The Student’s Desk

That we may know Christ

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.

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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

The Student’s Desk Newsletter – July 2009

This past semester was quite different from the scholarly grind I’m used to of having to form and present arguments. Instead, I found myself back in a universe where I was either wrong or right, and having to reflect on my own experience rather than what someone else said. It was also a busy semester as I took on some big challenges, and excelled in my objectives.

This semester included two subjects: New Testament Greek and Leadership. It was an odd combination, but I was glad to do a lighter subject along side of Greek.

Greek is a funny sort of a subject. It’s impossible when you don’t know what you’re doing, and a snap when you do. For the first 10 weeks I considered Greek the hardest course of study I had taken on. Particularly when I scraped through one exam with 51%! Then I conceded there are no shortcuts to leaning Greek, and put myself on a daily routine of paradigms (that’s like a times-table for language), translation and vocab. The real stroke of genius (even if I do say so myself) was making my own vocab cards that I could view on my mobile phone. This allowed me to learn my vocab on the train without the fear of hundreds of bits of cardboard ending up on the carriage floor! My Greek improved greatly, and I found the going easy, if monotonous. The rewards are worth the effort. I was recently told the difference between reading the New Testament in English and reading the New Testament in Greek is like the difference between watching TV in black and white and watching TV in colour. Knowing Greek provides so much more depth to the text. So any time I’m in the New Testament, I find myself looking up the Greek. It’s something I’ve really come to enjoy. Though throughout the course I felt sorry for the lecturer. Before he could teach Greek, he had to teach us degree students English! Such is our education system that failed to teach us grammar. Still, I’ve yet to find out how much Greek can a Greek geek speak if a Greek geek only speaks Greek. (Sorry. Just a little vent I came up during the semester to relieve frustration!)

Leadership was the first stage of me becoming officially “Presbyterianised” as I learned about the inner workings of the denomination. I guess it had to happen some time. This also included learning and developing leadership skills generally. For this I organised a seminar on Disability, the Bible, and the Church at my church in Gosford. This was the first time I had organiusd something like this on such a large scale. It was an invaluable experience giving me insight into the demands of leadership, and the type of person and leader I am. Happily, the seminar went off without a hitch. It was well received by those who attended, and enjoyed by those who contributed. Of course, I am extremely thankful to those who contributed and helped out in smaller ways.

Life beyond the theology books…

Church services at the Allambie Heights Spastic Centre are heading in to their 8th year (I think – just where has the time gone?). God is continuing to bless this ministry with consistant numbers which is so encouraging. Also, plenty of people from my church have come forward to assist with the work. This year we finished our series on Daniel, which didn’t work as well as I’d hoped. We are presently working through the miracles of Jesus which is a very interesting study for anyone to do. I certainly have been challenged and corrected in how I think about Jesus as I prepare the talks (with the Greek text in hand of course!), and I certainly hope and pray the discussions leave a similar impression on the people there.

I was also involved in a disability camp as the speaker. This involved using technology which is always a challenge on the day, and talking to a puppet! Never in my theological training did I think I’d be talking to a puppet! Still, this just typified the whole semester – different! What I was encouraged by was the discussions after each talk. For the first time I set discussion questions for the different room groups, and wandered around to each group to hear good, meaty discussions taking place. This worked better than I had hoped.

From the crazy files…

I thought by the time I got to my mid-30s, I’d stop doing so many crazy things. But no. They’re continuing on. Last summer I learned to sail. Perhaps that doesn’t sound all that crazy, but bearing in mind I have cerebral palsy along with the fact I can’t swim, it doesn’t exactly put sailing within the realm of sensibility!

A mate has become really involved in kayaks that can be paddled as normal, peddled with your feet, or sailed. He through me in one of his kayaks to see how I’d coped. I loved it, and it wasn’t too long before I was out-sailing him! The picture on the left is from a trip down to Lion Island in Broken Bay (click on either for a larger image. But, it hasn’t always been plain sailing. (How else can you say it?). There has been some misadventures in some shocking weather conditions. But that’s all part of the fun! The only time I’ve ended up in the water was intentional. That was to see if I could get back in unassisted. What a fun afternoon that was – not! Gladly, I was able to climb back on board! And of course, I always have a life jacket on when on the water.

I am really thankful for these opportunities. This boat really has opened up a part of God’s creation that was closed off to me. There’s also video footage from the same trip.

It’s still uncertain of how long I have still to go in my course. It really depends on how much I want to do and whether I tackle Hebrew as well. At this stage, I dare say I will be studying Hebrew. As difficult as Greek has been, the rewards have been well worth it. I imagine the same will be true for Hebrew.

Getting nearer to the end of my course has not yielded a closer vision of what I’ll be doing after my studies. This is a source of frustration. However, there are many questions I want to pursue and write on as a result of my studies. One way or the other, I will have something to do.

July 14, 2009 Posted by | Newsletters, Site News | 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

Yahoo! Radio – DUMPED!

For months I’ve been happy listening to Yahoo! Radio which you can custom to your own music tastes. I was a little upset when Yahoo! Radio started with the ads. I was encourage to subscribe to LaunchCAST+ which I would’ve been happy to do, except it wouldn’t let me because I’m 0utside the US. Hmm! Now, Yahoo! has decided to put a limit on monthly usage with the same deal with LaunchCAST+ – can’t subscribe because I’m outside the US.

I did a search and found Jango. Another online radio station you can customise. So far it’s been completely free, and no ads. It’s a little more fiddly than Yahoo! to customers, but after you name your first artist, it goes and suggests others you might like. I also think the sound quality is better.

December 26, 2008 Posted by | Web Bits | , , , | 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

A Community Service Announcement

It was reported that almost $1 billion worth of unwanted Christmas presents were sold on eBay last year. That’s thousands of presents sentenced to the horrors of online auctions simply because they were the wrong size, the wrong colour, the wrong shape, or just plain wrong. This was just Australia. World-wide, the numbers are to devastating to mention.

But the real tragedy is this neglect is so easily preventable, and it’s within your power to do something. From the cost of a local phone call, you can get to know someone. Find out their struggles, their joys, their triumphs, their failures. Let them know they matter. Who knows, the best gift they receive this year could be your friendship.

What are you waiting for? Pick up the phone and call now. By working together, we can save every Christmas present from suffering in online auctions. CALL NOW!

(Written by Jason Forbes for the kingdom of God. Authorised by no one in particular. Spoken by no one as this announcement is not in an audible format.)

December 3, 2008 Posted by | Anything else... | , , , , | Leave a comment

The Student’s Desk Newsletter – December, 2008

I am relieved to get to the end of another year of study. Again, the semester ended in a mad rush to get my final assessments done. Nonetheless my subjects for this semester were among the most enjoyable I have done, though only one of the 6 essays I did was “easy”. That essay was on the Trinity, which might give you an idea of what I was up against.

            As I stated last time, my subjects for this semester include Reformation History and Doctrine of God and the Work of Christ. I also mentioned last time that I regarded the Reformation as a theological bandwagon that everyone jumped on with their political agendas. At least that was the case in Europe. In England the opposite was true – their Reformation was a political bandwagon that everyone jumped on with their theological agendas! I did manage to learn a few other things as well about this important time in history. What really stood out was the extent to which politics and religion were intertwined. They really were one and the same thing. It’s very foreign to modern western thought where every effort is made to keep church and state polls apart. It was interesting watching a documentary recently on the 2005 intelligent design controversy in the U.S.A.. The objection was intelligent design should not be taught in public schools because that would constitute a breach in separation of church and state. We’ve moved way up one end of the spectrum, while 600 years ago, people were way down the other end. It was not possible to be theological without being political, and visa-versa. The Reformation had to be political as much as it was theological. This is a point that needs to be understood when addressing any period of Church History before this time.

            The subject also gave me an opportunity to read Martin Luther’s Bondage of the Will which I consider to be the best book I’ve ever read, besides the Bible of course! Ever since coming to understand the Gospel as I now do I’ve struggled with prayer. Not so much the discipline of prayer, although that is an issue, but how to think about prayer. How does God’s sovereignty, free will and human responsibility work together in prayer? Do we really need to nag God off his throne to get anything done in the universe, even though he’s know about it for all eternity? What a pathetic view of God! And us! I’ve asked all kinds of people, and read a few books, including Calvin, but only this obscure former monk from 500 years ago had a satisfactory answer for me. It was a real blessing to come across. I suppose you want to know what the answer was. Well, you really should read the book, but essentially, Luther perceived that people had free will over human affairs, not God’s affairs, yet human affairs are still overruled by God. So people do have free will in human affairs, yet we can ask God for his intervention in our affairs, and trust in his sovereignty. Now, that’s an understanding that I can pray within, and not feel like I’m nagging God off his throne like an irresponsible pawn! Unfortunately, this is a hard book to get. It’s not just this book, but other books have been difficult to get. While popular Christian bookshops line their shelves with rubbish, gems like Bondage of the Will and other helpful titles are scarce! It’s a disgrace!! Apart from this I soon discovered Luther was more than capable of having his dopey moments. It was a disappointment to see how someone could write such an ingenious work, and yet be so stupid at the Marburg Colloquy where he debated Zwingli over the presence of Christ at the Lord’s Supper. Such is the complexity of human nature, I suppose!

            The Doctrine of God and the work of Christ gave me an opportunity to look at the Trinity. Though I had always embraced the Trinity, I thought it was just a doctrine tact on to the rest of theology to explain some strange occurrences in Scripture. I now understand that the Trinity is integral to theology. If you deny the Trinity, the rest of Christian doctrine falls apart. The subject also gave me an opportunity to explore the work of God in the salvation of individuals. I did a paper on this in relation to people with disabilities and other social issues. Even though my paper hardly answered the essay question, it was interesting to see how the Gospel is applied to people who would appear to be outside the “norm”. Incidentally, the Gospel is applied to people inside the “norm” in exactly the same way. I do wish more theologians would realise this!

 

The church services at Allambie Heights are still going strong with numbers consistently around 10. Some of the regulars aren’t so regular these days which is sad. I suppose it’s part of getting old. But others have come and have been regular. It was encouraging to see how much some of the people are “owning” the service. This became apparent when one of the people had some family members there. When it came time to begin, they kept saying “Church! Church!” wanting the family members to come to “their church”. I felt sad for them when their family members simply ignored the request and walked off to another part of the complex. I thought for sure they would leave and join their family. But no! They stayed for the entire service as they normally would. It’s pleasing to see that this time is regard with such importance by these people. Praise God!

            After going through the Sermon on the Mount I thought it would be good to talk about how to live a godly life when not everyone recognises the only true and living God. So we started going through Daniel. I’m not sure if this is working as well as I’d hoped. The chapter readings are a bit long, despite me encouraging them to enjoy the readings as a “story”. Yet, they are still doing their best to listen, and seem to be gaining something from it.

 

In regard to my studies, I’ve still got around 3 years to go. Thank you for your prayers and support. I think I can confidently say your prayers are being answered. At the end of every semester, I’ve looked at my remaining assessments and thought, “how am I going to pull this off??” Yet somehow I manage to come through. Next year I hope to study Greek, though I’m not sure how this will work out. I found 2 days a week at college to be quite taxing. Not just from travelling, but the extra day at college meant 1 less day I’m working on essays. Technically, this means I’ve got 2 less weeks to get my work done. So I’m keen to have 1 day a week where possible. In the meantime, I intend to spend my summer doing everything I haven’t been doing. That’s going to be one busy summer!

December 3, 2008 Posted by | Newsletters, Site News | 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

Sermon on the Mount: Jesus shows off ‘showing off’…

The Student’s Desk fortnightly devotion 

Prayer

Basis for Prayer: Psalm 147:7-11

Lord, we thanks and praise you for the great love you have for each one for us, and you bless us day after day, not only with the things that we need, but with things to enjoy. Lord, your word teaches us that you are not impressed by what people can do. Instead, you take great delight in those who put their hope in you. Lord, in the light of this, we confess that there have been times when we’ve showed off. When we’ve tried to impress others and you, and make ourselves out to be better than what we are. Lord, as we look at what Jesus taught, humble our hearts, and help us understand. Enable us to do things not to show off, but to honour you.

In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

 

Sermon on the Mount: Jesus shows off ‘showing off’…

Read Matthew 6:1-8

We’ve all seen show offs haven’t we? Perhaps we’ve showed off ourselves. I’ve been called a show off a number of times, and probably not without reason. Why do people show off? To draw attention to themselves. To be noticed. To make themselves out to be better then what they are. Jesus reckoned people showed off so people would say how good they were. They might give a whole lot of money so someone might say “Fred, you’re the most generous man I know!” Or they might pray in public so someone might say, “Wow, he must be so holy to pray like that!!”

But this doesn’t impress Jesus at all. Jesus says if all you want is for people to tell you how good you are, then that’s all you’re going to get. You have nothing more coming from God. You have received your reward in full. Because the faith of such a person is not sincere. They aren’t focussed on God. They’re just looking to show off.

So what does a since faith look like? When it comes to giving, not just money, but anything – even our time – we’re to do so with our left hand not knowing what our right hand is doing. In other words, we’re to give without expecting anything in return. In this way our concern is the other person, and not scoring points with other people or God.

It’s the same with prayer. We ought not use prayer as a way to impress others. Instead we ought to pray in private. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t pray publically. The Bible often speaks of people getting together to pray. But when we pray publically, there might be part of us trying to impress the others. When we pray in private, there’s no risk of that happening. Even still, we need to be careful with our private prayers that we don’t end up trying to impress God. When we do pray, we shouldn’t feel we need to use big, fancy words to get God’s attention. Or say the same prayer over and over and over again to score points with God. God knows what we need! He doesn’t need us to tell him. And we pray in Jesus’ name who made us right with God, so there’s no sense in trying to score points with him. Instead we should simply ask God for what we need.

Living Christian lives is not a matter of showing off. Following Jesus is about having concern for others and having a sincere faith in God knowing that you have been made right with him by Jesus.

© The Student’s Desk, 2008.

September 23, 2008 Posted by | Bible Exposition, Devotionals, Religious, Sermon on the Mount | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment