The Student’s Desk

That we may know Christ

Introducing ‘Worship’

Genesis 4:1-16

What is worship? I suspect when we think of worship, we tend to think of giving thanks, praise and adoration to God, and praying to God. This is absolutely right, worship is all these things. But here’s the thing: we can so easily distort worship, and twist it into something else as we give thanks and praise and pray to God. For us, worshipping God can become a means of scoring brownie points with God. Doing things to make God happy so he will bless us, or give us what we want. Ultimately, this kind of worship becomes about us trying to manipulate God. This kind of worship is a major problem, because it doesn’t reflect God’s character. God is a God who blesses. Who provides. Who is gracious. God doesn’t sit back and wait for us to do the right thing, and then he blesses us. God has blessed us. God has provided for us. Abundantly! When we worship God, and pray to him, his blessing and his provision need to be reflected in our worship.And this is where a man by the name of Cain came undone.

Cain was the son of Adam and Eve, and he had a younger brother named Abel. One day, both Cain and Abel worshipped God. God accepted Abel’s worship, but not Cain’s. And it’s not immediately obvious why it was so. But I think it’s got to do with their motives. It’s an issue of the heart. You see, when Abel worshipped God, he was whole-hearted. Abel recognised how much God had blessed him, and he gave the best thing he had to God. He didn’t want anything back. He just wanted to acknowledge God’s blessing on his life.

Cain on the other hand, he was half-hearted. Cain gave some of what he had. It wasn’t the best. Actually, to me, it sounds like Cain gave God his leftovers. Does God give us his leftovers? No! He gives us what’s best for us. So Cain’s worship of God didn’t reflect God’s character, and how much God had given him. Cain wasn’t truly thankful for how much God had given him. The problem with half-hearted worship is we’re not really focused on God. We’re actually focused on what we want. And that’s what sin is, wanting what we want, and not wanting what God’s wants.

Because we’re not really focussed on God, we end up trying to manipulate God to get what we want, and we become frustrated when God doesn’t answer our prayers the way we want. Then we are tempted to take matters into our own hands. This can have terrible consequences.

Cain took matters into his own hands, this led to the murder of his brother, Abel. Cain was envious of Abel because God accepted Abel’s worship, and not his. Cain was so angry about his brother, he actually planned his murder. Cain had it all figured out – when and how to murder him, and how to get rid of the evidence. Perhaps Cain thought if he bumped off his brother, God would have no choice but to accept his half-hearted worship, and bless him with what he wanted.

The thing is, God won’t be manipulated. God won’t let himself be accountable to us. God is God, and we are accountable to him. He can see straight through us. Cain was a worker of the ground. He knew how to dig a hole and make a body disappear. He could con his parents into thinking Abel was alive and well, but not God. Cain relied on his expertise as a man of the land to cover up his sin. No one could ever tell what happen, except God. God saw straight through it. By burying his brother’s body, he thought that would cover his sin. Instead, the act actually convicted him. And the question was never about how well Cain could cover his sin. It was a question of the state of his heart. When God questions Cain about where Abel was, a very cold and hard heart is revealed. Cain couldn’t have cared less about Abel. All he could care about was himself, and what he wanted. Cain’s worship was half-hearted from the beginning, and that’s why God didn’t accept his worship.

What about our worship? Is our worship whole-hearted like Abel? Is our focus on God? Are we thankful for everything God has given us? Or has something else got our attention, so we end up trying to manipulate God like Cain to get what we really want. Because the thing is, God has given us so much more than what he gave Abel. God has given us Jesus so we could have a personal relationship with him. Jesus worshipped God the way God deserves. Jesus didn’t just give his best to God. He gave everything to God. Even his life. And Jesus did it with us in mind. Jesus worshipped God for us, and God accepted his worship. That’s how we can have a personal relationship with God now. That personal relationship needs to be reflected in how we worship God. Our worship of God doesn’t just involve praising God and praying to him. It involves our whole life – how we treat people, and what we do. It’s worth asking the question, “How does your personal relationship with God affect what you do?” This is your worship as well!

Worship is not about earning brownie points with God, to manipulate him and get what we want. We can’t be half-hearted about it, wanting something else as well. Neither is worship about us, and what we want. Worship is a whole-hearted response to what God has given us. Especially as Christians who know that God has also given us Jesus. Worship is recognising God’s character – that God is a God who loves us and has blessed us. He has already provided what we need. Finally, worship is made possible by Jesus. Jesus alone has worshipped God as he deserves. True worship begins when we put our faith and trust in Jesus.

(c) The Student’s Desk, 2012


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June 1, 2012 Posted by | Bible, Devotionals, Genesis | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Jesus, our Advocate (Easter 2012)

Luke 24:36-53

I’m sure we’ve all been in a situation where we’ve had a disagreement or an argument with someone that’s seriously affected our relationship with the other person. We’ve either lost our temper or offended them in some way, and we feel as though we’ve burned our bridges with that person. There’s nothing we can do ourselves to mend the broken relationship. In such cases, we need an advocate. Someone who can represent us and our cause to the other person in the hope of undoing what we’ve done to offend them, and mending the broken relationship.

When it comes to God, we have all done things to offend God – whether deliberately, or accidentally. This is what the Bible calls sin. This has seriously affected our relationship with God, and all of us have burned our bridges with God. There is nothing any of us can do ourselves to mend that broken relationship with God. We need an advocate. We need some who can represent us before God. We need someone who can undo the sin we’ve done to cause God offence. We need someone who can mend our broken relationship with God.

But our advocate can’t be just anyone. I can’t represent you before God. I’m a sinner as well! I’ve caused God offence also, and need an advocate myself! Our advocate needs to be someone who has never sinned. Someone who can meet God on his terms. Someone who pleases God. There’s only been one person to match this description – Jesus. The whole point of Jesus’ life was to represent us before God, undo the sin that we have done to offend God, and mend our relationship with God. Jesus came to be our advocate.

But how can we be sure? How can we know Jesus was able to do all this? Any crackpot can stand up and say they are our advocate before God, and be mistaken. We can be sure that Jesus is our advocate before God because of the resurrection. When Jesus died, he was properly, properly dead. Crucifixion was designed only to have one outcome – death. People who were crucified did not survive, it’s that simple. After this, Jesus’ body was wrapped up, and placed in a tomb for three days. Any prospect of Jesus coming back to life was the furthest thing from the disciple’s minds, as we can see from the part of the Bible we read.

When Jesus appeared to the disciples, they were frightened. This was a completely unexpected event, and their minds went in search of other explanations. Perhaps they were seeing a ghost! But Jesus had a body like we have a body. The disciples could actually reach out and touch him. Ghosts don’t have a body like ours, so maybe this really was the same Jesus. But they still weren’t to sure. They really didn’t expect Jesus to come back from the dead, and it just seemed too good to be true! So Jesus ate a piece of roasted fish. Now, think about it. If a ghost were to eat a piece of fish, what would happen? The piece of fish would drop to the ground, right? But that didn’t happen with Jesus. It was the same Jesus with the same body eating a piece of fish as he had probably done countless times before. Jesus had indeed come back from the dead.

So, how do we make sense of all this? Why did Jesus come back from the dead? In a sense they should have known, because it was talked about all through the Old Testament. But, the thing is, we can’t understand the Bible without God’s help. When Jesus opened their eyes to help them understand the Bible, he was able to explain to his disciples that he came back from the dead so that people would be able to repent and have their sins forgiven. In other words, Jesus came back from the dead to be our advocate. To represent us before God, to undo the sin we’ve done that offends God, and to mend our broken relationship with God.

We know that because of Jesus, we can repent and have our sins forgiven because Jesus was carried up into heaven – body and all. This shows that God accepted what Jesus did on our behalf. That Jesus’ death was sufficient to pay for our sins, and Jesus is the one who can be our advocate before God. Jesus is the one who can represent us before God, undo the sin we’ve done that offends God, and mend our broken relationship with God.

We can be certain that Jesus did come back from the dead because he had a real body. We no longer have a problem in our relationship with God because Jesus’ resurrection allows for repentance, and forgiveness of our sins. In Jesus, we do have an advocate who has dealt with the problems between us and God, and the only right response is to worship him. Jesus has made the impossibility of us being God’s friend possible for all eternity.

Easter is a wonderful opportunity for us to remember how Jesus became our advocate before God, even though we had burned our bridges with God, and we who follow Jesus now have peace with God.

(C) The Student’s Desk, 2012

April 6, 2012 Posted by | Bible, Bible Exposition, Devotionals | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a 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

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

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

Sermon on the Mount: Going the extra mile, and beyond…

The Student’s Desk fortnightly devotion 

Prayer

Basis for Prayer: Psalm 18:20-30

Lord, as we have been looking as the message Jesus preached so many years ago, we have come to see that living Christian lives is very different to the world. For you do not judge as the world judges, nor value what the world values. Often you despise the things the world values, and we think little of what you ask of us. Help us see the wisdom in Jesus’ words this morning that we may live different lives, radical lives, so people know that we belong to you.

In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen. 

Going the extra mile, and beyond…

Read Matthew 5:20, 38-48

This is perhaps one of the hardest teachings of Jesus. And we’ve heard it that many times, it’s become a cliché – “turn the other check”. Yet it still makes us uncomfortable. Jesus seems to be asking the impossible here. Are we suppose to get around butt-naked for the sake of others and literally give the shirt off our back?

Well you don’t need to look too far today to find people interpreting the Bible for their own gain. In Jesus’ day, it was exactly the same. Way back in the Old Testament when God made his people into a nation, he gave them a law that said if someone deliberately injures another, then they should have the same done to them. So if I broke your leg, you would have the right to break my leg. The whole point of the law was to limit payback. I have heard in some indigenous cultures there’s a system of payback. One person does something to another, then the other person does something worse to get back at them. It goes on and on, and there’s no end to it. This law was given to stop all that nonsense, and to give respect to people, even nasty people.

Some people in Jesus day had a different take on that law. They used this law to justify payback. They didn’t respect people. They weren’t concerned for there welfare. They just used God’s law to justify their own selfishness. It was pathetic! It is against this abuse of God’s law that we need to understand Jesus’ teaching.

By teaching what he does Jesus places the emphasis back on respect for the other person. This doesn’t mean we need to strip naked every time someone demands something of us. Jesus is using exaggerated language here. He is actually saying to go beyond the minimum standard, and actually do something positive for the other person, even if they’ve cost us or offended us.

In Jesus’ day, a person’s cloak was very important, particularly if the person was poor. It may have been the only thing they had to keep them warm at night. So to give away your cloak was no small thing. Why would Jesus make such a wild statement? Living life upside down and following Jesus is about thinking about the other person and not to be so selfish. When we start jumping up and down demanding our rights, who are we really concerned about? Ourselves! Are we thinking of the other person? Hardly!

So this teaching of Jesus isn’t about going around butt-naked. Jesus is using exaggerated language to show what it is do deny ourselves and put others first. After all, it was Jesus who denied his very life to put us ahead of him so that we would enjoy eternity. 

Jesus presses the issue again we he tells people to walk the extra mile. Have you ever been asked to do something, and you do it only because you had to? I have. I drag my feet and don’t do any more then what I have to. Jesus isn’t impressed with that. Jesus says to think about the other person, and to do the extra work. Again it was Jesus who did the extra work for us, work that we could not do, in obeying God perfectly. It’s in Jesus that we can experience God’s blessings.

We have been blessed so much as Christians. May we show others how blessed we are and bless them by thinking of them. Even if it means putting them first.

© The Student’s Desk, 2008.

September 7, 2008 Posted by | Bible Exposition, Devotionals, Religious, Sermon on the Mount | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sermon on the Mount: Jesus take on anger management – How do we do it?

The Student’s Desk fortnightly devotion 

Prayer

Basis for Prayer: Psalm 51:10-17

Lord, living the way you want in this life is hard work. It seems temptation is around every corner, and we are always seeing and hearing examples of behaviour that you don’t want us to do. Like the Psalm Lord, we pray you would create in us a new heart, one that rejoices in your ways so people may learn about your great love from us. Lord, teach us to be humble when things don’t go our way. May we even seek the needs of others, even when they’re against us. As we look at what Jesus taught, help us to understand what is taught, and help us to respond.

In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

 

Jesus take on anger management – How do we do it?

Read Matthew 5:20-26

We’ve been talking about living life upside-down, living differently to the rest of the world. So far we’ve said the unlucky people by worldly standards are actually the lucky people by God’s standards – they have God’s blessing. We’ve also talked about what we can expect from living lives differently to other people. We said that we might cop a bit of flak from others, but we can also expect people to turn and praise God for what the see in us.
But how do we live life upside-down? What does an upside down life look like day in and day out? That’s what we’ll be talking about the next few times we meet, starting today.

There are plenty of people around today that think being Christian is about observing a minimum standard of behaviour. That so long as you don’t commit any big sins like murder, and live a good life, you’ll be right. And they’re partly right. Responding to the gospel and following Jesus demands a change in behavioural standards. But their mostly wrong. Because Jesus takes that standard of behaviour, and takes it to a whole new level. Jesus raises the bar.

How far does Jesus raise the bar? There were a number of religious groups in Jesus’ day and one of them was called the Pharisees. These people knew the law of God really, really well. They were religious nutters! When it came to being devoted to God, they were pedantic! There was not an area of their life that their devotion to God affected. Anyone could spot a Pharisee from 100m away. Their devotion to God was that obvious! And to all this religious devotion and activity Jesus says NOT GOOD ENOUGH! “… unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.” Now that is a shocking thing to say. Anyone would’ve thought if anyone was going to go to heaven, it would be a Pharisee. Jesus says, no chance!

What’s the problem with the Pharisees? The problem with the Pharisees is the same problem we can have today – that living life the way God wants is about ticking boxes, like on a check list. We can start thinking that so long as we’ve done our Christian quota – gone to church, said our prayers, read our Bible – God will be happy with that. Jesus says no! It’s a lot more than that. And if you haven’t understood anything I’ve been saying, I want you to understand this, and keep this in mind: Living Christian lives is not about keeping a check list of a behaviour standard. The Christian life is about doing the most you can in service to God, and in service to others. After all, Jesus gave everything he had for us, by dying on a cross for our sins so we can be friends with God. The only appropriate response is to give everything we have, and give the most that we can. Even to the point we ask ‘how can I do more?’ when we’ve done everything. Some will be able to do more than others. That’s ok. God doesn’t expect us to all be the same. But he does expect us to do what we can.

Jesus puts this in very concrete terms for us by talking about murder and anger. Now, I take it there aren’t any murderers amongst us. Just in case there is, and I’ve offended you, I am really, really sorry, and there’s no need to meet me in the back ally afterwards. But we do get angry with people, don’t we? We might start calling them nasty names and holding grudges against them. Has anyone done that? I have. And we might start thinking, “I haven’t done anything wrong. I haven’t actually murdered them… yet!” Well, Jesus says you have done something wrong. God isn’t happy with your behaviour. You need to do something about it. You need to stop bearing a grudge and say to the person, “look, I’m sorry. Can we talk about what happened?” That’s what living life upside-down looks like. That’s what living Christian lives and following Jesus involves. It’s not easy. But it is worthwhile.

Again, living Christian lives is not about keeping a check list of a behaviour standard. The Christian life is about doing the most you can in service to God, and in service to others in response to the love Jesus has shown to each of us.

 

 

© The Student’s Desk, 2008.

August 23, 2008 Posted by | Bible, Bible Exposition, Devotionals, Religious, Sermon on the Mount | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Sermon on the Mount: Living life upside-down – What can we expect?

The Student’s Desk fortnightly devotion 

Prayer

Basis for Prayer: Psalm 36:5-9

Lord, you are the source of all life. You made all things, and give what each one needs day in and day out. So often Lord we forget this, and take everything for granted. As we reflect on how you want us to live, may we be always mindful of your all-sustaining love for us, and live in such a way people can see your light and love in us, and in turn will want to praise you.

Living life upside-down – What can we expect?

Read Matthew 5:11-16

Last time I spoke about living life upside-down, and I was saying that the lucky people in life are really the people who appear unlucky by worldly standards. The reason for this is these people are more likely to look beyond themselves and the world and have their focus on God. Those who appear lucky by worldly standards will have their focus on themselves, what they can do, and not give a thought about God.

Now, if we’re living life upside down, the way God wants us to live what can we expect? How will people respond to us? Jesus says we will be persecuted and put down for our faith in him. Now why would that be? Because people don’t want too know about Jesus. Because the way we live might challenge the way they live? This persecution can come in big ways or small ways. In some countries today, people are sent to prison because of their faith in Jesus – imagine that! That’s pretty big! For us, it might mean getting the cold shoulder every so often. Either way, no matter how big or small, being persecuted isn’t all that nice. We tend to avoid it when we can, and when we can’t, we whinge about it. But Jesus says we are to rejoice when we’re persecuted when it happens in his name. The reason for this is those who are persecuted have grown to such a point in there faith it’s obvious to everyone that they belong to Jesus.

So, if we’re to live life upside, down, the way God wants, and we’re being persecuted for it, what’s the point? What good is it going to do? Particularly what good can we do? Jesus says the point is to let people know we belong to God so they will also praise him, and it doesn’t take much for people to find out. To illustrate the point, Jesus talks about salt and light. Now who has ever put salt on their food? How much salt do you need to make a difference? Can you see the salt? Sometimes, not all the time. Even though you use the tiniest amount of salt, it still makes a difference when we taste it.

The same with light. Occasionally I get a bit dopey. When I go out I sometimes for get to put the front light on, and when I come home that night, I can’t find the keyhole to unlock the door. So I get my mobile phone and I open my phone where the screen gives off light. In the day time, the light that the screen gives off doesn’t make any difference at all. But when it’s dark, it makes every big of difference so I can unlock my door.

 We may feel like we’re not doing anything, or making any difference to the people around us. But Jesus says it doesn’t take much to make a difference. In fact, we’re probably making more difference than what we know!

So what can we expect from living lives upside down. We can expect a bit of flak for being different, for belonging to God. But we can also expect to be making a difference no matter how small we may feel.

© The Student’s Desk, 2008.

August 10, 2008 Posted by | Bible Exposition, Devotionals, Religious, Sermon on the Mount | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment