When temples are destroyed…

But the Jewish leaders demanded, “What are you doing? If God gave you authority to do this, show us a miraculous sign to prove it.”                                                                                                               “All right,” Jesus replied. “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”             “What!” they exclaimed. “It has taken forty-six years to build this Temple, and you can rebuild it in three days?” (John 2v18-21)

We pick up this story moments after Jesus has overturned the tables of the dealers in the temple. Incensed at how God’s temple has become a place of injustice to the poor who are forced to pay exorbitant prices to make their sacrifices, Jesus lambasts the traders then the Jewish leaders. In response, the leaders challenge Jesus to prove he is from God. After all, if he is, surely he can provide the accompanying miracle?

While it seems that Jesus side-steps the leaders’ demands, he actually does offer them insight into the forthcoming  miracle – the greatest of all – that ought prove to them that he is who he says he is. The leaders reaction to Jesus’ claim that if the temple is destroyed, he will rebuild it in three days, shows the shortfall in thinking and understanding between them. The leaders thinking is simplistic as they believe Jesus is talking about the building. In actual fact, Jesus references his own body as a temple that will be destroyed to make amends for sin, then resurrected three days later as a miracle to prove God’s authority is upon him to speak and act.

I like to imagine Jesus standing with arms open wide (crucifix-like) as he tells them to ‘destroy this temple’ then kindly responds to their rebuff and lack of insight as they grasp at the wrong end of the stick and miss the greater thing that God is doing. This week, why not join me in asking God to open our eyes to see beyond the limits of our present human understanding towards the greater things that God is doing. Be blessed!


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How’s the foundation holding up?

“Anyone who…follows (my teaching) is like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes …and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. When the… floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.”                                                 Matthew 27v24-7

I took this photo several years ago while out in the Olympic Peninsula. Fascinated by the precarious existence of the trees that tottered on the edge of the eroded river bank,  it wasn’t difficult for me to imagine what would happen when the next floodwaters came.

In the parable of the Wise and Foolish Builders (above), Jesus suggests that every believer must choose between two possible states of existence – disobedience: like the trees in this picture  with shallow roots and sandy soil that will never stand up to hard testing. Or, obedience: rooted deep in terra firma that will not disintegrate when testing comes.

Of course, Jesus uses the parable to liken human understanding of well and poorly built houses with human responsibility to make right and proper decisions in spiritual matters. Decisions in which each person must actively choose to:

  • guard their heart for God – Proverbs 4 v23
  • reject the notion that being spiritually vulnerable is a good thing
  • obey God’s teaching and dig deep in understanding what keeps us secure

Sandy soil is easy to build on. It doesn’t take much effort to dig down and plant a quick fix foundation. However, solid  ground and rock are much harder for reason of the fact you are building something enduring and permanent – not just for now but for the world to come. Be blessed!


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Are you a moth free zone?

“Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.” (Matthew 6v19-21)

 I’m not a great fan of the sea. I’ve never really liked it, possibly because of the erosive force it exerted on the many sandcastles of my younger years. Sand-fortified constructions that were demolished in seconds as waves swept over to draw them back into the sea. Now, while I do not like this destructive aspect of the sea, I do have a great repect for how it washes away the debris from beaches for a fresh start each day. That’s pretty cool!

In the passage above, Jesus details the futility of human activities done for our  gratification and self-aggrandisment. However, unlike water that clears the decks, the change agent involved for this is time and the processes of death and decay as wrought by moth, rust and thief. How challenging this must have been for the listeners in Jesus’ day!

Of course, Jesus words serve as a warning to be careful as to where we build our storehouse and with what purpose in mind? Are we doing it for God and his kingdom? Or is it done to elevate ourselves? This is the question that God’s people must continually ask themselves as  (being  human) we are also prone to wrong thinking and putting ourselves before God. However, being aware of out limitations is a giant step to being wise and reflecting on how we are living our lives to honour God. Be blessed.


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Hiding in the crowd?

“A woman in the crowd had suffered for twelve years with constant bleeding …could find no cure. Coming up behind Jesus, she touched the fringe of his robe. Immediately, the bleeding stopped. “Who touched me?” Jesus asked. Everyone denied it, and Peter said, “Master, this whole crowd is pressing up against you.” But Jesus said, “Someone deliberately touched me, for I felt healing power go out from me.” (Luke 8v43-46)

Okay, as tenuous as the link from this passage to the image might seem, try and imagine it as Jesus, Peter and the crowd seen from above. Imagine the coloured tiles as people in an area so crowded that they can barely take breath let alone move. Suddenly, Jesus surprises everyone with the declaration that  someone touched him. (Read all of the passage here.)

I love Peter’s response to Jesus. It’s so honest in its appeal to reason: “Master, this whole crowd is pressing up against you.”  In other words: ‘Master- let it go- we’re not going to find the person!” But Jesus is not easily diverted and soon the woman with the issue of bleeding comes forward to confess that as she touched him, she was instantly healed.

However, Jesus is not done with her yet. Although the woman had received physical healing  she is still an outcast in terms of the community (due of the nature of her illness that involved blood). For her to be socially restored with others, her disguise needs to be removed so that they can see who Jesus is declaring as fit and restored. What a relief for the woman: she no longer has to hide away and suffer for fear that the comminity will continue to reject and judge her long after she has been forgiven by Jesus.


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Are you a helpless lump of clay?

And yet, O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, and you are the potter. We all are formed by your hand. (Isaiah 64v8)

What does it mean to be formed by God’s hand? One example that comes to mind is that of a clay pot being fashioned on a potter’s wheel – but is this a correct understanding for christians who live in a 21st century context ?

Many years ago, while leading a series of studies for new believers, I dug out Larry Christenson’s book ‘The Renewed Christian Mind’ for a story about a man who polished his red sports car every day but never sat in the driver’s seat. Then, one day, the man meets a stranger (Jesus)  who encourages him to stop pushing his car around the block and let him occupy the driver’s seat and drive. Reluctantly, the man agrees. Jesus sits behind the wheel, starts the engine and away they fly. The moral of this story being that life is much easier with Jesus in the driver’s seat.

However, when I brought Larry’s sports car story to the group, I was drowned under their protests because none of them thought that Jesus was driving the car.  At best, Jesus was reduced to a small invisible person in the car – a SATNAV if you like – who suggest a route but had no control over the car, the driver or even the route it will take.

The more I thought about it, the more I was in agreement with group consensus because the God of freewill doesn’t manipulate or force people to change. Yes, God wants us to change but lets dispel the idea that we are a helpless lump of clay being fashioned into something we hold to be against our will. God loves us and the words he utters to us are invitations to respond to his quiet whisper. To take hold of His hand and dance with Him. wherever He goes, now and into the future.

 


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Christ’s disciples or loved up junkies?

‘By your love for one ‘another, people will know you are my disciples.’ John 13v35

I wonder what you make of this image? Presumably, the silhouetted people are in an aquarium observing jellyfish. However,  there’s a problem in that it’s unclear if the people are being observational at all. If anything, their body language seems to be turned in to one another and missing the spectacle above them?

In a similar way, the picture is a window on the dilema faced by many churches for whom the instruction to love for one another has resulted in communities being more concerned with meeting their own internal needs rather than those who stand outside the church.

While there are many explanations as to why churches focus inwards, it is worth noting that God has always entrusted communities and groups to reveal His Love and message to others. Of course, in churches, it is not always easy to change herd mentality but individual obedience to venture out – knowing you’re loved and valuable to God – is exciting and can be a great encouragement for others to change.


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Full spiritual potential?

‘But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.’ (1 Peter 2v9)

There’s something very appealing about this image. Possibly because its constructed from disjointed geometrical shapes? Maybe because the coloured images repeat themselves in different sizes and at tangential angles? Or could it be the stark colours that don’t sit well together  – such as pink beside orange – also work through variations of tone and colour?

For me, this image also serves as a useful pictorial representation of Church in which colour and shape depicts the eclectic nature of the people within it. More than, that, the disparate and differing needs of those who make up the body of Christ. People who at first glance,  we might think would never work well together. (Incidentally, they also think the same of us!). And yet, somehow,  by the grace of God and the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives and ours, a royal priesthood, holy nation and special possession to God is created.

Of course, this is merely the beginning stage. Those who are called to form the body of Christ are also expected to realise their own full spiritual potential within it.  Regrettably, through ignorance, lack of teaching or lax attitude, many people attending churches today remain unaware of their primary spiritual gift, calling and/or passion. Where this happens,  the church is curtailed in size so that only a fraction of its potential is realised and visible – rather like the fragment image  taken from the picture above. Bottom line, its one thing to believe, another to commit and realise our full spiritual potential in God’s tapestry.

www.primarygift.co.uk

 

 


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Blinded by the light?

‘About noon as I came near Damascus, suddenly a bright light from heaven flashed around me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice say to me, ‘Saul! Saul! Why do you persecute me?’(Acts 22v6-7)

I don’t know about you but I find it difficult to look at this graphic for any length of time. For me, it’s  the weird graphic that pulsates and irritates my failing eyesight. Imagine then, Saul’s surprise as he encountered a bright light on his journey  to Damascus.

We are told in scripture that the light was so powerful that it startled the horses causing Saul and his companions to fall to the ground. As the fearful men covered their eyes,  Saul  looks out as he hears a voice from the light questioning him as to why he has taken it upon himself to persecute the  church. Perplexed by the challenge to his mission, Saul asks ‘Who are you, Lord?’ to which the voice replies  ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.’

Having been made physically blind by the encounter, Saul is led into Damascus. Here,  his physical sight is miraculously restored as God instructs a christian named Ananias to visit  and pray for his healing. A pivotal moment in which not only is Saul’s physical blindness removed from him but also the zealous internal blindness of how he understands what God is about in the world and the work of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.

I’m sure that many people long for a similar moment with God as Saul had –  a close encounter with the Divine in which they experience with absolure certainty the miraculous power and presence at first-hand. However, as with the disciples and Saul (later to be known as the Apostle Paul), the cost of a close encounter with God often comes at a high price as believers risk beatings and death for defending the weak and preaching to people everywhere: ‘Christ crucified, the hope of glory’

 

www.primarygift.co.uk


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Spiritual sight – straight or curved?

‘For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.’ (1 Corinthians 13v12)

Believe it or not, all of the horizontal lines in this picture are straight. However, while the bottom and top line are clearly straight, the other two lines  appear to ‘bulge’ in the centre giving the appearance that they are slightly curved but this is not so.

I’m no expert on optical illusions but what I do know is they occur as the brain attempts to resolve an anomaly. Likewise, the Apostle Paul recognised an unresolved issue in the Christian’s understanding of God through scripture where some things were obvious (straight) while others appear divergent (curved) and at odds with the character and nature of God.

For Paul, the answer was easy as he recognised his spiritual vision was impaired.  he couldn’t understand everything about God at this moment in time but he could look to a future reality where things would become clear to him.

www.primarygift.co.uk


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Unique for God?

‘But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”‘ Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. ”Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”     (Luke 23 v40-43)

I don’t know about you but there’s something very appealing about the white ball.  Maybe because it stands out from the crowd of yellow that surround it – balls that appear the same, bear the same logo and have the same black line, placed either side of the strategically placed word. There’s no individually in the yellow box of balls, just conformity and sameness.

This is also true of many churches where people  – in their attempts not to be disliked or out of place- conform to patterns of behaviour and action which is out of character for them. In short, they ‘re not true to the person they are. Moreover, the person God has created them to be who will interact with the world in a way that only they can.

Today, resolve to be yourself. Bring to others that which God has equipped in you. Don’t fear the yellow. You were created to stand out just like the repentant criminal in the Luke passage (above) who didn’t conform to the unrepentant behaviour expected of him. He decided change was both good and possible and in his action found himself the first of many welcomed into God’s Kingdom . Be blessed.

 


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