what he had just said and he answered them by quoting Romans 8 38 & 39
Romans 8 v 38 & 39
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
A list of ten things Paul tells us of in these two verses that determine the fact that nothing will separate us from God.
nor anything else in all creation
Our Thursday prayer based on these two verses reassures us that there is nothing in all creation that can come between us and God. Now there’s a cause for celebration today .
Our Thursday Prayer
Our Heavenly Father, we are forever grateful for your love and mercy towards us and for the way that we can come into the presence of the Mighty God, the Creator of the Universe, and feel that we are welcome! You, who are 'high and lifted up' are ever near and listen to our prayers. During this time of restriction, we have been so grateful for the expressions of care and interest that we have received from our family and friends - by phone, card, letter, zoom or other method of staying in touch. It is good for us to know that we are not alone.
Father, we thank You for Your Word and for the easy access we have to it and, this morning, it is clear from reading our reading, of the many people in Scripture who went through times of isolation, danger, famine, war and turbulent times, and for the example they are and for the testimony that they shared that, regardless of their individual situation or the problems that they faced, they were aware of Your Presence with them, walking alongside them, encouraging them.
This morning, we think of the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Romans where he speaks to the believers about being 'conquerors' - not in their own strength but 'through Him who loved us' and gave His life for us. The ordinary people, at that time, would know all about suffering, injustice, unfairness and lack of love. But Paul is encouraging the believers to believe - because of Jesus' sacrifice for them that this life is not all there is, but there is new life in Jesus. Just as Jesus was raised from the dead, everyone who believes in Him will also be raised. He was emphasising to them that no matter what people threw at them, they could be more than conquerors because Jesus led the way, Jesus went before them.
It's uplifting, inspiring and encouraging to us today that we, too, can be 'more than conquerors' because of what Jesus has done for us. May we hold on to this during these days and also for the days to come - Amen.
03 February 2021
So whether fat or thin young or old, wrinkled or “well ironed” it doesn’t matter as we have God on our side. So give yourself a high five, punch the air if you like or do a lap of honour round the room with the vacuum because the creator and architect of all things is in our lives and he fearfully and wonderfully made us all. Amen
02 February 2021
Have you heard the story of the two dogs?. Both dogs, at separate times, walk into the same room. One comes out wagging his tail while the other comes out growling.
A woman watching this goes into the room to see what could possibly make one dog so happy and the other so mad. To her surprise she finds a room filled with mirrors.
The happy dog found a thousand happy dogs looking back at him while the angry dog saw only angry dogs growling back at him.
What you see in the world around you is a reflection of who you are. ( read that line again)
I guess the next question should be which type of dog describes you? It's hard at the moment when waking up each morning to more problems? Like they’re waiting for you to open your eyes, so they can grab all your attention at the start of your day?
Problems can consume us. Steal our energy. But in the process of handling the many issues that come our way, we may not realize the effect they have on our outlook.
Focusing on life’s issues can be depressing and leave you feelings of hopelessness.
One way to ensure that problems don’t overshadow the blessings in our lives is to give thanks. Dealing with one problem after another leaves me with a short gratitude list. But I can always find things to fill that list, even when my life seems filled with problems.
1 Thessalonians 5 v18 tells us to “give thanks in all circumstances for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."
“Count your blessings, name them one by one,” but do we? "Give thanks with a grateful heart” but do we remember to do this each and every day?
Paul gave the church at Thessalonica guidance to help them live abundant and fruitful lives through any circumstance they encountered. He encouraged them to “give thanks in all circumstances.” Yes, there would be trials and challenges, but Paul had learned the power of gratitude. He knew this valuable truth. In the worst times of life, we can still discover the peace and hope of Christ by counting our blessings.
It's easy to say we are “in lockdown each day” but it's better to say we are “keeping safe at home." It’s easy to let thoughts about everything going wrong drown out the many things going right. But it only takes a moment to find something we’re thankful for, however small it may seem. A simple pause to thank God for that one thing that can change our outlook from hopeless to hopeful. So today let's “count our blessings” and “give thanks with a grateful heart.”
01 February 2021
I read something the other day that says. The Optimist says “look my cup is half full” The pessimist says “ look my cup is half empty. While the Christian will say “ look I have a cup, walk with me and I will share”
First of all I apologise if you are not a fan of Eugene Petersons version of the 23rd Psalm, but sometimes reading a different version makes you go deeper into the reading, drawing parallels and making comparisons.
God, my shepherd!
I don’t need a thing.
You have bedded me down in lush meadows,
you find me quiet pools to drink from.
True to your word,
you let me catch my breath
and send me in the right direction.
Even when the way goes through
I’m not afraid
when you walk at my side.
Your trusty shepherd’s crook
makes me feel secure.
You serve me a six-course dinner
right in front of my enemies.
You revive my drooping head;
my cup brims with blessing.
Your beauty and love chase after me
every day of my life.
I’m back home in the house of God
for the rest of my life.
This version paints quite a picture for us and it's full of comfort, provision and security.
Psalm 23 was a cherished hymn for the Hebrews. So when we read and sing the psalms as Christians, we are to some degree also in Jewish territory. It is wise to remember the nature of the Jews’ history with God.
They were a people who were called Israel, which means, "those who have struggled with God." They struggled for a home that they were always trying to get into, hold onto or get back to. They struggled for peace, for food and for a future. Most important, they struggled for their faith in God.
Do you struggle in your faith? Is it never enough? Is the other man's grass always greener? (could be because its fake)
Sometimes we need to sit back and realize what we have is good and more importantly it comes at not too high a price for us.
And no matter how full or how empty your cup is remember and say thanks to God for what you have and save some for a friend or neighbour, they might not be as lucky as you. Amen