The Student’s Desk

That we may know Christ

Times of Change (Christmas Message)

Isaiah 40:1-5

Comfort, comfort my people,
says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and proclaim to her
that her hard service has been completed,
that her sin has been paid for,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
double for all her sins.

A voice of one calling:
“In the desert prepare
the way for the Lord;
make straight in the wilderness
a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be raised up,
every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level,
the rugged places a plain.
And the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
and all mankind together will see it. For the mouth of the
Lord has spoken.”

Times of Change

We’ve all had one of those times when nothing is going right. It’s just one piece of bad news after another. After a while it just gets so depressing, and you wonder if things will ever change. I have times like this. I have them frequently. In fact, they’re almost the norm. But then something good happens, or you get some encouraging news, and it changes your whole perspective. You begin to think that things aren’t as bad as they seem.

This is what we have in Isaiah 40. It’s a silver lining in a cloud of bad news.

Let me tell you about Isaiah. Isaiah was one fellow that you would not want at your Christmas party, or anywhere else for that matter. Isaiah was full of doom and gloom, and was utterly depressing to listen to. He reckoned that God’s people had been unfaithful to God, and because of it, they were about to get it in the neck. What made it worse was, he was right! But every so often he’d come out with some good news, some encouraging news.

Another thing that’s remarkable about Isaiah is, he was around long before Jesus was even born. In fact, around 700 years before Jesus. So he wouldn’t have been going to any Christmas parties anyway! But what’s remarkable was the things that Isaiah said and looked forward to was fulfilled by Jesus. Isaiah was talking about Jesus! So it’s helpful for us to see what he said.

As I said before, Isaiah saw that God’s people were going to get it in the neck for being unfaithful. But this judgment, this punishment would not last forever. Isaiah also saw the time coming when the end of the judgment and punishment would come. A time when God will forgive his people, and they will no longer fear God’s judgment. Not because they have done their time as it were for being unfaithful. Not because they’ve managed to get their act together, and keep God’s law perfectly. But because Isaiah saw a time when God would be made known to everyone. God will actually be amongst his people.

Now, as you might imagine, this has consequences. Isaiah saw this too, as he said, “… make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain.” (Isaiah 40:3-4) Isaiah isn’t talking about building a freeway so people can drive their cars at high speed. Isaiah is talking about change. A monumental upheaval. God is coming, and life as we know it must change. This will be a new period in history. The old order has gone, and the new order has come.

All this can be said about Jesus.  When we read through the life of Jesus and what he did, one of the things to pick up on is how incredibly disruptive Jesus is. He just doesn’t fit in anywhere. He doesn’t do what people expect him to do. This is because Jesus brings about this change that Isaiah talks about. Jesus changes the way we relate to God. Because of Jesus’ work, namely in his death and resurrection, we can relate to God as forgiven people, no longer fearing God’s punishment. That’s why Jesus was born in the first place! And in turn that should effect the way we relate to each other as we look to serve one another, and not take advantage of each other.

Jesus birth and work truly has brought about change. Yet more of the same sorts of changes will take place as God finally comes to be with his people forever.

In 1999, people looked to the new century with great hope, expecting that the new century will be better that the old century. Well, we’re 10 years into the new century, and it’s starting to look a whole lot like the old century.

And being December, part of out excitement comes from the prospect of a new year with new opportunity. But I suspect we’ll get to February, and start thinking the new year isn’t all that different from the old year. It can seem that things will never change for the better.

But they have. The changes we want, the changes we need are found in Jesus, and only Jesus. And it begins with our relationship with God. This is the silver lining in a cloud of bad news that Isaiah was talking about. Jesus is the silver lining in the cloud of our struggles today. And it is this silver lining that ought to change our perspective of our struggles, when we’re having one of those times. It wont be easy. But it wont be impossible either. Let us thank God this Christmas for the silver lining we have in Jesus, going into the new year with the perspective of being forgiven people.

© The Student’s Desk, 2009

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December 23, 2009 Posted by | Bible, Devotionals, Religious | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Remaining Faithful in Times of Trouble

The Student’s Desk Devotion

Psalm 40:1-5

I waited patiently for the Lord;

he turned to me and heard my cry.

He lifted me out of the slimy pit,

out of the mud and mire;

he set my feet on a rock

and gave me a firm place to stand.

He put a new song in my mouth,

a hymn of praise to our God.

Many will see and fear

and put their trust in the Lord.

Blessed is the man

who makes the Lord his trust,

who does not look to the proud,

to those who turn aside to false gods.

Many, O Lord my God,

are the wonders you have done.

The things you planned for us

no one can recount to you;

were I to speak and tell of them,

they would be too many to declare.

Prayer

Lord, what are mercy to know in the mist of hard times, stressful times, that all we need do is wait patiently on you, to lift us from out struggles, and provide a firm place for us to stand. Not for our sake, but for your sake. Lord, since it is for your sake, help us to turn away from the ways who do not know you. Instead, may we have every confidence in Jesus, and remain faithful in the midst of our hard times.

In his name we pray, amen.


Mark 4:35-41

That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.

He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

Remaining Faithful in Times of Trouble…

As Christians, we all get the idea that we shouldn’t be selfish. We should be on the look out for others and putting them first. And it’s easy to be charitable when things are going well and our needs and desires are being met.

But what happens when things aren’t going so well. What happens when there are things going on in our lives that are completely out of control? When even our very lives are under threat, either from sickness, or someone else’s stupidity? All of a sudden, it becomes very hard to be charitable, to be giving.

The disciples found themselves in such a situation. A situation that I can kind of relate too. Last summer, I took up sailing. I loved it. There’s something special about being pushed along by the wind, gliding along the water’s surface.

But it hasn’t always been plain sailing. One time, the wind was getting up to gale force, the waves were crashing over my boat, and I don’t mind saying I was really scared! I don’t know much about boats, and I know even less about the water. But I knew that if I kept a level head, and kept doing what I had been taught, I’d be OK. The situation was still in my control – if only just!

Not so with the disciples in this story. Not all, but a number of them were fishermen. They knew boats. They knew the water. They were expects in their field. They were the best kind of people to have on a boat. But the wind they encountered that night caused these experienced fishermen to loose the plot. The situation was completely out of control, and they panicked! This was a big wind, beyond the experience of these men.

Now, the disciples heard Jesus’ talk about the Kingdom of God that day. But this wind was so big, all that teaching was blown straight out the disciple’s heads! All they could think about was saving their own sorry little butts! Never mind the other boats that were with them. They could all drown for what they cared!

In the midst of this storm, the disciples failed to notice who Jesus is. Did they really think they were going down in a boating accident with the world’s saviour? I mean, get with the program, boys! Then they tried making demands on Jesus by saying, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” The Bible doesn’t say what the disciples expect Jesus to do, but perhaps they were thinking that the least Jesus could do was grab a bucket and bail water! He most certainly shouldn’t be sleeping!

The thing is, we can laugh at the disciples, but don’t do the same. When we get into strife, don’t we start making demands on Jesus, and forget the demands Jesus makes on us? Don’t we start thinking more about our own kingdom, and less about God’s kingdom? Don’t we expect Jesus to grab a bucket and start bailing, and loose sight of who we are in relationship with?

Well Jesus gave his disciples a very vivid reminder of who they were dealing with.

As I said before, when I was out on the water in that wind, I was scared. But do you know what would’ve scared me even more? If the wind and the waves suddenly stopped. And it was dead calm. And I just heard someone on my boat say, “Stop. Be still.” Who or what do I have on my boat!?

Clearly, this person the disciples had with them in the boat is God himself. Isn’t interesting that the disciples took no notice of who Jesus is. But the wind did. Whoa! Who else can control the wind like that? No-one!

And Jesus’ actions don’t merely meet the immediate needs of his disciples. Remember the other boats the disciples couldn’t care about? They would’ve been impact by Jesus’ actions too, as the water became calm.

See, when Jesus works in our lives, it’s not just us who are impacted, but it’s the people around us as well. Especially in the midst of a crisis.

Is it any wonder Jesus rebuked his disciples saying, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”. How dare they accuse him of not caring? How dare they make demands on him? How dare they not take any notice of who he is? These are all the hallmarks of having no faith.

Faith is recognizing who Jesus is. Doing what Jesus commands. And trusting in Jesus’ love and care. And this is no more evident to others than when we have to deal with issue beyond our control.

In life, we will experience times of great stress, and things will be beyond out control. During such times, we’ll be tempted to be selfish. To only see things from our perspective, and get our demands met.

But times of stress are also a call to faith. A call to remember the promises of God. That God has promised us redemption, to take us out of this world of struggle back to himself. And we know God will come good on his promise, because the way he has done this is in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

Since we’ve been redeemed, we should not give in to the temptation of becoming selfish, but to continue to seek after God’s kingdom, to seek to keep God’s standards. Not just because we should, but because such times present an opportunity for us to grow ever more deeply in our relationship with God.

These times also present an opportunity for others to see our faith, both for the believer and unbeliever. For the believer, it will be a time to be encouraged in their faith. For the unbeliever, it will be a time to be convicted of their sin, and be encouraged to turn to God.

Jesus has redeemed us from being selfish. So in times of stress, let’s not give in to the temptation to become selfish, but to answer the call of faith, trusting Jesus, and seeking his kingdom.

© The Student’s Desk, 2009

December 3, 2009 Posted by | Bible, Devotionals, Miracles of Jesus | , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Jesus’ miracle for the Lonely…

The Student’s Desk Devotion

Psalm 103:1-5

Praise the Lord, O my soul;

all my inmost being, praise his holy name.

Praise the Lord, O my soul,

and forget not all his benefits—

who forgives all your sins

and heals all your diseases,

who redeems your life from the pit

and crowns you with love and compassion,

who satisfies your desires with good things

so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

 

Prayer

Lord, we thank you for your holiness. That you stand above all things, and as such, you have authority over what happens. So we praise you that you forgive our sins. You heal our diseases, and you do not abandon us in our struggles, but you restore us. Lord as we continue to look at Jesus’ miracles, may we learn something more of Jesus. Help us understand how Jesus helps us in our struggles, especially with loneliness, and may we yearn to be in relationship with you.

In his name we pray, amen.


Mark 5:24-34

A large crowd followed [Jesus] and pressed around him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.

At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”

“You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’”

But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”

Jesus: the end of loneliness

Have you ever felt lonely? Have you ever felt like you’ve been pushed to one side? Have you ever felt exclude, or not welcomed?

Perhaps it has been as a result of the way we’ve been treated by family, or friends, or work mates. Perhaps it’s come from the people who care for us. Wherever our loneliness has come from, it is real.

We feel loneliness because we are social creatures. We want to feel and know that we matter to someone. And so often the relationships we crave are just beyond our grasp. And it’s not just because we have a severe disability or a speech impairment that we can’t access a fulfilling relationship. All of us crave more than what another person can give.

We feel loneliness because we are designed for relationships that we either can’t access, or are not fulfilling, or both.

So let me tell you about the ultimate relationship. A relationship that is accessible, and is fulfilling. What relationship would that be? A relationship with a Jesus. In this particular instance we’ve just read, it starts with a woman. Let me tell you about this woman.

This woman is on the outside of outsiders. Mainly because she has a severe medical condition. Because of her medical condition, she is not to come in contact with anyone. In fact she is not to be anywhere near anyone. She is not permitted even to talk to anyone! She can’t go shopping. She can’t worship God with other people. She can’t even see her own family! Would you agree that this is one of the most lonely people ever to have existed?

Yet, she has heard something about Jesus. She has concluded that Jesus can heal her. She’s got it in her mind that if Jesus can heal her, then, she will not be lonely anymore. She wont need to live on the outskirts of town anymore. She’ll be able to live like anyone else. Yet Jesus is about to give her something much better than what she has conceived of. Yet before Jesus takes her there, she is about to go on an extraordinary journey of faith.

Faith begins by recognising who Jesus is. This woman recognized that Jesus possessed a God-like character, and all she needed to do was touch his clothes. And this belief leads her to do extraordinary things.

In the story, we read there was a crowd around Jesus. And remember I said before that because of her medical condition, she wasn’t to be anywhere near anyone? Yet we find this woman in the middle of the crowd. Whoa! How did she get there? Her faith got her there.

But then she does another extraordinary thing. She touched Jesus. Remember I said before because of her medical condition, she was not to come in contact with anyone? Now Jesus was known to be a teacher, a healer, someone doing the work of God. Jesus was the last person she should have been touching. How DARE she deliberately touch Jesus??? She dared to touch Jesus by faith, and she was healed.

Faith is audacious. Faith is daring. Faith goes against convention. Faith is belief put into action. And this is the kind of faith that this woman had.

It is this faith that Jesus builds on to bring this woman to a greater understanding of who he is.

While the basis of the woman’s solution to her loneliness was being healed of her medical condition, Jesus solution was to bring her into a relationship with himself.

Jesus knew power had gone out from him, and he stops and asks the impossible. “Who touched my garments?” Jesus asked this because he wanted this woman to know that what just happened matters. That she matters. That her faith matters. And Jesus does this in the most incredible but simple way. By speaking with her.

Do you realise that this is probably the first time in 12 years that someone spoke with her? It’s an extraordinary moment for this woman. For once this woman was being treated like a person, not like a medical condition. The relationship that she had craved was fulfilled by Jesus. Notice that Jesus called this woman his daughter! To call someone ‘daughter’ is very intimate. And it’s entirely appropriate because she has entered into the ultimate relationship. This is why Jesus says to her “…your faith has healed you.” Being physically healed to resolve her loneliness was not going to work. She needed to enter a personal relationship with Jesus founded on faith. The kind of faith this woman had. And now she had the ultimate relationship – friendship with God.

Loneliness is a problem we all face. Even we who know Jesus will struggle with loneliness from time to time. Maybe allot. It’s not because we are faithless. But because as Christians we still crave relationships with each other we can’t access or are unfulfilling. The difference Jesus makes is he brings an end to our loneliness by drawing us into a relationship, into friendship, with God. This relationship is founded on faith. Faith that recognises Jesus for who he really is. Faith that is radical. Faith that allows us to be daring even in the face of adversity.

The Bible makes it very plain that we matter to Jesus. We matter so much to Jesus that he died for us and paved the way for a new life, and in that new life, loneliness will be a thing of the past. So as Christians, when we feel lonely, our loneliness should not end in despair, because we know we matter to Jesus. We know we matter to God. We know the things that are happening in our lives matter. We also know we have new life with God where loneliness will be no more. So when we feel lonely, what a gift, what a mercy, we have in being able to reflect upon the relationship we have with God. Not only that, but we can also help others who struggle with loneliness. We can say to the person we understand their struggle, and we can tell them about the friendship with God made available to them by Jesus and bring an end to their loneliness.

Loneliness has its end in Jesus. What a mercy that we matter to Jesus!

© The Student’s Desk, 2009

November 26, 2009 Posted by | Bible, Devotionals, Miracles of Jesus | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

When God Comes to Town

The Student’s Desk fortnightly devotion

Psalm 71:14-18

But as for me, I will always have hope;

I will praise you more and more.

My mouth will tell of your righteousness,

of your salvation all day long,

though I know not its measure.

I will come and proclaim your mighty acts, O Sovereign LORD;

I will proclaim your righteousness, yours alone.

Since my youth, O God, you have taught me,

and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds.

Even when I am old and gray,

do not forsake me, O God,

till I declare your power to the next generation,

your might to all who are to come.

Prayer

Lord, we thank and praise you that you are concerned for all who call on your name. As we look at Jesus’ miracle with the catch of fish, may we yet again see the greatness of your Son. May we understand that your desire is for us to be in relationship with you, and to be involved in your activity. May we also be enabled to respond by faith.

In Jesus name we pray, Amen!

Luke 5:1-11

One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, with the people crowding around him and listening to the word of God, he saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.

When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”

Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”

When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.

When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners.

Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men.” So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.

When God comes to town…

How do you know God? And, who are the people that really know God? Perhaps we can have the idea that the people who really know God are church leaders, and people who go to Bible college and study the Bible. And so first hand knowledge of God isn’t really for us. It’s only those special people who really know God and get involved in his work.

People in Jesus day people had the same kind of idea. The people that really knew God were in Jerusalem, the capital city, where the temple was. These people certainly weren’t to be found in backward areas like Galilee which was like Campbelltown or Redfern today in Sydney. You just don’t go there.

Yet this is where we find Jesus, in the backwaters of Israel teaching people God’s word. Or in other words, he was telling people about himself and God’s kingdom. And he did anything he could to get God’s word to everyone who would listen – even teaching from a boat while everyone else remained on shore so they could all hear.

Jesus takes this elitist idea, and throws it out the window. Knowing God and hearing God’s word is for all people. But, by what authority is Jesus teaching the common people about God? How do we know that Jesus isn’t some idealist that’s out of control? This is where the miracle of the fishes comes in.

First, let me tell you about Simon Peter, or just Peter. Peter is a commercial fisherman. He knows all there is about fishing, boats, and the sea. He’s an expert, and his livelihood depends upon his skills. Peter has been up all night, on the boat, trying to catch fish. He’s caught nothing, and he’s back on shore packing up his gear. Peter had already met Jesus before when Jesus healed his mother-in law. Peter knows Jesus is a great man, but he’s yet to learn who Jesus really is. So to Peter, it was a bit rich for this carpenter, Jesus, to tell him how to fish! Especially when he’s been up all night, and has just packed up everything!! On top of that, Jesus wants Peter to fish in an unlikely spot, at an unlikely time. So Peter is slightly confused. On one hand, Peter wants to tell Jesus where to go! What would a carpenter know about fishing? On the other hand, if Jesus is half the man Peter thinks Jesus is, maybe he better listen to him.

So Peter sets up his boats again, and heads out under Jesus’ direction. Despite being in the most unlike spot, at the most unlikely time, they net the biggest catch of fish they ever have. They could hardly handle the amount of fish. Then the cogs in Peter’s head begin to click over. How was it possible for Jesus’ to know that those fish would be there at that time? Further, could it be possible for Jesus to command the fish to be there? Where Peter is an expert, Jesus is sovereign. Then the penny drops. Peter realises that Jesus is God. Jesus is telling common people about the word of God by God’s authority.

Peter becomes sharply aware of his own inadequacies and pleads for Jesus to leave him. Peter doesn’t fit the bill with religious society. He’s a sinner, and he knows it. True this may be, Jesus is not deterred. Instead, Jesus involves Peter, someone who was not regarded as a religious person, in the very activity of God.

I began by asking how do you know God? We know God because God has revealed himself and told us about himself in the person of Jesus. And it’s not just Church leaders who God involves in his activity, it’s all kinds of people. While Jesus had a specific job for Peter, it is still true that God involves common people, even us here this morning, into his activity. Hence we to ought to be encouraged to follow Jesus, despite our own inadequacies.

© The Student’s Desk, 2009

October 11, 2009 Posted by | Bible, Devotionals, Miracles of Jesus | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Getting the Full Story

The Student’s Desk fortnightly devotion

Psalm 4

Answer me when I call to you,

O my righteous God.

Give me relief from my distress;

be merciful to me and hear my prayer.

How long, O men, will you turn my glory into shame?

How long will you love delusions and seek false gods? Selah

Know that the Lord has set apart the godly for himself;

the Lord will hear when I call to him.

In your anger do not sin;

when you are on your beds,

search your hearts and be silent. Selah

Offer right sacrifices

and trust in the Lord.

Many are asking, “Who can show us any good?”

Let the light of your face shine upon us, O Lord.

You have filled my heart with greater joy

than when their grain and new wine abound.

I will lie down and sleep in peace,

for you alone, O Lord,

make me dwell in safety.

Prayer

Lord, we can often find ourselves in circumstances that are hard to overcome. Particular when we endure insult upon insult, injury upon injury, pain upon pain. So we ask you, gracious Lord, to show us your goodness. May our hearts abound with the joy of knowing you, and may we have pecae and refuge in what you have surely promised. As we come to look at Jesus miracle at the wedding, may you bless us with a fresh understanding of who your Son Jesus is.

In Jesus name we pray, Amen!


John 4:46-54

Once more he visited Cana in Galilee, where he had turned the water into wine. And there was a certain royal official whose son lay sick at Capernaum. When this man heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and begged him to come and heal his son, who was close to death.

“Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders,” Jesus told him, “you will never believe.”

The royal official said, “Sir, come down before my child dies.”

Jesus replied, “You may go. Your son will live.”

The man took Jesus at his word and departed. While he was still on the way, his servants met him with the news that his boy was living. When he inquired as to the time when his son got better, they said to him, “The fever left him yesterday at the seventh hour.”

Then the father realized that this was the exact time at which Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” So he and all his household believed.

This was the second miraculous sign that Jesus performed, having come from Judea to Galilee.

Getting the full story…

Getting the full story is important, wouldn’t you agree? It’s important to get all the facts otherwise we can end up with false assumptions, and making bad decisions.

The official we meet in this passage has already heard of Jesus, and it’s likely that he has also heard of the miracle Jesus performed at the wedding by turning water into wine. But he’s missed the point of that miracle. He’s figured out that Jesus is some kind of miracle worker, or healer, not uncommon in those days. He’s worked out whoever this Jesus is, he can help his terminally ill son. So he approaches Jesus and pleads for Jesus to come with him. But he doesn’t have all the facts about Jesus, and he hasn’t understood who Jesus is.

Jesus knows what’s going on. He knows the thoughts of a man’s heart. What Jesus says to this official amounts to a right royal slap in the face. “Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders, you will never believe.” What is Jesus on about? He’s already believed about the water and the wine! Isn’t that enough? Well, no. That’s faith in what Jesus can do. The faith and belief Jesus is talking about is faith and belief in who he is, and Jesus is about to give this official a tailored education program to get him there.

It is at this point Jesus distances himself from the miracle worker or healer stereotype and does something extraordinary. Jesus doesn’t go with the official. There’s no laying on of hands, or anointing of oil, or special prayers. Just a word from Jesus, “You may go. Your son will live.” Now, we need to stop and think here. Who is in the Bible can make things happen just by speaking? God! Hang on to that thought.

The official nears home and here’s that his son is recovering. He realises that the time when he was talking to Jesus was the same time his son began to recover. Who does he think Jesus is now? God! This official and his family began thinking of Jesus as a miracle working. Now with all the facts of who Jesus is, they now have a much deeper understanding of who Jesus is as the saving God.

The same is true for us today. It’s so easy to hear something about Jesus and not get the full story, or to reduce Jesus down to something he’s not. We need to be moving in an ever deeper understanding of who Jesus is as our Saviour.

© The Student’s Desk, 2009

September 10, 2009 Posted by | Bible, Devotionals, Miracles of Jesus | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Expect the Unexpected

I’ve been really SLACK! I do apologise. I haven’t even finished the Sermon on the Mount series. I’ll have to just post what I’ve done some time.

I started a series on Jesus’ miracles which makes for a very interesting study. I think most modern westerners are so overcome with the occurance of a miracle, we don’t go the extra step and ask, “what does this mean?”, “what does this teach us?”, “How  does this inform the way we relate to Jesus?” Yet, these are the precise reasons why Jesus wrked miracles. So in this series, I’m assuming the authenticity of Jesus’ miracles and their heavenly origin. What I went to ask the question, “what do these miracles reveal about Jesus, and, how are we to respond to him”.

I have also decided to include the NIV traslation of the Bible in a bid to make life easier for readers.

—–

The Student’s Desk fortnightly devotion

Psalm 4

Answer me when I call to you,

O my righteous God.

Give me relief from my distress;

be merciful to me and hear my prayer.

How long, O men, will you turn my glory into shame?

How long will you love delusions and seek false gods? Selah

Know that the Lord has set apart the godly for himself;

the Lord will hear when I call to him.

In your anger do not sin;

when you are on your beds,

search your hearts and be silent. Selah

Offer right sacrifices

and trust in the Lord.

Many are asking, “Who can show us any good?”

Let the light of your face shine upon us, O Lord.

You have filled my heart with greater joy

than when their grain and new wine abound.

I will lie down and sleep in peace,

for you alone, O Lord,

make me dwell in safety.

Prayer

Lord, we can often find ourselves in circumstances that are hard to overcome. Particular when we endure insult upon insult, injury upon injury, pain upon pain. So we ask you, gracious Lord, to show us your goodness. May our hearts abound with the joy of knowing you, and may we have peace and refuge in what you have surely promised. As we come to look at Jesus’ miracle at the wedding, may you bless us with a fresh understanding of who your Son Jesus is.

In Jesus name we pray, Amen!


John 2:1-11

On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”

“Dear woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My time has not yet come.”

His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons.

Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim.

Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.”

They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”

This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed at Cana in Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him.

Expect the unexpected

What do we expect from Jesus? I reckon most people expect on of two things from Jesus. Either people expect Jesus to give them a whole bunch of rules to follow to make God happy; or they expect Jesus to run around and fix every problem they have in life. Kind of like a ‘pocket Jesus’ they can whip out when things aren’t going right. In this miracle Jesus shows he’s not about either. Instead, Jesus shows he’s about something much, much bigger.

I think most of us have been to a wedding, and it’s normal to have wine or beer or some sort of alcohol. Can you imagine being at a wedding and running out of wine. How embarrassing would that be? Well, that’s the situation we find Mary, the mother of Jesus, in. It’s likely that Mary was on the catering team, and in an effort to avoid severe embarrassment, she turns to her eldest son to provide for her. That’s what they did in those days! It just so happened that her eldest son was Jesus.

Now you might think that having Jesus for a son would solve every problem you would every have. Think again. Mary is in for a rude shock as Jesus does something no respecting son would ever do. He denies Mary any motherly claim she has over him. Mary’s expectations of Jesus were offbeat, and she had to approach her own son differently from what her  culture determined. Mary had to shift from seeing her son as someone who had obligations, to someone she had to trust in the most trying of circumstances. Why? Because Jesus was obliged to God the Father. God the Father had determined what Jesus was to do, and everything else had to conform to what God the Father had determined. All Mary could do was trust Jesus, and let him call the shots with out any obligation. There’s a sense that Mary leaves the situation in the hands of her son, not expecting any particular outcome as she turns to the servants and says, “Do whatever he tells you.”

The thing is, it’s not that Jesus didn’t want to help his mother. He did! But it was crucial that his mother, and everyone else with him, had the right kind of relationship with him. Jesus did provide more wine for the wedding, not just any old wine that you give to people when they’re already drunk, but the best wine! And he did it in a way that showed people what he was about.

In Jesus time, people had this funny idea that they could make God happy by washing their hands. They got this idea from the Old Testament law. Jesus uses the jars that were used for washing hands by getting the servants to fill the jars with water. Plain, ordinary water. But when they took some of this water to the head organiser of the wedding, the water had miraculously turned into wine. By doing this, Jesus showed that he was replacing the task of following cold hard rules with the enjoyment of being in fellowship with him. And this new fellowship involved trusting Jesus. This was a profound moment for Jesus mates who struggled to understand who this man was that said to them, “follow me.” Jesus shows himself as the one who would change the way people approached God.

As I have thought about this passage, I have been struck by the severe embarrassment that Mary was facing, and Jesus’ audacity to strip Mary of all motherly claims over him right at the moment of her agony. But I think this parallels much of our Christian experience. We’re struck by one crisis, and when we’re trying to deal with that crisis, something else hits us. And in our hearts we say, “Oh Jesus! What are you doing!?” We ask him to do one thing, and something else happens. In effect, Jesus was saying to his own mother, “Trust me! Believe in who I am.” Jesus says the same thing to us today, “Trust me! What I have to offer in fellowship is far better then whatever you are worrying about.”

What can we expect from Jesus? We can expect Jesus to bring us into a right relationship with himself where we trust him and submit to him as our Lord. And he will do whatever it takes to get us there, even if it hurts. Trust him! It’s worth it!

© The Student’s Desk, 2008

August 15, 2009 Posted by | Bible, Bible Exposition, Devotionals, Miracles of Jesus | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Easter 2009 – The purpose of the Christian life…

Read: Psalm 16

Prayer:

Who is like you, O God, who provides for all our needs before we ask? You have given each us our tasks in life, and made our lives secure. We thank you that you are a God who speaks, and you counsel us in all matters. We thank you for Jesus, that in dying you did not leave him, nor let him see decay. But he became the path of life for us that we may know your eternal pleasures. As we consider what resurrection is, may we understand afresh what Jesus has done for us, and help us grasp hold of that wonderful promise we have in Jesus.

Read: 1 Corinthians 15:35-58

It’s Easter! A time when we stuff ourselves silly with chocolate and get incredibly fat. Is this really why we have Easter? Easter is the time when we remember and celebrate Jesus’ death and resurrection.

Hold on a sec! Did anyone notice what I just said? I just mentioned Jesus’ death and resurrection. How do we think about that? How do we conceptualise that? I think most of us have been to a funeral. Either the curtain closes, or the coffin is lowered down, and that’s the last we see of the person. We’ve got the death bit figured out. But the resurrection bit… what does that look like?

The Bible gives us some clues. One of those clues is from the created order. When we look around the world, we can see different things have different sorts of bodies. Think of a tree, for example. A tree begins is life as a seed. Yet the tree and the seed look nothing like each other. In fact, the seed needs to be buried before a tree can grow. And we know that there are different kinds of bodies. A person looks nothing like a dog, and a dog looks nothing like a bird, and a bird looks nothing like a fish. So it is with a resurrected body. It’s different to the body we have now.

How is the resurrection body different? The bodies we have now a weak and frail, and will eventually die. They are also shameful. We know we do things that displease God, and we can often feel ashamed of our sin. It’s just natural for us to do things that God does not want us to do. But the resurrection body is different. The resurrection body is imperishable; it won’t become weak, frail, and eventually die. It will be honourable, and will be able to do the things that God wants. It won’t be attracted to sin like the body we have now. The bodies we have now, the Bible calls ‘natural’. The resurrection body the Bible calls ‘spirit’.

Well, where do these bodies come from? The first man that was made was Adam, so we’re all descendants of Adam. We’re all born of Adam. And this is where our natural bodies come from. But more importantly where do our spiritual bodies come from? Jesus! Jesus is the one who came from heaven, so he has a spiritual body. But how are we born of Jesus? By believing in him!

Why is this so important? Because our natural bodies can not handle heaven any more then a fish can walk on dry land. We must have a body that is fit for heaven. Our mortal, perishable bodies must be replaced by immortal, imperishable bodies.

Well, how does that happen? God gives us these new spiritual bodies in Jesus. Jesus is the one who took death head on and defeated death. Jesus has made it possible for us to receive new, spiritual bodies that are fit for heaven. It is by believing in Jesus that we receive new bodies when our current bodies die. And these new bodies will be imperishable, strong, and glorious.

Now let me speak personally for a moment. I’m 34 years old. And I’m finding the older I get, the more aware I become of my limitations. And the more aware I become, the more frustrated I become. Sometimes I’m not even aware of why I’m frustrated. I just am. Yet when I recall this passage, I am reminded of the tremendous hope we have in Jesus. That our frustrations aren’t all there is to life. There will be victory, and the victory has been won by Jesus by rising from the dead.

How are we to respond to such a promise of victory in Jesus? By standing firm, remaining faithful to Jesus. Nothing we do for Jesus, no effort we make, will be wasted. It may feel like it! I feel that quite allot. But it’s not true! Here it is in the Bible, “know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” Wow! What a promise!!

The idea of resurrection may be difficult for us to understand. Nonetheless, there is a new, spiritual body made available to us. Jesus has made this body available to us in his own resurrection, so we can have bodies that are fit for heaven. Our task is to remain faithful to Jesus.

© The Student’s Desk, 2009

April 10, 2009 Posted by | Bible, Bible Exposition, Devotionals, Religious | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Christmas Message for 2008

Read Philippians 2:1-11

Meet your Saviour!

As Christians, we talk about how Jesus came to save people from their sins. For this reason, I keep on reminding us of the importance of believing and trusting in Jesus. But, how do we know Jesus can save us? How do we know that Jesus can sympathise with us? How do we know that Jesus can meet us exactly where we are in life, and raise us up to eternal life with him, forever? 

I mean, Jesus was born 2000 years ago. That’s a long time! He was born in a different culture, in a different country, in a different time in history. How could Jesus possibly know about life in Australia in the 21st Century? What would Jesus know about drug dependant young adults, alcoholic parents, pregnant teenage girls living with their boyfriends, mortgage repayments, machines that don’t do what they’re suppose to? What would Jesus know about being disabled, and being stuck in a wheelchair with a speech impairment? What would Jesus know about my life??? 

Jesus knows all there is to know about not just your life, but everyone’s life. When Jesus came into the world, he was born fully human. Not part human. Not a modified human. But fully human, with all the difficulties that it entailed, yet without sin.  

Jesus knew what it was to be poor. Do you know what Jesus’ first bed was? A cattle trough (Luke 2:7)! A wooden box that only a few hours before big, dopey animals were slobbering in. Later on in his life, someone came running up to Jesus and said, “I’ll follow you wherever you go!” Jesus effectively told this man, “Mate, I got nowhere to go. Foxes and birds are better off than me!” (Matthew 8:19-20). Jesus knew what it was to be poor.

Jesus knew what it was to be frustrated. He spent so much time teaching he disciples, and so often they’d look at him, “huh?” At the start of his ministry, he teaches in a parable. At the end of the parable, Jesus effectively says, “Unless you have understood this parable, you’re not going to understand anything else. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” Later on, the disciples came to Jesus, “err, please explain?” (Luke 8:8-9). How frustrating! Or at the end of his ministry, when after three long years of teaching his disciples about God, one of the disciples said “Jesus, show us the Father.” (John 14:8). Had it all gone in one ear and out the other? Jesus knew what it was to be frustrated.

Jesus knew what it was to mourn. When one of Jesus mates died, Jesus actually wept. Even though Jesus had the power to raise Lazarus from the dead, and he went to Lazarus’ tomb specifically to do so, Jesus felt all the pain, all the anger, all the confusion of seeing a loved one die. (John 11:35). Jesus knew what it was to mourn. 

Jesus knew what it was to be angry. He went to the temple one day and was utterly disgusted by what he saw. The temple was where you want to pray to God, offer sacrifices, and learn about God. Instead of a prayer place, Jesus found a market place! (Matthew 21:12-13). Can you imagine trying to have a church service in the middle of the local shopping centre at Christmas time? It would be utter chaos! People coming and going in every direction, noises drowning out every word and thought. This would be the kind of scene Jesus came across. Is it any wonder Jesus got angry? 

My personal favourite is Jesus knew what it was to be misunderstood. Not that the Bible says that Jesus had a speech impairment. In fact, Jesus probably had good, clear speech. But he wasn’t always understood. Like when he told his disciples to be aware of the yeast of the Pharisees. The disciples thought he was upset with them because they didn’t have any bread with them. He wasn’t talking about bread! He was talking about the teaching of the religious leaders of the time (Matthew 16:5-12). Or when Jesus spoke to Nicodemus about the need to be born again. Poor Nic was scratching his head wondering how a grown man could crawl back inside his mother’s womb! Jesus wasn’t talking about physical birth, but spiritual birth (John 3:5-8). Jesus knew what it was to be misunderstood.

Jesus knew what it was to be betrayed. Do you know who gave Jesus over to the authorities? One of his best mates who had been with Jesus from the beginning, Judas (John 18:2-3). You think you know a guy, don’t you? 

Jesus knew what it was to be abandoned. The night before his crucifixion, Jesus begged his disciples, “please, stay up and pray with me.” Yet every time he went back to his disciples, he found them sleeping (Matthew 26:36-46)! The next morning another of Jesus closest mates, Peter, would deny that he knew Jesus at all (Matthew 26:69-75). Jesus knew what it was to be abandoned. 

Jesus knew anxiety like none of us can imagine! As he prayed that night, alone, drops of sweat came from his head that looked like blood (Luke 22:44). 

Jesus knew what it was to be rejected. For a time, Mary and Joseph had to hide with Jesus in another country, so he wouldn’t be killed by the local governor (Matthew 2:13-15). He was rejected by the very people who he grew up with when he tried to tell them about the kingdom of God (Matthew 13:53-58). Occasionally he was rejected for healing people and doing good (Matthew 12:10-14). Not to mention his rejection at the end of his life when the crowds shouted in anger at the top of their voice “Crucify him! Crucify him!” (Matthew 23:18-23). 

Jesus knew what it was to be abused. As he was being led to the cross, people spat on him, struck him, taunted him, called him names, and made fun of him (Matthew 27:17-31). 

Jesus also knew what it was to have a body that doesn’t function. Joni Eareckson Tada who suffers from paraplegia realised Jesus knew exactly what it was to have a body that could not move when he was fastened to the cross, unable to move (Matthew 27:42). 

Wherever we are in life, Jesus knows about it. There is nothing that we will experience that Jesus has not. Jesus has been there, he’s done that, and he is able to meet us in that place, and help us. 

So know you might be thinking, “ok, I get the idea that Jesus experienced all there was to being human. But, what can he do about my situation?” Jesus can do plenty, because Jesus is also fully God. God himself (Mark 2:7). That same power that created all things from nothing – that formed the earth, put the stars, sun, and moon in their places, that filled the sky with birds, and the land with animals and made plants and trees grow from it, that breathed into a handful of dirt and created a man (Genesis 1, 2) – that same power is in the person of Jesus. The power to re-create! 

We see this in Jesus’ ministry. He heals the sick (Mark 1:29-31; 3:3-6; 5:24-34; Luke 5:12-13; John 4:43-53), raises the dead (Mark 5:38-42; Luke 7:12-16; John 11:32-44), drives out demons (Mark 1:24-26; 5:1-13), restores sight to the blind (Matthew 9:27-31), hearing to the deaf, speech to the dumb (Mark 7:32-37), and makes the lame walk (John 5:5-9). He feeds the hungry (John 6:1-5), welcomes sinners and outcasts restoring relationships (Luke 15:1-2). Not just once or twice, but a continual part of his ministry. Miracles were an every day event with Jesus. Yet, all this was just a foretaste of his future ministry, because at that time, Jesus will come and restore all things, even you and me. It will be a re-creation. 

This ministry has already begun. It began on the cross. By Jesus dying on the cross as he did, Jesus remained absolutely obedient to God in a way that none of us can. And because of Jesus’ obedience, a way has now been established to cancel sin once and for all (Hebrews 10:12-14). Because of this, the most important relationship has been restored – our relationship with God. 

It’s by Jesus that people stand or fall with God. Because of Jesus’ obedience, God has made Jesus the authoritative figure when it comes to our relationship with God. There is no alternative. On that day of the great restoration, everyone, regardless of what they believe or think about Jesus now, will acknowledge that Jesus is Lord!

Well what about you? Do you acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord? Do you believe Jesus is able to meet you exactly where you are in life, with all the warts, and all the difficulties, and all the shortcomings? Do you trust in Jesus promise of restoration? Not just in the future, but now, knowing your sin and wrongdoings have been dealt with once and for all, and you are able to enjoy a right standing before God now?

This is what the Bible proclaims about Jesus. Let us be encouraged by this, and be comforted by God’s love for us. That Jesus was born, fully human, fully God, that we may enjoy eternal life with him.

December 12, 2008 Posted by | Devotionals, Religious | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

I’ve been SLACK! and not without good reason…

That’s it… I know it’s been a while since my last devotion, but I’m not going to stress. For the next 3 weeks, my entire universe will consist of college essays. Until they’re done, you unfortunately wont see any more devotions published. Sorry!

November 1, 2008 Posted by | Devotionals | Leave a comment

Sermon on the Mount: Love your WHAT!??

Somehow I looked over this one at the time, so it’s a little out of order…

The Student’s Desk fortnightly devotion 

Prayer

Basis for Prayer: Psalm 36:5-9

Lord, we marvel at the tremendous love you have for all people. That you send rain, and provide food, clothing and shelter. How is it that we think it’s ok to be less loving than you, less giving than you, less merciful than you? Father, humble our hearts, take away our stubborn minds, and teach us your ways. As we look at what Jesus taught, help us to listen, and to understand. Ma we be prepared to do as Jesus taught.

Love your WHAT!??

Read Matthew 5:20, 43-48

Last time we looked at Jesus’ teaching of not seeking retaliation. Instead, we’re to ‘turn the other cheek’ and seek the good of the other person by doing the extra bit. Jesus teaching on loving enemies follows on from this, and Jesus doesn’t let up in making us feel uncomfortable here. Jesus words stretches and challenges us to live godly lives.

As I mention last time, there are people around today who use the Bible for their own selfish desires, and it was no different in Jesus day. It is against this misuse of the Bible we need to understand Jesus’ words. Again, when God established his people as the nation Israel, he gave them laws to live by. Laws that would reflect God’s character. By keeping these laws, God’s people would be a light to all the other peoples on earth. Part of this law said you weren’t to hate anyone of your own people, or bear a grudge against them. But it doesn’t say anything about enemies! That must mean we only need to love our own people. Anyone else we can treat like dirt, right? Sounds fair enough. Well, no. They got it wrong. How can you be a light to people when you are treating them like dirt? Simple really – you can’t!

It is against this we need to understand Jesus teaching. Instead of hating our enemies, Jesus says to love them. What does it mean it ‘love our enemies’? It doesn’t necessarily mean we need to get warm, fuzzy feelings every time we think about our enemy. What it does mean is those expressions of kindness that we extend toward our friends, even our closest friends, we are to extend toward out enemies.

But why? What’s the point? Have you ever noticed when it rains, it rains on everyone. And the same with the sun? It doesn’t rain on this or that person because they’ve been good or bad. And it’s God who sends the rain isn’t it? God extends kindness to everyone. So we ought to be doing the same.

Further more, God did something very special when we were still his enemies. Can anyone think what that might be? God sent Jesus to pay for our sins by dying in our place. That is the ultimate act of kindness, isn’t it? When we didn’t deserve it at all, God gave us Jesus. So really, there’s no end to loving people, even our enemies, to show what God is like.

Rather than trying to work out a minimum standard of behaviour where we can tick the box and be accepted by God, we need to understand we have been accepted by God, and we are to be ever moving in the direction of being like him – holy. Instead of asking ‘who do I have to love?’, we need to be loving everyone and asking ‘how can I extend kindness to them?’. It is by this way our friends and even our enemies will see what God is like.

© The Student’s Desk, 2008

October 8, 2008 Posted by | Bible, Devotionals, Sermon on the Mount | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments