Tag Archive: Bible


comfort

‘All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.’ [Jesus Christ, Matthew 10.22 with similiar renditions in Luke 21.17 and Mark 13.13

But what does that mean? Well, for starters, i guess it might mean that if no-one at all hates you, you just might be doing it wrong.

I think what Jesus was meaning by that statement was that the message i am about to give you and the lifestyle I will demonstrate for you is so different and so subversive and so completely upside-down from what you are used to, that a lot of people will not understand and many people will respond in confusion and anger, and some may even want to kill you.

A little bit of a problem if you are blending in so well with those around you that no-one even notices you are different.

But ‘hate’ is so strong, so let’s take it down a notch:

# Jesus was betrayed, denied, abandoned, judged, accused of something He didn’t do, deserted and crucified [one of the most painful deaths known to man]

# Paul was beaten, stoned, judged, shipwrecked, lashed, accused of being something he wasn’t and eventually killed

# 10 of Jesus’ 12 disciples were martyred for their faith [Judas killed himself and John died of old age but amongst the others it is believed they included death by being thrown off the temple, flayed alive and crucified upside-down, stabbing, being sawn in half and being clubbed to death.

Early Christians were covered in tar and set on fire for the amusement of Nero [or to be human candles at his parties], they were dragged behind chariots until dead, they were tied in leather bags and thrown in water so that they were squeezed to death and they were fed to the lions and other beasts at the Roman circus.

and don’t get me started on the Old Testament…

since almost everyone throughout the Bible lived lives that don’t appear when you type ‘comfortable’ and ‘people in the Bible’ into Uncle Google, with Jesus preaching that if you live a life that is modeled on his words and teaching that you will not be popular and since the actual lives of those professing faith in Jesus throughout the early history of the church looked remarkably uncomfortable, at risk, revolutionary, difficult and challenging, it AMAZES ME how so much of the western church today can arrive at a Christianity that looks very much comfortable, easy, non-threatening, acceptable [to those outside of the church] and not really all that subversive at all.

could this be linked to the fact that so many of us are not reading the bible any more but simply listening to the words of teachers who say things we agree with?

could this be because many of us have run out of steam and exchanged the change-the-world passion we once exhuded so brightly for settling and comfort?

could this be because the stories of those actively living lives that look a lot more like Jesus are being pushed to the side while the noise of the popular preacher takes centre stage?

and more.

the good news is that it is never too late to change.

the world is crying out for an authentic church that flies in the face of conventional assimilation and actually knows, believes and lives out the words of Jesus.

[altho be warned – all men might hate you if you do… but that might be a sign that you are close to being on the right track again]

[and i should add the disclaimer that being hated by everyone doesn’t mean you’re necessarily doing it right – it could just mean you’re a jerk – looking at you Westboro! – so you’re looking for the combination of following Jesus and not being particularly loved by everyone]

if your Christianity is easy, chances are strong that you could be doing it wrong. it seldom was for Jesus and He came to show us how perfectly this thing could be done.

‘Then Jesus said, if anyone wants to follow Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.’ [Luke 9.23]

the verse i chose in here is verse 105, but take some time on the other ones you can see in here cos there are some exquisite gems:

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‘Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.’

# 103 How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth.

# 104 I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore I hate every wrong path.

# 108 Accept, Lord, the willing praise of my mouth, and teach me your laws.

Seriously, just take some time on those three lines. Don’t rush through them to get to the punchline. The writer of these lines seems to really get how incredibly beautiful, powerful and important the word of God is in his life. And for his life.

Do you feel the same way? It’s okay if you don’t (as in don’t feel bad about it) cos so many people do not echo this writer’s words in terms of how they relate to the bible

But don’t be content to stay there. Don’t be satisfied at a life that involves the bible every now and then because, like paying your tv licence, “It’s the right thing to do.”

And here is the cruncher:

105 “Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light to my path.”

If you don’t love the bible or find it engaging, then start there. Let your prayer become, “God help me to love and appreciate your Word.”

Because, you know what? In my experience, that is a prayer God LOVES to answer.

And i’ve seen Him do it. Actually i’ve experienced it as well. And it changes everything.

It is important to remember that the focus must never end up on the bible – the bible points us towards Jesus and the kingdom of God. And so, as the verse says, it is a lamp for my feet [rarely showing me the end of my journey but often lighting up the next place for me to put my foot] and it is a light to my path.

So much of goodness. A prayer worth praying. An experience worth celebrating.

[For my next favourite verse, I look at Isaiah 40.27-31]

[For the growing list of all my favourite verses, click here]

i have used this passage in a lot of preaches. It is possibly one of the greatest starting points of connection with God, or simply a helpful reminder when life is feeling a little overwhelming, as it tends to be at times…

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Ephesians 3.20-21

and i am wanting to focus on 20 and 21, but i really love the preceding passage as well as i think it sets it up so well:

14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the saints,to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

# Christ dwelling in your heart through faith [reminds me of Colossians 1.27 – Christ in me, the hope of glory] – this is a huge and needing to be continually aware of promise.

# being strengthened with power through the Holy Spirit – so helpful if we remember where to look to for strength, ability and capacity

# being rooted and established in love which is also the most powerful reminder – Jesus pointed to Love as the greatest commandment and we need to keep going back to that as the place of starting and foundation for everything we do [else it all means nothing, see beginning of 1 Corinthians 13]

# grasping how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ – speaks for itself and what i love about this is the description of  what love is just keeps going – the writer almost can’t contain himself in terms of just trying to get across the message that this Love is so ridiculously huge – can’t even wrap your mind around it [imagine if all Jesus followers could wrap their minds around the unmindwrappability of the love of God?]

# to know this love that surpasses knowledge – it just keeps getting better – this love is beyond our capacity to understand and fathom it – that is insane and WHY DON’T YOU BELIEVE THAT? how small do we make the love and reach of God?

# that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God – be filled with all the fullness of God. again, this whole passage feels like something that could use long and hard meditation, because we [or christians in general] tend to live lives that are so small and certainly would not for the most part be described by outsiders as ‘all the fullness of God’ right? Maybe we should forget our focus on rules and who is in and who is out and just step back and be awestruck but this God we serve and what He freely offers us and who He calls us to be [and the fact that He does all the work of that – not our feeble efforts or strivings]

the best part is that was not the bit i wanted to focus on, but how incredible, right?

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Him [God] who is able to do IMMEASURABLY MORE than ALL WE COULD HOPE OR IMAGINE

What does that verse say to you? That maybe, just maybe, for the most part, we are hoping and imagining too small?

Because sometimes our prayers are so small [especially when they are me-focused] – God is wanting to end poverty and we are asking for a safe car journey. God is wanting to revolutionise your neighborhood and we are requesting more people in our sunday meeting? God is wanting to see His church in the marketplace and on the front lines connecting with and seeing life change in those who do not know Him… we pray for enough money to redo the church roof.

Immeasurably [which means can’t be counted, unable to be worked out or measured] more [as in not that much, but even more than that much] than all [as in everything, not just the easy ones or the things we can do in our own strength or as a community] we could hope or imagine [are some of us even hoping and imagining at all?]

Are you hoping and imagining big enough? Am i?

[For my next favourite verse, i look at Psalm 119 vs 105]

[For the growing list of all my favourite verses, click here]

If you are genuinely trying to follow Jesus, then there will be times when it gets confusing or difficult or a little overwhelming and this passage for me – Mark 12 vs 28-34 – is a good place to head back to and be reminded of the foundations that everything else is built on.

There is some great stuff in this reflection on focus and judging others [or not] and how centering our life on this Love thing might just inform the way you live the rest of your life… so this feels like one worth taking a watch of…

[To watch the next part which deals with Jesus and your offering, click here]

So you’re married and happily reading your bible and you come across this passage where Jesus seems to say, ‘Once we get to the new heaven and the new earth, no-one is going to be married any more or even getting married.’ Oh. How do you explain that one?

Well join me as I walk through Mark 12. 18-27 where I very clearly don’t:

[For the next passage which deals with what this Christianity is kinda all about, click here]

This short one feels like a traditional David rant against his closing in enemies and while his enemies were more than likely actual enemies wanting to do him physical harm, i find connection to the description of them more through a metaphorical sense of people who are against me or something i’ve said or done, in less combatative but still quite real-feeling ways:

1 Hear me, my God, as I voice my complaint;
    protect my life from the threat of the enemy.

2 Hide me from the conspiracy of the wicked,
    from the plots of evildoers.
3 They sharpen their tongues like swords
    and aim cruel words like deadly arrows.
4 They shoot from ambush at the innocent;
    they shoot suddenly, without fear.

5 They encourage each other in evil plans,
    they talk about hiding their snares;
    they say, “Who will see it?”
6 They plot injustice and say,
    “We have devised a perfect plan!”
    Surely the human mind and heart are cunning.

But when i read the next piece i have to see this as David’s wishful thinking or heart’s hope and desire rather than a Biblical teaching on how things are going to play out:

7 But God will shoot them with his arrows;
    they will suddenly be struck down.
8 He will turn their own tongues against them
    and bring them to ruin;
    all who see them will shake their heads in scorn.

Because i’m not convinced God was actually going to shoot arrows at them or that they would necessarily even be struck down, not in this life anyways. We read elsewhere in Scripture how often the wicked seem to prosper and i can bear witness to that. And while we trust in an eternal justice from God, there does not always seem to be a local karmic system in place that brings bad to those who commit bad. And often, rather than scorn, it is praise and delight and adulation that is heaped upon these people. So we really have to believe there is something more bigger picture going on…

But, as always, even in the midst of a gloomy situation, David manages to end off strongly with a focus on the God who saves and is worth praise:

10 The righteous will rejoice in the Lord
    and take refuge in him;
    all the upright in heart will glory in him!

And so we are left with that challenge that regardless of present circumstances, where d we put our faith and trust and are we glorifying God as we should?

[To return to the Intro page and be connected to any of the other Psalms i have walked through before now, click here]

With regards to the fig tree, my friend Niven had this to say which makes a lot of sense:

Check out the significance of the fig tree by how it relates to the religious system the Pharisees were running. Much of what Jesus does is largely counter-intuitive so the real story is often just beneath the surface. The fig tree was representative of the system. The end of the old oppressive regime. Jesus goes to the temple just before Passover and turns one of the most important sacrificial feasts upside down. He is announcing a new way by rendering the old as obsolete. The fig tree was also used as a place of prayer for young Rabbis in training then off course there’s the fig leaves used in the garden of Eden we can throw back to employing the principle of first mention. Just some thoughts around it.

Let’s look at the second part of that story im Mark 11.20-26 and the whole idea of praying for mountains to move… and the urgency of forgiveness.

[For the next passage in this Mark series looking at Jesus dealing with questions intended to trap Him, click here]

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