Jesus: The Firstborn Over All Creation

Colossians 1.15:23  is Hymn to Christ that predates Paul’s usage of it here.

This “hymn” was the first Bible passage to truly capture my imagination.

And by “imagination” I mean my mind, my heart and my very being.

In these words I learned my first Greek word.

I bought a Gk-Heb dictionary soon after my conversion in the early 1990’s.

I’ll be honest, it felt good buying it; But using it was like teaching a toddler metaphysics in Medieval Latin.

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What’s in a Nain?

‘What’s in a Nain? –  Raising the Widow’s Son  (Luke 7:11-17)

Every detail in the Gospel stories carries various degrees of meaning and clues.

What’s in a Nain? Nain is a very small town just about 14/5 miles south of Nazareth.

Both towns overlook the notorious Valley of Jezreel.

‘Jezreel’ a combination of two words:  ‘Almighty’ and ‘Sow’.  i.e. ‘God Sows’.

Which sounds rather lovely.

But in the Old Testament, terrible events happened here:

  • Jezebel was thrown out of the tower and eaten by dogs.
  • Ahab murdered Naboth and stole his vineyard.
  • Ahab’s sons were beheaded.
  • Deborah defeated Sisera.
  • Saul defeats the Philistines.
  • Egypt defeated King Josiah.
  • It is also next to Endor where Saul consulted a Medium before battle.

It’s looking pretty grim.

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Honoured

Mark 10:46-52  

Jesus Heals Blind Bartimaeus

Now they came to Jericho. As He went out of Jericho with His disciples and a great multitude, blind Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, sat by the road begging. And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Then many warned him to be quiet; but he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” So Jesus stood still and commanded him to be called. Then they called the blind man, saying to him, “Be of good cheer. Rise, He is calling you.” And throwing aside his garment, he rose and came to Jesus. So Jesus answered and said to him, “What do you want Me to do for you?” The blind man said to Him, “Rabboni, that I may receive my sight.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus on the road.

Sometimes our own reactions to the Gospel fall way short.  Blind Bartimaeus called out to Jesus. 

Sometimes the wrong type of people call out to Jesus and we, like Bartimaeus, are blind to them.  The poor guy was well known.  He had a dad they all knew, Timaeus.  Now why would Mark record that?  Because people knew him.  Timaeus and his embarrassing son, simply called Bar-Timaeus.  But that name is now fulfilled in this encounter.  It means “honoured” – Jesus will now honour the Son of the Honoured one. 

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Touching the Hem

A short devotional reading of Mark 6:53-56

They landed in Gennesaret – on the NW side of Sea of Galilee, just south of Capernaum.

This is the historic land allocation of the Tribe of Naphtali.

In Deuteronomy (33:23), the blessing of Moses to this tribe reads:

“And of Naphtali he said, ‘O Naphtali, sated/abounding with favour, and full of the blessing of the Lord, possess the lake/west and the south.

With this immense blessing, it is no wonder Gennesaret means:  Garden of the Prince.

The Garden recalls the fullness of Eden, sated with favour, full of blessing.

The Prince calls for the Messiah, the Saviour, the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6).

This is a place where the King rules in fullness of majesty, possessing the earth in fullness of blessing.

So Jesus goes to Gennesaret.

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The Genius of your Church

Ecclesiastes tells us there is a time for everything under the sun.

Birth, death, planting, healing, mourning, dancing, etc.

 

There are times and seasons in our lives, and in the life of our church.

There are seasons for this or that.

A permanent this or that is never a good idea.

For ministry and mission can never be standardised and eternalised.

The Spirit blows where it wants to.  

 

The Churches in Revelation all had their folly and foibles.

The genius of the Ephesus church was her patient endurance.

Its sublime rejection of all that is evil.

Its ability to test and consider those who are true or false.  Etc.

That was their genius.

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Monkey Mind

Does your mind leap from one thing to another?

Has your mind made yet another leap since you started reading?

Have you often found yourself restless in prayer?

Not quite like going cold-turkey from a busy life, but not far off either!

 

Is it a triumph when concentration exceeds 20 seconds?

Do the thoughts of what needs doing cruise through your mind like an F1 racing car?

Or do they meandre like a cow slowly chewing the cud?

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Lord, behold a wretched sinner

Below is a wonderful hymn by Kim Fabricius.  
I can't sing very well, so if you'll join me in praying it I'll be delighted!

Lord, behold a wretched sinner

(Tune: Quem pastores laudavere)

 

Lord, behold a wretched sinner,

from the outer to the inner;

at repentance, rank beginner:

day and night my conscience cries.

 

Where begin?  My faults keep mounting;

when I start I can’t stop counting;

huge the sum, but Christ’s accounting

crosses out and nullifies.

 

Good I would but can’t achieve it,

bad I hate but can’t relieve it.

God for us?  I can’t believe it:

me the apple of his eye!

 

God forgives before petition;

grace alone shows our condition;

truth demands our self-suspicion:

like a snake the heart is sly.

 

While accusing scribes are hissing,

Christ portrays the Father kissing

cheek of child that he’s been missing:

Love forgives and sanctifies!

 

by Kim Fabricius found here.

Sideways CrossI took this photo outside All Saints Church in Torquay.

If We…

If We…
If we were on the Air France plane that crashed into the Alps, we would be dead.
If we were born just one caste above the pathetic Untouchables of India, we would despise them.
If we were carried on Empires wings to far flung places, we would have had black ‘servants’.
If we were a migrant from a poor nation, we would be on those Mediterranean boats.
If we were Germans in the 1930’s, chances are we’d be Nazi’s.
If we were a child in Gaza today, we would be traumatised for life.
If we were caught in the IS net, we would be Jihadis.
If we were born in Saudi Arabia, we would be Muslim.
If we were Syrian and couldn’t escape, we’d be reduced to factional fighting along tribal lines.
If we lived during post-war East Germany, we would be Communist.
If we lived near the Japanese nuclear reactor, we would likely die younger than planned.
If we were an uneducated female from rural Thailand, we would be lured to the sex-trafficking industry.
If we were born to the Christian poor in Egypt, we would live on the city’s rubbish dump.
If we were not British, we would not have access to the NHS.
If we were not Western, access to credit for loans and mortgages would not be possible
If we were not filled with food, we would become a different person.
If we had a twin in the Third World, we would give them our old phones and computers.
If we didn’t live in a democracy, we would live in a dictatorship.
If we weren’t British, the elderly wouldn’t get a fuel allowance.
Most people on the planet do not know what a pension is;
Or a weekly bin service; or a liveable wage; or dignity; or compassion; or ….mere humanity.
In other words, if we were not us, here, now, humanised, we’d mostly likely be someone else, somewhere else, living an existence – dehumanised.
For God so loved the world? He desires all to be saved, not wishing that any should perish?
Yes! For God so loved the world. He desires all to be saved, not wishing that any should perish.
We are here, by God’s grace, yes! By divine design, for sure! But why us and not someone else?

Does this qwerk of “chance” or providence change who God is? No.
Does it change how we as God’s people respond to those not like us? Yes. Of course.
It’s easy now to imagine ourselves as Christian – here and now, in this context, this powerful context of white Western power, economically strong, and militarily mighty.

Under these conditions the Gospel is so good. God is so merciful.
But God is still God to the 9 year old frontline IS warrior. Kid soldiers with men’s guns.
And God is still God when we do not get the parking space we prayed for, or the phone we wanted, or the illness which we just don’t have time for.
Our environment determines far more than we realise.
God does not change. But we do. Our lives, cultures, circumstances change almost constantly.
The Gospel makes us realise not only our own time and space, but then we are told by Jesus:
To cast the Gospel net further afield.
To scatter the Gospel seed onto every path.
To preach the Gospel Word in and out of season.
To proclaim Gospel peace and the year of the Lord’s favour.
To give away all but one of our coats.
To feed the hungry: “You give them something to eat.”
To bind up the broken hearted.
To go. Where?
Into all the world. Preach this Gospel to every creature under heaven.
And if we go into all the world, we would find God already there, in extraordinary ways, preparing the way.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition make your requests known to God.”

 

Be the Light

I was walking the dogs recently and came across this lamp-post, an unusual vision that stopped me in my tracks. It is clearly an older light, probably not even working, neglected and almost over-run with, what my kids used to call “nature”!

20150124_094002-1-1

It reminded me of two possibilities for a believer in Christ:

First, positively, that it doesn’t matter what happens throughout your life, where you are placed, the one thing a Christian does is shine!  The weeds of nature may wrap around you with their lies and choking restrictions, but the Christian just keeps shining.

Jesus called His followers the “light of the world” in Matthew 5:14.  Paul urges the Christians at Philippi to “shine as lights in the world” (Philippians 2:15).  And John encourages an “abiding in the light” as he writes “the true light is already shining” (1 John 2:8).

20150124_094002-1-3Second, negatively!  The street light had succumbed to the cares of the world.  The light wasn’t shining (admittedly is was day time – you shrewd reader)!  It looked tired and weary amidst a crooked and perverse generation, to use Paul’s words from Philippians.

Sometimes as Christians we can succumb.  The choking lies of Satan become too much, even when the vile serpent quotes Scripture at us as he did to Jesus in the wilderness, we know that in doing so he, the father of lies, knows the Bible better than we do.  And so we believe his lies, and the weeds choke, and our guilt condemns.

Maybe our light flickers, with degrees of brightness.  That’s surely a more realistic picture of the Christian life, not quite “dimmer-switch Christianity”, but not far off.  Our mood or whatever transient event that shapes our mood is the controller on the dimmer-switch of our life and determines our level of faith, our ability to shine, our sheer pressing in to Christ despite the garbage that grows around and on us.

Jesus called His followers the light of the world because He is the Light of the world.  Light just is, and darkness doesn’t stand a chance in the presense of light.

Just as a light on a hill cannot be hidden, the Light of the world on the hill of Calvary cannot be hidden.  Even in death and buried in a tomb, the Light is working to bring about a resurrection that will transform everything.

I guess for me, the challenge of this old lamp was a reminder that the Gospel will always have enemies and opponents.  Light exposes darkness no matter how lovingly we do it.  I am called to shine!

In one sense, it simply doesn’t matter what grows all over it, just don’t let it be because your light has gone out.  “Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4).

Jesus is the Light of the world.

You are the light of the world.

So shine!

Ironies of the Nativity

A short reflection used throughout a candlit carol service at church. 

Ironies of the Nativity in Matthew 2
2:1 “Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea…”
Bethlehem. The ancestral birth place of the Great King David, through whose line the promised Messiah would come. So Jesus was born of a royal human line in fulfillment of Scripture and the hope of the word. Born in a place which means “House of Bread” – a clue to His own identity as the Bread of Heaven, the bread which fed the Israelites in their wandering wilderness, and ultimately, his claim to be the Bread of Life. “No one lives by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Jesus is the Word of God that comes from the mouth of God. It is on Him we feed and find true sustenance.

2:1 “…in the days of Herod the King…”
In the days of one king, is born another. In the days of a false king, an example of human pomp and arrogance, is born the true King, in humility and weakness. A King born into this world, whose kingdom is not of this world. A heavenly fulfillment of an earthly promise: He shall reign forever, King of Kings and Lord of lords.

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