The blessed life – being influenced by the good

The blessed life – being influenced by the good

Luke 6: 43-45

 “No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”

Jesus uses simple images to reveal the hypocrisy of some of the Pharisees and religious leaders that were not only following him around trying to trip him up but also were leading people away from God through unnecessary burdens. The blessed life is to be the good tree, the good man and the good heart. That is of course what we draw from this parable but it is more than this.

He answers the question which is still as current today as it was when he first spoke it. “Can this person be trusted? Is this person good?” The blessed life is to be influenced by the good. It is to have people around you whether they are your leaders or your disciples who at the core are not rotting away through complaint, jealousy, regrets eating away at them and bitterness or superiority, pride and self-satisfaction. Why these particular traits? Well, of course, you may have a different or similar list. But you know that though we are rubbing shoulders with these people every day of our lives and we try to influence them for a heart transplant what we make sure of is that they do not influence our hearts. We do not eat their fruit, we do not digest into our systems of life their attitudes and values.

So how do we live a blessed life in our world today?

  1. We listen, not to the first thing that comes out of the mouth but perhaps the last sentence. The reasoning behind the words. The attitude. The story of the person’s life. The tone of their voice.
  2. We slow down and we look for the good to impact our lives. That might mean we spew out of our mouths what is not so good about the person but digest the good. Ever wondered what to do with a series of books from an author that you thought were a super saint only to discover that they were not a very nice person? Do you hold a burn the books ceremony? If so, I think you may have a small library by the end of your life! No, we look for the good that we want to come into our life, we take the good and we make less heroes in our life.
  3. Give it time. Let time reveal the truth. Good fruit will come, good things will emerge and good words will be spoken and the reverse also. Just because it is a tree it doesn’t mean a thing, wait for the season of fruit, wait for time to pass, all will be revealed.

The Blessed life – being able to see properly

The Blessed life – being able to see properly

Luke 6 v 41-42

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

 

One of my favourite cartoon characters has got to be Charlie Brown. The Peanuts cartoons are so funny because they carry messages that hit at the heart of our lives. For example:

In one cartoon strip, Charlie Brown’s best friend, Linus, asks his eldest sister Lucy, “Why are you so anxious to criticise me?”

Lucy responds, “I just think I have a knack for seeing other people’s faults.”

To that Linus snaps, “What about your own faults?”

Lucy in her self-righteousness responds, “I have a knack for overlooking them.”

 

The cartoon is funny and so is the image that Jesus portrays. The message however is not, many are hurt today maybe even outside the Church that they used to belong to because of a plank pointing at their speck!

 

The Blessed life is having:-

  1. An awareness. We naturally just don’t see our faults. We don’t hear the tone of our voice, the words we use, the look on our face. We don’t see our repeated actions, our addicted ways and the damage we do to ourselves and to others. We don’t see the attitude, the self-centredness nor the self-righteousness. There is no awareness. We cannot see the plank. “Search me O God …”
  2. The experience to help. I don’t know about you but I actually wouldn’t want someone trying to do eye surgery on me who didn’t know what they were doing! Neither would I want someone approaching me unable to see because of a plank in their eye trying to locate the speck they say they had seen in mine. I want someone to come to me and say, “Hey! I’ve been here and actually my life was worse. I had to deal with something far bigger than what is wrong in your life. This is how I got rid of my plank. Now let me help you.”
  3. The ability to not react. Responding seems to be more measured, taking the whole into account, there seems to be time for a pause, a deep breath and think. Reaction seems rushed, there is no time for anything measured and can easily become an overreaction. Did you ever consider that the way you react to someone’s fault may be a worse “sin” than the “sin” you are trying to correct? 3 days ago Vicky Beeching came back onto social media after a 6 month break. She had to stay away because “It was necessary for my overall health, trolling had really worn me down …” Why was she trolled? Because people believe she is a sexual sinner. Who was it who trolled her? Most probably sexual sinners.

If we can see better, clearer and with greater perspective then we will enter a blessed life.

The Blessed Life – following the right leader.

The Blessed Life – following the right leader.

Luke 6: 39-40 “He also told them this parable: “Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into a pit? The student is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher.”

Jesus clearly speaking of the self-righteous and religiously superior leaders in his day paints a vivid and probably at that time a humorous picture of a pit filled with 2 people. The teacher was blind to how to lead well and the student was blind to how not to be led.

The desire for every good teacher is to see their pupil advance so well that they too become a teacher, an influencer of many, in some classroom of life, having their own followers, even to the ends of the world.

This is discipleship.

The origin of discipleship is leadership.

The outcome of discipleship is becoming a disciple-maker.

This parable that Jesus told is as relevant today as it was then.

When the origin is blinded then the outcome is destroyed.

The amazing sad fact is that people do tend to follow blindly leaders who are only capable of taking them into a pit.

So how do you spot a good leader to follow?

  1. Humility: Good leaders apologise and learn from mistakes that they make.
  2. Success with minimal harm: Good leaders know that change brings success but that also change hurts, so they do this as carefully and thoughtfully as they can.
  3. Ambition: Good leaders are ambitious for the whole not for themselves.
  4. Accountable: Good leaders are happy to be questioned before and after their decisions.
  5. Obedient: Good leaders obey the policies, the rules, in the case of Jesus his Father’s will.
  6. Unity: Good leaders don’t create factions they build team.
  7. Development: Good leaders breed good leaders who go further.

 

If you don’t see anything of the 7 things in the leader you are following then you may be in danger of falling into the pit. Spot these things, follow this kind of leader and you will be living a blessed life. Better still, learn and then be this leader yourself.

The Blessed Life – Using the right spoon at the right time.

The Blessed Life – Using the right spoon at the right time.

Luke 6: 37-38

 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

 

To use ‘a sledgehammer to crack a nut’ means to use disproportionate force or expense to overcome a minor problem. It was first used in the USA in the 1850’s but instead of a nut it was a fly. We Brits have been sledgehammering nuts not fly’s since the 1950’s. Now who does such a thing? Have you seen the size of a nut and the size of a sledgehammer? Precisely! But what happens when those nuts are people?

How do you treat people?

We have all done it. We have all said things in the heat of the moment that we regret. Often they come back to bite us. Even when you try to help sometimes picking up a huge blade instead of a surgical scalpel is the wrong choice!

I think we need a small spoon (a teaspoon) and a big spoon (a ladle) in our toolkit of life.

When correcting and bringing discipline which is crucially important we use the small spoon.

When being generous we get the ladle out, we don’t hold back, we bless freely and fully. Have you ever seen someone use a small spoon of generosity, it is painful to watch as they don’t want to give too much, so they give just enough to show they are making a contribution. Jesus never asked for a contribution. (Qualifying this of course with the fact that the poor usually give ladle size portions which are spoon size portions for the rich).

When you are with people today choose your spoon carefully, it is the way to a blessed life!

The Blessed Life – Lose

The Blessed Life – Lose

Luke 6: 32-36

“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”

Where is the loss?

If you have given out more than you have received back then you are venturing into the blessed life.

There needs to be loss in your life.

The loss of loving someone who doesn’t return that love.

The loss of helping those who just take.

Loss because there is no hope of getting anything back from your kindness and generosity.

When you question whether it was worth it; when you ask whether you have been taken for a ride; when you see nothing from your acts of kindness it is then when you enter the blessed life.

The Blessed Life is a life where you look like God, especially in front of your enemies. They may be ungrateful and they may not recognise what you do but He sees. God can see you identify with Him for this is who He is and what He has done and does today.

So if today you meet that awkward, self-centred, seemingly unavoidable person then be kind. Lose. Be like God and then live the blessed life.

The Blessed Life

The Blessed Life

Luke 6: 27-31

“But to you who are listening I say: love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who ill-treat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.”

 

The sermon was based on Jesus’s command to love your enemies. The preacher spoke, “I’ll bet that many of us feel as if we have enemies in our lives. So raise your hands if you have many enemies.”

And quite a few people raise their hands. “Now raise your hands if you have only a few enemies.”

And about half as many people raise their hands. “Now raise your hands if you have only one or two enemies.”

And even fewer people raised their hands. “See, most of us feel like we have enemies.”

“Now raise your hands if you have no enemies at all.” And the preacher looks around, and looks around, and finally, way in the back, a very, very old man raises his hand. He stands up and says, “I have no enemies whatsoever!” Delighted, the preacher invited the man to the front of the church. “What a blessing!” the preacher said. “How old are you?

“I’m 98 years old, and I have no enemies.” The preacher said, “What a wonderful Christian life you lead! And tell us all how it is that you have no enemies.”

“All the fools have died!”

Most of us go through life and have to carry the problem of people not liking us and even worse, though we have tried to fix the situation we seem to be their enemy. They really don’t like us! They hold a grudge or they speak ill against us and they want to do as much damage to our reputation as possible.

I remember the phone call from one such man in the year 2000, “We will bring you down!” it was very unnerving as I pondered what that would mean exactly. They did try but the opposite happened as God lifted me up!

It would seem that these things are expected: You will have enemies; there will be people who hate you; they will curse you; they will ill-treat you; they will insult you; they will steal from you. The kingdom principle is to do the opposite of what comes your way and not the same response. To love, to do good, to bless, to pray, to not retaliate and to give what they need or want.

Hard that this is, it is the only way to stay in the kingdom and to let God reign in your life. Above all, it is the only way to stay blessed and happy.

Luke’s beatitudes – a hard read!

Luke’s beatitudes – a hard read!

 

Luke 6: 20-26

“Looking at his disciples, he said:

“Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.
21 Blessed are you who hunger now,
for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who weep now,
for you will laugh.
22 Blessed are you when people hate you,
when they exclude you and insult you
and reject your name as evil,
because of the Son of Man.

23 “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets.

24 “But woe to you who are rich,
for you have already received your comfort.
25 Woe to you who are well fed now,
for you will go hungry.
Woe to you who laugh now,
for you will mourn and weep.
26 Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you,
for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.”

 

At the centre of Luke’s beatitudes is Jesus, the Son of Man.

There are 4 positive stanzas and 4 negative ones each giving an outcome or a consequence.

The reign of God, satisfaction, laughter and a reward in heaven v. no more comfort, going hungry, mourning and weeping and being like the ancient false prophets.

Blessings and woes.

And at the centre is Jesus.

The Blessings are raw, they are not easy to read like Matthew’s recording of them. Blessed are the poor, not in spirit, just plain and simple, the poor, the hungry, the weeping and the hated. Blessed. More than happy as how can you be happy whilst weeping? But they are right with God, this is the meaning of blessed. These are not beatitudes to achieve, this is painful reality, it is now. The woes are not dangers but again present evils, ‘well fed now’ and ‘laughing now’.

These are hard to read. What do they mean? If this is not about what we can become and if there doesn’t seem to be any instructions of what to do, then what are they saying?

Let me simply suggest this:

  • With the Son of Man at the centre of life, everything is upside down. The kingdom of the world and the kingdom of God are polar opposite. How we view things is not how God views them. So though you may think you know what is happening is not necessarily what is.
  • Let me qualify this point: (There are constant examples of the rich being wonderful benefactors of the kingdom). However, Luke is suggesting that the presence of God is with those you do not think He would be with, like the down-trodden and He is not with people you think He would be with, like the false prophets.
  • To be in need (whether that be from poverty, hunger, hurt or pain) is better than not needing a thing (rich, full, happy and popular) especially when Jesus is at the centre of life, for it is in Him that we are blessed. It is hard for those who don’t need to recognise a Saviour, what do they need saving from? The needy do need and that is why they are blessed.
  • When I look at the least in society in every nation of the world, when I look at their suffering and when I decide to help by feeding them, helping them, holding them, lifting them up then I also experience God is here, of all the stages of the world where God could be, He is here the most, with the broken, the bruised and the forgotten. He is not here in weakness but with power, glory and great joy. There is a richness that I have never experienced and have longed for all my life. It seems that God is found in the nothing of life.

Power for this Sunday

Power for this Sunday

Luke 6: 18-19 “Those troubled by impure spirits were cured, and the people all tried to touch him, because power was coming from him and healing them all.”

 

May those troubled today find your peace;

May those who are sinking find your strength;

May the sick be healed and the trapped freed;

The great need today is not a new song, a great preach or good fellowship. It is for your power to come from your body to everyone who comes to you.

Power to change;

Power to overcome;

Power to fix

Across the churches of the world, the churches of my nation and the church I will attend today, may power come from you Jesus. Amen

What level are you at?

What level are you at?

Luke 6: 17-19

“He went down with them and stood on a level place. A large crowd of his disciples was there and a great number of people from all over Judea, from Jerusalem, and from the coastal region around Tyre and Sidon, who had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. Those troubled by impure spirits were cured, and the people all tried to touch him, because power was coming from him and healing them all.”

Having appointed his apostolic team what would he do next? For the next steps would indicate how he would lead and how he would want them to lead.

It is such a beautiful sentence. “He went down with them and stood on a level place.”

“Heaven is my throne and the earth is my footstool” (Isaiah 66:1), the whole universe is where He is. But He seeks those who are humble and who depend on Him, this is home (66:2).

The higher your call the lower you must become. Pastor, you are never above your people. Teacher, true knowledge is found in community. Evangelist, you are not the judge. Prophet, you do not have the final say. Apostle, you are sent to the sick, to the impure, to the lost, least and last to help them, love them and resource them.

Tears flow so easily when I see the reverse of the above.

Jesus went down with them.

On a level place everyone could get to him. Jesus was accessible to everyone. There was no holding area, a filter of getting oneself right before they entered the presence of Jesus. The fact is outside of His presence they could not make themselves right.

We are all on the same level. We understand the complexities of life. We know the trials and temptations. We know the evils and the pain. We are human. I am the Son of Man, I know.

In that place things began to happen …

Extraordinary ordinary

Extraordinary ordinary

Luke 6: 14-16

Simon (whom he named Peter), his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called the Zealot, Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.

According to legend and early writings:

Simon Peter was crucified upside down at his request (as he did not feel worthy to die in the same way as Jesus) around 66 AD in the persecution from Emperor Nero.

Andrew having taken the gospel to Russia, then Turkey was crucified in Greece.

James the son of Zebedee was executed by Herod in 44AD and reported in Acts 12:2.

John is the only thought to have died a natural death on the island of Patmos, Greece, where he had been exiled.

Philip took the gospel to Tunisia and then to Turkey where he converted the wife of the Roman governor who on hearing this had him killed.

Bartholomew seemingly travelled great distances going into India, Armenia, Ethiopia and Yemen (Southern Arabia) where he was martyred.

Matthew took the gospel to Iran and then into Ethiopia where he was stabbed to death.

Thomas evangelised in Syria before going to India where he died by being pierced with the sword by soldiers.

James the son of Alpheus went to Syria and was stoned and then clubbed to death.

Simon the Zealot went to Iran and was killed there.

Judas son of James (also known as Thaddaeus) went to Iran and was killed by arrows.

Judas betrayed Jesus then later hanged himself.

Matthais replaced Judas after the betrayal and travelled to Syria with Andrew and was burnt to death.

They were called and chosen.

They had to learn obedience, one didn’t, the others also in many ways failed but they made a recovery to continue to follow.

They were not perfect and there were always people reminding them of it but they became empowered and changed men by the Spirit.

Why?

They had found something worth giving everything up for, the pearl of great price, who was worth dying for. They had found a cause to stake their whole life on.

But in truth it was them who had been found.

They had been lost men who Jesus found.

Jesus saw in them new names and purpose and he led them into their destiny.

These 12 names changed their world, our world.

That’s what it means to be called and chosen, anything less than this is not worth it.