All posts by Luella Campbell

WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?

WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?

“Peter said, ‘Master, I’m ready for anything with you. I’d go to jail for you. I’d die for you!’

“Jesus said, ‘I’m sorry to have to tell you this, Peter, but before the rooster crows you will have three times denied that you know me.'” Luke 22:33-34 (The Message).

We like to pick Peter out for being cocksure of himself but I don’t think we are any different. There was no problem with his sincerity. He loved the Master and would willingly have given his life for him — in his mind — but, in the real situation, at the mercy of ruthless Roman soldiers, it was a little different.

Peter did not know what it was like to be in that kind of situation. Perhaps even more important was the fact that dying for Jesus then would be pointless. He would be dying for a friend but not as a witness to the truth to which he was testifying. His opportunity would come later when he would give his life for what he believed and preached, that Jesus is the Son of God and that He rose from the dead and is the author of eternal salvation for all who believe in Him.

Peter had a whole lot of living to do and learning the truth about Jesus and the resurrection because that became the pivot of his life and message, and the reason for his obedience and courage, even to the point of dying the same cruel death as his Master.

Peter did not even know that his brash words were prophetic. He did indeed go to jail and to death for Jesus but it was because of his choice to follow Him and not because he was the victim of Jewish leaders’ prejudice. Peter learned his lesson well. He had to go through his own ‘Gethsemane’, humiliating and painful as it was, to be equipped to be an apostle of the good news.

Our own failures and weaknesses seem so drastic and final that we think that they disqualify us from being Jesus’ disciples, and we run from Him in guilt and shame. God has a very different view of our failures. These are the very experiences that equip us to be witnesses for Him.

To what are we really witnessing? Not to our strengths! If we never failed, we would not need the grace which God freely gives to us because of Jesus. This is the marvel and miracle of the gospel. Jesus came to earth because of who we are. There is nothing in us to commend us to God. God’s verdict: “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” Jeremiah 17:9 (NIV).

At best we are foul. “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.” Isaiah 64:6 (NIV).

Jesus did everything necessary to recue us from our pitiful condition. He paid our debt, washed us clean and presented us to God as His own beloved sons and daughters and gives us the grace to live for Him in His strength, not ours.

We are fools if we think we can do it by ourselves. Peter learned that and so must we if we are to be witnesses of how big He is, and not of how big we are. It only takes our considered decision to follow Him to brings God’s grace into action that energises us to do what we have chosen to do. The choice is ours; the strength is His and we do it together.

We have a union with the Holy Spirit who lives in us so close that, whenever we decide to obey, His power activates our choice and we do it through Him. “I have been crucified wih Christ and I no longer live but Christ lives in me, The life I live in the body, live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Galatians 2:20 (NIV).

Is that not a better option than being self-confident and falling into a deep, dark hole of guilt and shame because I thought I could do it by myself?

WHO WAS ON TRIAL?

WHO WAS ON TRIAL?

“When it was morning, the religious leaders of the people and the high priests and scholars all got together and brought Him before their High Council. They said, ‘Are you the Messiah?’

“He answered, ‘If I said yes, you wouldn’t believe me. If I asked you what you meant by your question, you wouldn’t answer me. So here’s what I have to say: From here on the Son of Man takes His place at God’s right hand, the place of power.’

“They all said, ‘So you admit your claim to be the Son of God?’

‘”You’re the ones who keep saying it,’ He said.

“But they had made up their minds. ‘Why do we need any more evidence? We’ve all heard Him as good as say it Himself.’ Luke 22:66-71 (The Message).

This has to be the strangest court case in history! Jesus was the prisoner and yet His subtle answer to their question and their attempt to force Him into incriminating Himself, exposed their guilt, not His. Their charge, punishable by death according to their religious law, was blasphemy. For them His guilt was cut and dried, if they could get Him to make a confession. ‘If you are claiming to be the Son of God, say it.’

The only witnesses they could produce contradicted one another and, according to Mark’s account, brought an accusation so feeble that their testimony was dismissed. All they could bank on was that Jesus would admit guilt to their charge by His own confession.

His counter charge was: ‘If I am not the Son of God, prove it.’ As the members of the High Council, it was their duty to uphold justice and to do this, they had to provide evidence to support their charge, but they could not produce at least two reliable witnesses.

Jesus turned the tables on them by His reply to their question. ‘If I said yes, you would not believe me. If I asked what you meant by your question, you would not answer me.’  He dug underneath their hypocritical “justice”, exposed their motive and revealed their wicked hearts. They were not after the truth. They were after an excuse to condemn Him.

Instead of giving them a direct answer, He made a statement which they were forced to weigh up for themselves. Their response would be the verdict on themselves, guilty or not guilty. Their refusal to drop the case drove them deeper into guilt and His resurrection three days later finally sealed their doom.    

Once before, they were caught in the same dilemma when they came to Him with a trick question, ‘Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar?’  His answer took them by surprise. They were expecting Him to get Himself into trouble either with Jewish or Roman authorities. Instead, He put them in their place by reminding them of both their civil and religious responsibilities. “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s” Luke 20:25b (NIV).

Motive and responsibility – Jesus was big on both these issues. Why we do things is just as important as what we do. Taking responsibility for what we do and why we do what we do is the essence of maturity. Adam and Eve tried to play the “blame game” but it did not work with God. Man has been doing the same thing ever since and it still doesn’t work.

Even though Jesus was found guilty, condemned and crucified, He was the judge in the end, and His accusers the condemned. Yes, Jesus was guilty as charged, guilty of being who He said He was, the Christ, the Son of the living God, and He not only claimed it, He proved it by rising from the dead.

Those who tried and condemned Him were the guilty ones, guilty of prejudice, injustice and treason because they betrayed the God they claimed to serve and condemned to death the Son of God because they refused to recognise and believe in Him.

Since the resurrection proved, once for all, that Jesus is who He says He is, we are driven to respond to Him, either to bow to Him as Lord, or to reject Him and sea lour fate with those who forfeit the right to share in His kingdom forever.

WHOSE PERSPECTIVE COUNTS

WHOSE PERSPECTIVE COUNTS

“Just then He looked up and saw the rich people dropping offerings in the collection plate. Then He saw a poor widow put in two pennies. He said, ‘The plain truth is that this widow has given by far the largest offering today. All these others made offerings that they’ll never miss; she gave extravagantly what she couldn’t afford — she gave her all.'” Luke 21:1-4 (The Message).

He noticed! Isn’t that just like God?

I don’t think Jesus was sitting near the temple treasuryspecifically watching and judging people as they dropped in their offerings. He just happened to notice an obviously poor woman, mingling with the rich people, giving her gift as they put their offerings in the collection box.

Why did she stand out among the crowd? Did her threadbare clothing give her away? Was she wearing widow’s garb? The wealthy people would have dressed accordingly, and she would not have blended in with them. Perhaps she attracted Jesus’ attention because His heart was always for the underdog.

In the Sermon on the Mount, He has spoken out against the practice of the ‘hypocrites’ who gave their money in such a way that they wanted to attract attention to their ‘generosity’. The collection boxes were trumpet-shaped containers which prevented would-be thieves from helping themselves because the base was too narrow to get their hands in. If a person wanted to be noticed, he would toss his coins into the funnel so that it would make a ringing sound, hence the saying, ‘Don’t blow your own trumpet.’

Amid the ostentation of the rich, this poor widow slipped in and unobtrusively dropped in her two small coins, the smalled denomination in their currency. And Jesus noticed! Once again His comment puts our ‘generosity’ into God’s perspective which differs so much from our own. He noticed, not how much she gave, but how much she had left.

Of course, that should not put us on a guilt trip. God is realisitic. He does not expect us to give our entire livelihood away. What would be the point of that? But He does hold us accountable as stewards of what He has entrusted to us. The difference between the attitude of God’s people and the people who refuse to acknowledge Him should be, but is not always, that we are guided by God’s requirements and not by greed. He gives generously so that we will share our resources with others.

The first thought that comes to me is that this widow’s generosity was prompted by her identity with poor people. As a widow, if she had no family to support her, she was dependent on the generosity of others. She knew what it felt like to depend on others for her livelihood. She also knew what it was like to have nothing. Her two little coins were not much, but it was all she had to share with others.

Secondly, to give all she had meant that she had faith in God to supply her need, risking, everything on the faithfulness of God. That introduces another dimension to our responsibility to obey God — faith, which is spelt r-i-s-k. It is not difficult to take faith-risks in other areas of our lives but in the money category…that’s different!

This little woman caught Jesus’ attention because her action lined right up with God’s perspective. He did not see her as a poor nobody because of her appearance or her station in life. He saw her as great in God’s kingdom because she understood, believed and put into practice God’s will, and God always responds to obedience.

God works, not by giving to us according to our need but by meeting our need when we take care of the needs of others. When we give, we create a current that brings God’s supply to us through the generosity of the others. That’s God’s wisdom!!

YOUR TURN IS COMING

YOUR TURN IS COMING

“‘Who would you rather be: the one who eats the dinner or the one who serves the dinner? You’d rather eat and be served, right? But I’ve taken my place among you as the one who serves. And you’ve stuck with me through thick and thin. Now I confer on you the royal authority my Father conferred on me so you can eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and be strengthened as you take up responsibilities among the congregation of God’s people.'” Luke 22:27-30 (The Message).

Of course we would rather sit down at the dinner table and be served than watch others eating while we serve! But once again, we belong to a kingdom where all the values are a reversal of this world’s values. In the present order of things, “sitting at the table” implies occupying an important position in society.

Serving is a menial job and is reserved for the “nobodies”. In the world’s eyes, Jesus is a “nobody”. In fact, even believers often treat Him as a nobody – it’s “Jesus, do this; Jesus, do that” as though we were the masters and He the servant.

Once again Jesus is teaching us to view this life as part of a bigger whole. Being a servant in the here and now is a necessary part of our apprenticeship for our task in God’s kingdom. It would be foolish to employ an untrained person to do a responsible job, especially one that handles people’s lives. No airline company would emply a rookie to pilot their passenger planes.

There are examples in Scripture of people who were placed in responsible positions without first being taught to be a servant. The most glaring would be King Saul, Israel’s first king. He had great potential but he was never put through his “servant” training before he became king. When the tests came, he failed dismally because he did not know how to submit to God’s authority.

He was disqualified and replaced by David, a shepherd boy who had learned to serve as the youngest son in a family of eight. His trust in God carried him through many  dangerous situations and equipped him to be a true leader of God’s people because he submitted to God’s authority and ruled wisely under God.

Having a servant heart is a necessary part of being a disciple. It teaches us how to live in submission and obedience to our Master and equips us to be imitators of Jesus. Without this training we would be liabilities to God in His kingdom just like Satan     

was, taking the bit between our teeth and causing chaos through disobedience and self-will.

There will be a time when we reap the reward of faithfully serving others through our obedience to God. Jesus assures us that, if we stick with Him, we will share the honour of a place at His table if we have passed the test of humility and self-sacrifice. Joseph spent thirteen years in slavery and imprisonment in preparation for his great task although he was not guilty of wrongdoing. God found him faithful and promoted him to a place of honour and authority where he could “sit at the table” because he had served well.

Our turn is coming. Our years of training may be long and tedious but they are intended

to prepare and test us for great responsibility and honour. If we stick with Jesus and serve others with humility, we shall also share in the reward of “a place at His table”, taking up our responsibilites among the congregation of God’s people.

Jesus is the perfect pattern God has given us to follow. “Although He was a son, He learned obedience from what He suffered and, once made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him and was designated by God to be a high priest in the order of Melchizedek.” Hebrews 5:8-10 (NIV).

A HEAP OF RUBBLE?

A HEAP OF RUBBLE?,

“One day people were standing around talking about the temple, remarking how beautiful is was, the splendour of its stonework and memorial gifts. Jesus said, ‘All this you’re admiring so much — the time is coming when every stone in that building will end up in a heap of rubble.’

“They asked Him, ‘Teacher, when is this going to happen? What clue will we get that it’s about to take place?'” Luke 21:5-7 (The Message).

Amazing, isn’t it, how things that seem so permanent and indestructible can disappear without warning in a moment! The Israelites had put such confidence in the durability of their temple that they could not believe that it would ever be destroyed.

Jeremiah warned them, centuries before, about putting false hope in their temple. “Hear the word of the Lord, all you people of Judah who come through these gates to worship the Lord. This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel says: ‘Reform your ways and your actions, and I will let you live in this place. Do not trust in deceptive words and say, ‘This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord!’ If you really change your ways and your actions and deal with each other justly, if you do not oppress the alien, the fatherless and the widow and do not shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not follow other gods to your own harm, then I will let you live in this place, in the land I gave your forefathers for ever and ever. But look, you are trusting in deceptive words that are worthless.'” Jeremiah 7:2b-8 (NIV).

The Babylonians came and did exactly what Jesus predicted was about to happen again — they reduced their temple to rubble and plundered all its treasures. Perhaps the people who commented to Jesus on its beauty had forgotten its history. 

There are lessons for us to learn from this incident as well. God places no value on things if they do not serve the purpose of enhancing our relationship with Him and the fruit of that relationship. How many people foolishly put their confidence in inanimate things like crucifixes, St Christopher images or even a rabbit’s foot or family photograph to keep them safe instead of trusting in the living God! Even our money is not infallible!

Of course we have to remember that we live in a world where “stuff” happens. No one is immune from the problems and tragedies that affect all human beings. Jesus warned us that these things are inevitable (John 16:33), but He also promised that in Him we have a place of refuge – peace – that will protect us from the effects of these adversities.

Sometimes bad things happen just because we are part of an imperfect world; sometimes we are the victims of other people’s choices and sometimes we bear the consequences of our own poor choices. In this case, destruction was coming on Jersusalem because God’s people had rejected their Messiah and called down His blood on their own heads.

We may not escape the troubles that inevitably happen but we can have an eternal safeguard that carries us beyond the confines of this life. God’s promise to those who love Him is infallible: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. For those God foreknew He predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brothers.” Romans 8:28-29 (NIV).

We must never be caught up in foolish superstition that trusts in things and not in God. God and His word are reliable in a world that is fragile and transient. “The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.”  1 John 2:17 (NIV).