What is your image of Jesus? Where does it come from? Is it the Jesus ‘meek and mild’ of childhood Sunday school? If you read Luke’s gospels from beginning to end in one go, it will take you less than an hour. But you will discover something very profound. Following Jesus in the First Century, any more than now, was not for the faint hearted. It was an uncomfortable, unsettling and hazardous experience. Mark Galli, in his book, Jesus Mean and Wild, observes,
“Nearly everywhere we turn, in the gospel of Mark … we find a Jesus who storms in and out of people’s lives, making implicit or explicit demands and, in general, making people feel mighty uncomfortable.” For example, Jesus “sternly charges” or “strictly orders” people he heals (Mark 1:43; 3:12; 5:43; 8:30); he looks upon religious leaders with “anger” and “grief” (Mark 3:5). He destroys a herd of swine while showing no regret, providing no compensation to the owner (Mark 5:1-20); He overturns the money tables in the Temple in a moment of rage (Mark 11:15-17); He rebukes Peter as demonic (Mark 8:33). He is “indignant” with the disciples (Mark 10:13-14). He says the Sadducees are biblically and spiritually ignorant (Mark 12:24), He describes his entire generation as “faithless” (Mark 9:19). Jesus makes it clear that following him will entail suffering and death (Mark 9:35-37, 43-50). On one occasion, his ‘gospel appeal’ to the crowds included this promise, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.” (Mark 8: 34-35).”
Which command in the Bible is repeated most frequently?
Do not worry? Why is that? Because from birth it is our default position. “I’m hungry, I’m cold, I’m afraid…” Even as Christians we are tempted to doubt our loving heavenly Father.
Satan knows if he can get us to doubt God, we will live defeated lives. That is why Jesus says over and over again in the gospels, “Do not be afraid, little flock…” (Luke 12:32).
But did you know some people are more prone to worry than others? Over forty years ago, two cardiologists, Milton Friedman and R.H. Rosenman observed that the primary risk factors of coronary heart disease, i.e. hypertension, smoking, and elevated cholesterol, could not explain why some people suffered and others did not. Their research published in 1974 revealed that personality type was also a major contributory factor. They divided people into Type A and Type B. And if you are worried about which Type you are, you are probably a Type A… They observed that Type A people were more prone to worry than Type B and were also found to be three times more likely to have a stroke or a heart attack, even if they were did the same sort of work and lived in similar conditions.
Rob Parsons has identified some of the traits of Type A personalities. See if this reminds you of anyone.
Does God want you to be rich? Does God want you to be rich? It’s a straight question. When Time magazine asked the question, they found, 61 percent of those surveyed believed that God wants people to be prosperous. And 31 percent agreed that if you give your money to God, God will bless you with more money…
Of the four largest megachurches in the USA, three—Joel Osteen’s Lakewood in Houston; T.D. Jakes’ Potter’s House in south Dallas; and Creflo Dollar’s World Changers near Atlanta—are all Prosperity pulpits. For Osteen, the Prosperity Gospel isn’t a pejorative term: “I preach that anybody can improve their lives. I think God wants us to be prosperous. I think he wants us to be happy.” The pastor of the fourth largest megachurch, Rick Warren, however, sees things differently. “There is a word for that” he says, “baloney. It’s creating a false idol. You don’t measure your self-worth by your net worth. I can show you millions of faithful followers of Christ who live in poverty.” Wealth is clearly controversial. Some Christians believe wealth is a sign of God’s blessing and poverty a sign of God’s curse. If you are poor its your own fault.
Other Christians believe poverty is mandatory, intrinsic to the gospel and wealth, therefore, a sign of moral corruption. In the middle are many Christians – tempted to get defensive about our life style, confused about how to live for Jesus in a materialist world, but keen to do God’s will. Lets evaluate these views, by Jesus teaching in our passage today from Luke 12:13-21.
“I can’t get no satisfaction
I can’t get no satisfaction
‘Cause I try and I try and I try and I try
I can’t get no, I can’t get no
When I’m ridin’ in my car
And that man comes on the radio
And he’s tellin’ me more and more
About some useless information
Supposed to fire my imagination
I can’t get no, oh no no no
Hey hey hey, that’s what I say
I can’t get no, I can’t get no
I can’t get no satisfaction
No satisfaction, no satisfaction, no satisfaction.”
There are other lyrics but I thought I’d spare you. I think you get the point. “Can’t get no satisfaction” became a hit, way back in 1965, for the Rolling Stones. Co-written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, it makes a perfect title for the Book of Ecclesiastes. Aged 72, Mick Jagger appeared in the news again this week, still it seems, seeking satisfaction. He is not alone. I am sure we’ve all had plenty of first hand experience that confirms that satisfaction is temporary.
How do you pray when faced with changes that will affect the rest of your life? How do you pray for others facing change? How should we pray living in a fast changing, uncertain, unstable, volatile world? As we have been discovering these Sunday evenings, prayer is one of our greatest privileges. As Tim Keller says, Tim KelletT As God’s children, we come freely and boldly to His eternal throne and share with Him whatever is on our hearts, our hopes, our fears, needs and our questions. In the book of James we are encouraged to:
Pray for the Suffering (James 5:13)
Pray for the Sick (James 5:14)
Pray for the Straying (James 5:19-20) Continue reading
I think you will agree this has indeed been a costly, traumatic week in Europe. Wherever your loyalties lie, the stinging defeat, the vote of no confidence and subsequent resignation has not lessened the utter humiliation. The ramifications will inevitably linger for years to come. Someone has calculated that out of all the eligible citizens, if you remove half the population who are women, remove those under 18 and over 35, remove the overweight, the blind and disabled, those in hospital, those employed in essential services such as police, firemen and ambulance drivers, in earthquake and volcano surveillance, those away at sea in the whaling industry, the sheep herders, and not least the imprisoned bankers, the pool of men from which Iceland had left to pick its football team stood at around 23 men. The entire 23 man Icelandic squad apparently cost less in their last transfer moves than it cost Manchester City to sign one player, Raheem Sterling from Liverpool. And on a salary of £3.5 million, our manager was the highest paid in the world, while theirs is a part time shepherd. Clearly money isn’t everything.
“A Proven Gospel Partnership” (Philippians 2:19-30) Richard Bewes
“Taking Heaven’s Scroll” (Revelation 10:1-11) Richard Bewes
I have a confession to make. I am a junky. I have a serious addiction problem. I have had it since childhood. I have not talked about it before. Today I am coming clean. It has nothing to do with chemical dependency or substance abuse.
But there are no “twelve-step” therapy groups or treatment centres to help me fight it. Many people are addicted and don’t even know they are. At least I do. And now you do too.
Do you feel any less of me? Because what you think matters to me. And that’s the problem. Do you know what it is called? “Approval addiction”. It is living in bondage to what other people think about you. When your identity is wrapped up in whether you are perceived to be successful, likable, or acceptable, you are predisposed to this addiction also. Then you too are an approval addict. John Ortberg says, “no matter how much of this drug you get, you can never have enough. Just like all other junkies, you need more and more.” Henri Nouwen put it like this, “Who am I? I am the one who is liked, praised, admired, disliked, hated or despised.” In other words, I am what other people think I am. If being busy is important , then I must be seen to be busy. If having money is a sign of success, then I will invest my life in making as much as I can and flaunting it.
One day, a rich dad took his son on a trip to a village. He wanted to show him how poor somebody could be. They spent the day on the farm of a poor family. At the end of the day, the dad asked, “Did you see how poor they are? What did you learn?” The son replied, “We have a dog, they have four. We have a swimming pool, they have a river. We have lanterns at night, they have stars. We buy our food, they grow theirs. We have mobile phones, they have friends. We have computers, they have the Bible. As they headed back, the son said, “Thanks, dad, for showing me how poor we actually are.” In our sermon series on serving our theme is generosity. From 2 Corinthians 8, we are going to see that:
Christian giving is an expression of the grace of God (2 Cor. 8:1-7)
Christian giving is inspired by the cross of Christ. (2 Cor. 8:8-9)
Christian giving reflects our unity in the Spirit (2 Cor. 8:10-15) Continue reading