Tag Archives: Father

THE GOSPEL OF LUKE – CASUAL OR COMMITTED?

CASUAL OR COMMITTED?

“One day when large groups of people were walking along with Him, Jesus turned and told them, ‘Anyone who comes to me but refuses to let go of father, mother, spouse, children, brothers, sisters – yes, even his own self – can’t be my disciple. Anyone who won’t shoulder his own cross and follow behind me can’t be my disciple.'” Luke 14:25-27.

What is Jesus demanding? It sounds as though He is bent on breaking up families, almost as though He is on an ego trip. Is this really His intention? Once again, as we peer into the issues of the kingdom, like peering into a rock pool, we see things in the depths which are obscured in a casual glimpse.

What is discipleship? Unlike other religions that demand adherence to rules or rituals, to be a disciple of Jesus means to be reconnected and fused to Him who is the source of life. Jesus never demands an allegiance to Him that makes us losers. His promise is that our commitment to Him means that we will never be diminished.

So what does He mean? Discipleship is much more than answering an altar call or signing a decision card. It is not a free ticket to heaven, leaving us to carry on with our own lives with the guarantee of eternal life when we die because we carry our ‘passport’ in our back pocket. So much of what is preached as the ‘gospel’ today is a distortion of the truth. Jesus did not come and die to save us from hell and take us to heaven.

That may be true if we understand the concepts correctly. Yes, He did come and die to rescue us from hell, but the hell He talked about was not the hell of eternal fire but the hell of a wasted life that completely misses the point of our existence; God created us to glorify Him by being mirrors of Himself so that the whole of the created order can ‘see’ the glory of God in our attitudes and behaviour.

Jesus came to show us the Father and to remove the barriers that separate us from Him so that we can enjoy His fellowship and favour all the days of our lives. In that intimate connection with Him, we grow to be like Him and reflect Him in our daily journey through life.

Jesus promised to take us to the Father, but that demands submission and obedience to Him as Lord. It demands a revised attitude towards those who are closest to us and even towards ourselves because we have become espoused to a new lover. We do not lose our connection with family and friends – we redefine it. Our obligation to them and to ourselves changes. They are no longer our first consideration – Jesus is – and He determines the way we relate to them.

For example, husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her. Now that’s a radically different way from the way that husbands usually treat their wives. That does not mean renouncing them; it means loving the way Jesus loves, bringing them nearer to the model Jesus shows by the way He treats us who are His bride.

When we recognise the beauty of this new way of life, drawing our life’s energy and direction from Him, we also realise that, instead of renouncing our earthly relationships, we redefine and purify them from selfishness to loving service in the pattern and power of our Master. But this can only happen as we let go of the old ways of relating to them and strengthen our allegiance to Jesus as our Lord and then learn to imitate Him in the ways He related to people.

Jesus’ intention is to change society by changing people, and that only comes as we renounce our old selfish ways and live in intimate and uncluttered connection with Jesus, our source because He insisted, “Apart from me, you can do nothing.” John 15:6 (NIV).

But it’s your choice…

THE GOSPEL OF LUKE – WHEN YOU PRAY, SAY…

WHEN YOU PRAY, SAY…

Then He said to them, “When you pray, say, ‘Father, hallowed be your name; your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation.'” Luke 11:2-4.

I wonder how well the disciples understood what Jesus was teaching them about prayer. Did they grasp the underlying truth of God as their Father?

Unlike Matthew 6, there is no preamble to this version of the prayer. Although Jesus taught them that prayer is not about words, words are used to express the thoughts and emotions of the heart. What a world of meaning is wrapped up in the word ‘Father’! There is no prayer outside of this relationship which was made possible through Jesus.

“Yet to all who received Him, to all who believed in His name, He gave the right to be called children of God…” John 1:12.

Prayer is the way sons communicate with their heavenly Father. Prayer is the conscious turning of the attention away from self to the One who is our source and sustainer, changing the focus of our attention from self and our issues to God and His attributes. Whatever words it might take to do this, they are only the vehicle through which this change of awareness happens. Therefore, when a son focuses his attention on Father God, he is praying.

This Father with whom human beings are privileged to have a relationship because of Jesus, is not outside our realm of existence and experience. Heaven is not a place up there or out there but a dimension that completely saturates the physical realm as air saturates the earth. God is everywhere and He is therefore as near to us as our breath.

Prayer is therefore, firstly, a change from my environment to the environment of God, of His presence and nearness. Secondly, it is an awareness of who He is. To hallow His name is to concentrate on His glory, “the sum of His magnificent attributes and the eternal fame of His mysterious works”.  Where my attention was taken up by the issues of my life, I deliberately change my focus to the greatness of the God with whom I am engaging in love and trust as a son.

To engage with Him in this way is to put my personal concerns into the context of the bigger picture of His kingdom and will. It is also to put my failures into the context of His mercy. Since He has dealt with my load of guilt and the barrier of sin that separated me from Him, I dare not hang onto the offences that separate me from my fellow man.

Just as I am dependent upon Him for every crumb that passes my lips as a little child, I too, I depend on Him for the “bread” of heaven that nourishes my soul. And, knowing how tainted I am with the self-centred greed that has infiltrated my soul from birth, I look to Him to save me from my self-destructive ways that would ensnare and destroy me without the grace of His Spirit who is constantly at work in me.

This simple pattern prayer teaches me the essence of the attitude and disposition of a son to the Father, submitting to Him and being involved in the things that are on His heart. This is not about putting God first. This is about putting Him in the centre of my thinking and living.

THE GOSPEL OF LUKE – ISRAEL’S “BILLY GRAHAM”

ISRAEL’S “BILLY GRAHAM”

“When crowds of people came out for baptism because it was the popular thing to do, John exploded: ‘Brood of snakes! What do you think you’re doing slithering down here to the river? Do you think a little water on your snakeskin is going to deflect God’s judgment? It’s your life that must change, not your skin. And don’t think you can pull rank by claiming Abraham as “father”. Being a child of Abraham is neither here nor there – children of Abraham are a dime a dozen. God can make children of stones if He wants. What counts is your life. Is it green and blossoming? Because if it’s dead wood, it goes on the fire.'” Luke 3:7-9.

Talk about a fiery preacher! John wasn’t exactly “seeker-friendly” and he was seriously lacking in people skills! Like the one whose coming he was announcing, he was more concerned about truth than popularity.

Who were the people who made up the crowds? From the other gospels we learn that there were people from among the religious hierarchy; there were taxmen and there were even Roman soldiers; the good, the bad and the ugly! What attracted them to John? Did they enjoy getting a tongue-lashing? Was it his brutal honesty? Were they fascinated by this wild man from the wilderness? Was it his message?

Perhaps the angel’s prediction before his birth may give us a clue – he was filled with the Spirit from birth. The Holy Spirit must have played a big part in the response to his preaching. Obviously there was a high expectation that Messiah was coming. The presence of the Romans was intolerable; like the Gestapo in Nazi Germany, they were everywhere, it seemed, breathing down people’s necks.

On top of that, John’s message was riveting. Isaiah’s prophecy was actually happening! ‘A voice thundering in the desert,’ is what John called himself. But isn’t that what Isaiah said would happen? “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make His paths straight.'” Luke 3:4b (NKJV). ‘Messiah is on the way!’

Did John really understand the hearts of these people or was he just having a bad day? ‘Basket of snakes!’ he called them, ‘slithering down to the water.’ Was there a subtle reference to their origin – children of the devil, as Jesus called them? Whatever John meant, it was enough to get their attention. Were they being like sheep, following one another out of curiosity and John knew it? It was time for them to wake up and think for themselves.

What was the point of John’s baptism? Baptism, or ritual washing, was a common practice in Jewish culture. It was called “mikvah”, washing. It was the prescribed way of “cleansing” after any period of ritual uncleanness; it was a form of initiation into a new function or office, for example, the priesthood; and it was a form of initiation into a new movement (Gentiles who adopted Judaism were baptised into their new religion).  Archaeological digs have uncovered ritual baths in many places in Israel.

John was calling people to return to their original purpose in God. This demanded a change of heart and a change of lifestyle. It was to be something much deeper than just a symbolic washing. It was to be a change that affected every part of their lives. John’s challenge was: ‘Are you in this for the ride or do you really mean business with God?’

God called Israel to be His representatives in a world of people who were in rebellion against Him; who were creating and worshipping gods in the form of His creatures rather than the Creator, and who were, in turn, being created to be just like the evil gods they were worshipping.

Israel was to be different. Their lives were to reflect the kindness and generosity of their God. God prescribed a lifestyle in His Word that taught them what He was like so that they could mirror His way of doing things that worked, bringing peace and harmony to the community. But it had not worked because the Jews had followed the ways of their heathen neighbours instead of God’s ways.

John’s message was ‘Return!’ It was a simple as that!

THE PERFECT FATHER

As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him (Psa. 103:13)

I wonder how true this metaphor is in today’s world. Not only do we live in a fatherless world where many men beget children but take no responsibility for them, but where many children suffer at the hands of fatherless fathers who don’t know how to be good fathers to their sons and daughters.

God made fathers to represent Him to their children until they are old enough to understand who God is. The sad thing is that people often reject God because their dads put them off Him. Instead of believing in Him as a compassionate Father, they only see Him through the lens of their own fathers’ failures. They turn away from Him and try to fill the void with people and things that can never take His place.

Louie Giglio said that God is a not a “blown up” version of our earthly fathers. He is not like us as all – at least not like us after Adam sinned and became independent from Him. He created us to be like Him but we chose to go our own way and messed up His plan.

To get past our dads’ failures to know God as a compassionate Father, we must first acknowledge that our fathers are or were as imperfect as we are. How do we deal with their human frailties? We forgive. We don’t have to make excuses for them or for what they did or failed to do. We cancel their debt because God has cancelled ours.

We must let it all go for two reasons. Firstly, we forgive because Jesus paid their debt as well as ours and forgives all sin – theirs and ours. Secondly, God wants us to be merciful to others because He has been merciful to us. How can we hold unforgiveness in our hearts when He has been kind to us? The debt our fathers owe us is small compared with the unpayable debt we owed God.

When we have dealt with the baggage of our father’s debt that we have carried around in our hearts, we will recognise the Father’s love and compassion for us first of all in Jesus, His Son and then in the many “kisses” He gives us every day.

Just imagine how wonderful it will be when you are no longer angry with your father any more. You’ll be able to enjoy your heavenly Father’s love and favour to the full because He is the perfect Abba and He loves you with perfect love.

MOLLY AND ME – BELONGING

I remember the day I fetched Molly from the breeder. She wasn’t actually my first choice.

I was given a Yorkshire terrier puppy as a farewell gift when I left the church and my role as pastoral assistant to move to another city. Tosca, my Yorkie, was six weeks old. After her first night, when she missed her mother and her siblings, she settled down into a rambunctious, independent little bundle of mischief. I adored her, but she became a mystery to me.

I still continued to serve the church in a once-a-week capacity by travelling to my ex hometown to work in the office.

Two of Tosca’s siblings had been bought by my pastor and the playschool administrator with whom I stayed overnight every week. The three siblings spent two days every week romping and sleeping together in the office complex but, as soon as I arrived back home, Tosca would become a morose, even depressed little creature. She refused to eat and slept most of the day – until I realised that she was lonely. Another Yorkie as a companion would have been just too much so I settled for a miniature dachshund.

By this time, Tosca was five months old and Molly six weeks. At first, Tosca would have nothing to do with Molly because she couldn’t figure out what she was! However, after a few days, they became inseparable. Molly loved Tosca so much that she insisted on sleeping, not just in her bed but as close as she could to her, mostly lying against her or on top of her.

Then came the terrible day I shall never forget. I took Tosca to the SPCA to be spayed when she was six months old. Never imagining for a moment that anything would go wrong, I left her in the capable hands of the vet, only to receive a phonecall a few hours later from the distraught assistant to tell me that Tosca had reacted to the anaesthetic. I rushed out to the SPCA and there lay my little treasure, all the life with her energy and zest gone out of her. I was devastated!

Fortunately, I still had my little Molly. Needless to say, with her little canine companion no longer there to cuddle up to, she bonded even more strongly with me. My bed became her place of comfort! She has never slept anywhere else at night, as close as she can get to me, since that day.

Molly is truly mine. She loves people (at least those she knows)! She makes a huge fuss of my family and the friends who visit from time to time, but she knows to whom she belongs. When she is through playing or exploring the garden for snails, she comes running into the house and insists that I pick her up so that she can cuddle up on my lap and sleep in absolute contentment.

O, how our heavenly Father longs that we would know and understand what it means to belong to Him. I bought Molly with hard cash. He bought us with the precious blood of His Son! Molly is my pet. We are His beloved sons and daughters. Molly runs to me for protection, for food, and for comfort and companionship. Father God wants us to run to Him for every need and in every situation because He is our source. Without Him, we are nothing.

With great yearning after His wayward people. He urged,

“But now, O Jacob, listen to the Lord who created you, O Israel, the one who formed you says, ‘Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine.’  (Isaiah 43:1 – NLT)

Jesus assured us:

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me, for my Father has given them to me, and He is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand.” (John 10:27-28 – NLT) 

Do you belong to Him?