The invitation … to learn

I grew up in a time when most Christians had lists. These lists were never produced it was like an oral tradition passed down through the generations dependent on which church you attended.
On this list there were things like the cinema; make-up; clothes; drink; the Sabbath. The list showed whether someone was a true Christian.

I have never met a joyful legalist only prisoners.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11 v 28-30)

The yoke is the piece of wood that harnesses two animals keeping them closely together moving in the same direction.

Jesus invites those who are weighed down by the numerous rituals, regulations and observances that the interpretations of the Torah inflicted on people, to come and take his yoke. To be harnessed to Him.

My life with Christ calls me not to focus on being what others want me to be, holy, blameless and a good man in order to be acceptable but to be who He has made and continues to make me.

I have found my life with Christ is about Him and not me. I feel free in that.

The yoke of Jesus is easy and light, the yoke of man is difficult and heavy.

The Invitation … to rest.

Having declared He has it all, knows it all and reveals it all, he now calls people to place their

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11 v 28-30)

Have you become exhausted from the journey of your life and work?

Are you weighted down with heavy loads of care and concerns?

Come to me. A simple invitation.

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” John 6:35

All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. John 6:37

On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. John 7:37

Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Isaiah 55:1

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. Revelation 3:20

The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. Revelation 22:17

Come to me.

Jesus is not suggesting you lay down and have a sleep in order to find rest. Although some of us do need to sleep more! But He is inviting us to leave in order to accept the invitation to come to Him.

The crowd that day were weary and burdened by the rules and expectations of others and the religious system that they had been born into. The invitation was to leave the pressure to perform, the striving to be better than others and to find rest in the acceptance of Jesus.

Come to me all who are gifted with greatness. No.

Those who look like they are going to drop. Those on the verge of giving up. Those who have no answers. Those who are tired of it all. Those who want to run away. Those who are at their wits end. Those who cannot change their circumstances. Those who are weary and burdened.

Come.

Come to me.

Rest.

Jesus has it all, He knows it all and HE REVEALS IT ALL

This has got to be simply the best verse to describe the relationship God has between the Father and the Son. (Obviously there is no mention of the Spirit in this verse but the Bible has lots of examples where that is the case).

“All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” (Matthew 11 v 27)

The Father is the lover; the Son is the beloved and the Spirit is the love that is between them and that unites them. The theological term for this is perichoresis. It basically means that in every divine person as a subject the other persons also indwell, all mutually permeate one another, though they do not cease to be distinct persons. To encounter the one is to encounter the other. The Father is not just the initiator who sits back. In the presence of the Son you are in the presence of the Father and vice versa. This means that you cannot think of them as 3 individual independents outside and apart from each other. To say the Father, Son and Spirit are each God is to say they are one God.

Not Mohammed, Buddha, Zeus, Shiva etc. Only Jesus reveals God. Only in Jesus. Not many roads. One road. Jesus.

Today there are many things you don’t have, you will never have everything even if you had more things. There will be many things you don’t know. You will have more questions than answers. But friends today we can say this one thing, “I know God. The Son has revealed the Father to me and is continuing to do so as I follow Him.”

Today as we pray, we do so in the name of Jesus and he takes us to the throne of God. As we worship Jesus we connect with God. It is all through Jesus.

So if you are sitting today wondering about your life. Asking questions that don’t seem to have answers. When you simply do not know why or what or when or how, Jesus knows all there is to know. Even if he doesn’t reveal what you long to know it is alright. He reveals God to you and He shares the presence of the Divine with you and the triune God, the fullness of God, surrounds you and fills you and hovers over you and guides you and empowers you and opens doors for you and tells you even though you don’t know, He knows and because of that you will make it!

Jesus the revealer!

One day when all is revealed, every one of us will bow our knee and confess in the power of the Holy Spirit that Jesus is the Lord of all creation, to the glory of the Father.

“May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all”. (2 Corinthians 13:14)

Jesus has it all and He Knows It All

This has got to be the ultimate verse in the gospels revealing Jesus as Christ, Messiah, God in flesh.

Yesterday I wrote how Jesus holds it all. He is omnipotent and that is comforting for those who are facing powerful circumstances in their lives that oppose them. But there is more. Jesus knows it all.

All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. (Matthew 11 v 27)

“No one knows.”

Jesus says it twice.

The ultimate knowledge of the throne of heaven. How the triune God exists and works, no one knows that.

Except Jesus.

In the world of ‘know it all’s’ where everyone seems to have the perfect truth about everything; where one church vies against another for absolute truth; where people have totally correct political views; where people have insights never seen before; where experts in many fields have actually developed things way beyond our imagination; they will never know it all.

The created will never understand the Creator.

In the missional context of needing to be incarnational, we will never understand how the Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary and Jesus was conceived.

In our pursuit for His Presence in our lives we will never know what it was for the human and the divine to exist in one body. We don’t know it all.

You may not know why … but Jesus knows.

You may not know how … but Jesus knows.

You may not know when … but Jesus knows.

One of my favourite parts of the Old Testament is chapter 39 of Job. This incredible man finally gets an answer to his cry for understanding of why he is suffering. God’s answer simply makes me happy when I read it. He answers with questions.

Do you know when the mountain goats give birth? Who untied the ropes of the wild donkey? The questions continue along this line. The answers that Job give are the same for us, “we haven’t got a clue!”, “which mountain goats? Where is the wild donkey?” The point of course is that God knows. God was saying that there are so many things in this world that you do not know why or how or when, including your suffering. But I do. I know. Is that not enough for you?

Matthew 11 v 27 is brilliant for every one of us. Jesus says I know what no one else knows. I know the Father and the Father knows me. To know the Creator is to know it all.

The world is full of the unexplainable, the mysterious, the strange, questions that do not get answered. But God rules them all.

The answer is that we must trust in the wisdom and goodness of Him who knows it all and is over all. The answer is always God Himself. His presence with you. His wisdom, His power and His ability within this world which calls for us to trust Him and to draw near to Him.

Jesus has it all and He Knows It All. Of course there’s one more truth to add … that’s for tomorrow.

JESUS HAS IT ALL.

We are going to read a verse of all verses. This is the evidence that Jesus believed he was the Son of God. This is not some delusional fantasy. He had a self-consciousness that was birthed within him from the eternal God. He and the Father were one. We are going to stay on this verse for a few days, there’s lots in it!

“All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” (Matthew 11 v 27)

Are you weighted down by people or circumstances?

Do you feel intimidated?

Are you burdened today because you feel weakened by what is in front of you?

All things. In one of the most forthright things Jesus ever said alongside the sayings of ‘I am’ he is making the point that he was not self-appointed. He is the real deal, there is no other. God sent him. He was given all things. But this does not mean there was a time when he didn’t have all things. He is not a secondary being. There was never a time when God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit were not eternally there.

All people will bow their knee to Jesus. No matter how many self-declarations of importance there are through the many media platforms; no matter how many put-downs you have received from arrogant leaders and managers; no matter how much power and wealth are lorded over the weak and marginalised; they don’t have it all.

Jesus has it all.

Jesus at the centre of it all
Jesus at the centre of it all
From beginning to the end
It will always be, it’s always been You, Jesus
Jesus

Nothing else matters
Nothing in this world will do
Jesus You’re the centre
And everything revolves around You
Jesus,You.

Songwriters: Israel Houghton / Micah Massey / Adam Rannery / Adam A Ranney

5 responses when people don’t get you!

Sometimes the more you do the less you seem to advance. The responses can be cruel and hurtful. You wonder if it is worth it. How do you get through? Here are 5 responses from our next 2 verses:-

“At that time Jesus said, ‘I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.” (Matthew 11 v 25-26)

At that time … what time was that? In the context of your relative being in prison. John, the forerunner, preparing the way for you but being rejected by your own people resulting in you also experiencing the same rejection. In the context of reflection that where you have given of yourself the most there has been very little response of appreciation or life-change.

At that time of rejection and gloomy reflection.

  1. Focus on your own relationship with the Father. Sometimes when the people in your world disappoint you so much it is all you have left. But it is ALL. There is nothing greater. He is your source. Go to Him. Worship Him.
  2. Acknowledge the Sovereignty of God. He is Lord of every activity in heaven and earth and therefore certainly in control of the situation you face right now. If He is sovereign then He is permitting what is happening and therefore there is hope and purpose behind the pain, rejection and lack of appreciation you are experiencing.
  3. Turn from the obvious. The wise and learned are not those educated academically but experientially. They have seen the miracles and maybe even had one themselves but still have not understood the life of the kingdom. Take your attention from those who continue to disappoint you the most. They are blind and more than that the truth is hidden from them, they will never see, no matter how persistent you are.
  4. Turn to those who look insignificant. The little children are not those in primary school although they do fit the category also. But they are those who don’t look much, they are unimpressive to the world’s standards. They are standing behind the obvious. Perhaps at the back of the line. Overlooked. Taken advantage of. Ignored. Forgotten.
  5. Prioritise in line with the Father’s priority. This is how He likes to work (the Message). Often Churches spend all their time and energy on those sheep that bleat the loudest. They complain that there isn’t enough of this and that. They don’t like how it is done etc. This is NOT the Father’s priority. We must prioritise what pleases Him. That is to strategically plan to go to the last not the first, the least not the greatest and the lost not those who think they are found.

There are times when people don’t get you. They will want every ounce of blood from you and still not be satisfied. It is called the cross. But these 5 responses based on 2 sentences of Jesus will help to stabilise your disappointed heart and mind.

The sin of ungratefulness

The more you do for some people the less appreciative they seem to be. Have you ever experienced that? Some seem to be incapable of being grateful? They receive generosity, grace and love. Yet they either reject it or say it isn’t enough. An atmosphere of entitlement hovers over them even though they are so privileged. Do you know something of what I’m saying?

There is nothing wrong in demanded a response from the investment you have gven.

“Then Jesus began to denounce the towns in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent. “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted to the heavens? No, you will go down to Hades. For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.” (Matthew 11 v 20-24)

A quick look at these cities/towns:

Chorazin – There are no recorded miracles in the Gospels here.

Bethsaida – The man born blind was healed and Jesus fed the 5,000 just outside this city.

Tyre and Sidon – well known cities in the Old and New Testament, now known as Lebanon, pagan, famous for being rejecters of God.

Capernaum – Peter’s mother in law is healed and a man is set free from a demon amongst many other healings and miracles.

Jesus mentions Bethsaida and Capernaum where the Gospel writers record his miracles, Chorazin where nothing is recorded and Tyre and Sidon who everyone knew were doomed historically.

Have you ever wondered at people who encounter a healing, maybe even their own healing, they attribute it to God, but they never surrender their lives to Him?

Do you ever ponder on why people do not carry thankfulness in their heart for all that God has done either supernaturally or through His people/Church? Do you ever wonder why they remain the same and their character doesn’t change even though they have received so much?

If Christ has done a work in you or in front of you then the mission lesson is this: what are you going to do now after witnessing what He has done for you? If you do nothing then it is worse than doing nothing prior to witnessing what He has done.

When my children were growing up the biggest lesson was on thankfulness. Some children are more thankful than adults.

This is not a nice message. It is unpopular with parts of the Church who would never want to offend in anyway. But the truth is Christ expects a return on His investment and as we follow Him on mission so must we. If there is no response then we too may choose like the Gospel writers with Chorazin not to even mention the good that Christ did there, the city was completely forgotten.

Speaking up when you are not getting a return for your investment is a hard lesson perhaps. But Jesus demands our all and that is for all not just a few.

Who’s agenda?

Jesus closes his conversation regarding John by denouncing the generation who are missing what God is doing right in front of their noses.

“To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others: “‘We played the pipe for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.” For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved right by her deeds.” (Matthew 11 v 16-19)

Next time you watch children play observe their agenda. There can be a number of rules and it seems that everyone is breaking them. Frustrated voices are being raised because no one seems to be following the same rule. There can be a lot of grabbing of toys and shouting ‘Mine!’ In the end they haven’t ‘played nicely’ and it has ended in tears. Selfish childish games are not only for people of a certain age, grown-ups play them also.

John was accused of being too depressive, mourning and even having a demon. They didn’t get it. John’s ministry was God’s agenda but they didn’t want to play. So then Jesus is here, standing amongst them, God with us, the party has started! But again they don’t like this game either. It is too joyful, generous and all encompassing.

Consider your life with its twists and turns. You went into education; you had a lifetime of a variety of jobs, you developed skills and took on activities, you met friends and a few enemies along the way and then you retire to enjoy your last period of time on this earth. The most difficult part of your life has been to decipher and then trust God’s agenda for your life. To realise you don’t set the rules, He does, but you still have to play even if you want to throw your toys out of the pram.

If that generation had only played according to the rules and accepted John for who he was then they wouldn’t have missed the all-important Immanuel. Their lives would have adapted to the new rules and wisdom would have confirmed they were right.

Instead, they kicked back, rejected and ignored what God was doing.

What is God doing in your life? Whatever it is and maybe you can agree by looking back on your life and see that you didn’t always want to play according to the rules God had brought for your life. But now? Will you trust Him that right now He is here, with you, leading you in this season and you will commit to fall in line and play His game not yours? His agenda outweighs yours.

Line of Duty

Did you watch it last night? The end of the 6th series will today cause lots of reviews good and bad! We have been waiting to see who the infamous ‘H’ was who controlled corrupt police officers. It was revealed and it was really clever. I could never have predicted it.

You might be reading this thinking you don’t have any idea what I’m talking about! Let’s move onto something far more important.

But first let’s read some more of what Jesus says about John the Baptist who is imprisoned by Herod.

“For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come. Whoever has ears, let them hear.” (Matthew 11 v 13-15)

The Prophets and the Law (the Old Testament) has a line of duty. Generations had been waiting to see who they were all pointing to. What do you say? Jesus addresses the crowd using a popular phrase meaning ‘Are you really listening?’ Do you see him?

Who is the offspring of Eve who will bruise the head of the serpent and whose heel will be bruised by it?

Who is Isaiah’s virgin who conceives and has a son calling him ‘God with us’?

When Noah saved creation and his family from the flood of judgment who did his character and the Ark symbolise?

Who was the ladder connecting heaven and earth in Jacob’s vision with angels ascending and descending on it?

Who does the bronze healing serpent of Moses raised up in the wilderness point to?

Who is the wisdom of God personified by Solomon’s writings?

Who is the amazing husband in the love book of the Song of Songs?

I could go on. The whole of the Old Testament Scriptures pointing to someone in the line of duty who would be revealed.

The prophet Malachi pointed to Elijah coming again. Some may have thought that was a reincarnation or another trip from heaven for him and still others that this individual would come in the spirit and power of Elijah.

If John the Baptist was true and meant to come, if he was prophesied accurately as the fore-runner and this is him, then the one he prepares the way for is also true. Are you really listening? Do you see him?

Jesus!

Today as you hold the Bible in your hand remind yourself that the central character throughout is Jesus. He is in the Line of Duty. It is all about him. Some will have missed him and they still do. But for those enlightened we realise it is the most beautiful story of God that has ever been written!

Violence

We have become accustomed to hearing of a pandemic within the pandemic. As the majority of the world was locked down in their homes the rate of those who experience domestic violence rose sharply.

Maybe you are reading this and the words domestic violence make you shake with fear even after many years. A person you loved hurt you.

I heard yesterday how friends had stopped in their car at some traffic lights and across the road a man was screaming and banging on the door of another car with the woman trapped inside. The trauma of seeing violence has a lasting effect but being the victim of violence can destabilise the rest of a person’s life.

The World Health Organisation define violence as “The intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community, that either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment or deprivation.”

Physical or psychological; death or deprivation. We understood at an early age what violence is.

Let’s now look at the next thing Jesus said in the context of speaking to the crowd of John the Baptist in the ear-shot of John’s disciples. It is one of those verses that are difficult to understand:

“From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been subjected to violence, and violent people have been raiding it” (Matthew 11 v 12)

Some interpret this positively in that since those wilderness baptisms and call to repent, people have been entering the new kingdom with courage and enthusiasm. It certainly can be understood that way.

However, I am more in favour of understanding it negatively. In that John is in prison under the threat of Herod Antipas who would soon move violently to have him killed. Jesus is stating a matter of fact. Those in this new kingdom have been and will continue to experience violence.

Are you suffering at the hands or the voice of someone? Maybe you are in the pulpit today and you carry fear of who is in the pew. Perhaps you are fearing the pulpit? Traumatic that this may be but it is still the shallow end of what happens to local churches at the hands of Boko Haram terrorists in places like north-eastern Nigeria on an ongoing basis.

Jesus simply seems to state the fact. It is part of the course of being a member of the kingdom. Violence occurs.

John the Baptists isn’t in prison because he has done anything wrong or that God has deserted him because of sin. He is there because he is part of the kingdom.

Jesus could also be indicating that he too would be experiencing violence soon himself.

Herod not only arrests but will behead John and he will then seek to kill Jesus, mocking him, dressing him up as a royal in one big humiliation. Pontius Pilate, governor of Judea will wash his hands of Jesus. The Jews hated him for his disgraceful behaviour towards their Temple. He brought in the Roman standards into their Holy City; put golden shields of names and images of Roman deities in the Temple and according to Luke’s gospel he killed men in their Temple worship and mixed their blood with that of their animal sacrifice. Caiaphas the high priest, and part of a priesthood mafia.  Caiaphas was responsible for the persecution of Christians but before that was instrumental in the arrest, trial and execution of Jesus. Violent men raiding the kingdom of heaven with violence.

This is a comfort to those who may have experienced some kind of hurt and may still feel trapped today. It can be a huge sign that you were not doing anything wrong, you are simply a subject of the kingdom and you are following in the steps of the King.