Jerusalem, my destiny in life is to lay it down.

“As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives …” (Matthew 21 v 1)

On your approach to your destiny you will come through many seasons and experiences.

Through Bethphage whose name means ‘House of unripe figs’ where Jesus caused a fig tree with no fruit to wither. A fig tree has fruit developing before the leaves so if you saw a fig tree with leaves you would be expecting fruit.

On the Mount of Olives where since 3 B.C. it has served as the main burial grounds of the city.

Jesus was always heading to Jerusalem. It is where we celebrate the centre of our faith, his death and resurrection.

Even today you may experience:

  1. Unfulfilled potential, people who are experiencing a death of their marriage, of their work, of who they could have been and who talked the talk but on a closer scrutiny didn’t live up to that talk. But we are not called to this death. Bethphage is not our destiny.
  2. The obvious. The fact that everyone and everything has a time-span. Nothing lives forever. Stories come to an end. Happy stories, sad stories, good and kind stories, bad and cruel stories, they all share the same burial ground. But we are not called to such fatalism. The Mount of Olives is not our destiny.

We have to keep going. To Jerusalem.

To the place of the voluntary surrendering of our lives to God for others.

To the place of submission.

This is a new death. A letting go at the point of momentum. We still have life. We may even be at our prime. We still have vision. We have more to give. But it isn’t taken from us and we do not lose it, we give it away, we lay our life down, all that we are, all that we have accomplished, all that we own, we surrender to Him, out of our love for others. This is our destiny, Jerusalem. Where we willingly close the chapter trusting in Him who opens a new one, who makes a way, who never lets death win, who always causes the sun to rise, who continually makes sure we can begin again. This is our destiny.

Take your opportunity

“As Jesus and his disciples were leaving Jericho, a large crowd followed him. Two blind men were sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was going by, they shouted, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!” The crowd rebuked them and told them to be quiet, but they shouted all the louder, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!” Jesus stopped and called them. “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked. “Lord,” they answered, “we want our sight.” Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him.” (Matthew 20 v 29-34)

Jesus was leaving Jericho and the crowds were following him. But his departure from the city led to the fulfilled destiny of these two blind men. They were not going to miss their opportunity as they heard that Jesus was passing their way.

Blindness was a serious disease at the time of Jesus. Society looked at it like it was one step up from death! There was no example in the Old Testament of a cure.

But every Jew knew that the promised messianic age would bring healing to the blind, for example,

Isaiah 35:5 “Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped”.

The only hope and dream for these two men was that the Messiah would come in their lifetime. There were many days spent in discouragement holding on to a dream.

It’s never too late to become determined again. It’s never too late to shout out to God.

You may have experienced failure, you may have been overwhelmed with discouragement and you may have quit from everything in your life, but TODAY you can receive His touch on your life and rise in a new level of determination. When you think it’s all over God comes in and says we haven’t begun yet, I am about to light the fire of passion in your life. Have you heard that God is still moving? Have you heard that He is still performing miracles? Have you heard that He is closer to you than you could ever imagine? Jesus is passing your way.

Maybe it’s time to shout out what you need!

We all have something that needs to be overcome and in some cases it may well remain with us all our life. For us it is a stigma, it is a distinguishing mark of social disgrace, even if others don’t think so.

“I’m not married and I want to be. I’m in a job and I can’t get out of it. I don’t have a job and I want one. There is someone who hates me but I wish they were my friend. I have a physical handicap and I can’t believe it’s here to stay. I worry about my sexuality, am I normal? I’m a sick person who worships God the healer. I’m a blind man a beggar who sits on the side of the road.”

“As Jesus and his disciples were leaving Jericho, a large crowd followed him. Two blind men were sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was going by, they shouted, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!” The crowd rebuked them and told them to be quiet, but they shouted all the louder, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!” Jesus stopped and called them. “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked. “Lord,” they answered, “we want our sight.” Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him.” (Matthew 20: 29-34)

Jesus was travelling with his disciples and a large crowd in tow. They have passed by a man who has not until that day found a way to deal with the major issues of his life.

God is calling us to overcome whatever challenges lay in front of us so that we can expect His favour. He has called us to live by faith and not by sight.

Does your expectation serve your challenge or does your challenge submit to your expectation? You must never allow your challenge to set your pace and plot your course.

Something would happen to this blind man on this day, he had come to know that Jesus of Nazareth was the Son of David, the Messiah, the healer, the Anointed One.

A fresh revelation of who Jesus is leads to you finding a new way in your life.

Raise your expectation to believe that God has chosen you for a role that only you can fulfil. That under His favour you will become all that you can become.

No matter what you’ve done, or how inadequate you feel or what challenges lay in front of you. Stop looking at what stands in your way, whatever difficult or disability it there, get over yourself and look with expectancy for the favour of the Lord. Shout it out!

We do need to get out of the way.

“Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favour of him. “What is it you want?” he asked. She said, “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.” “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said to them. “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?” “We can,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father.” When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers. Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20: 20-28)

We do need to get out of the way.

  1. Their prayer request was undeniably selfish. Prayer is never about us.
  2. They are willing to suffer if it gets them what they want. Suffering is never about us.
  3. Trouble in the camp all because of a prayer request. Anger is often about us.
  4. There are leaders who will do anything to make sure they are at that top. Power is often about us.
  5. To be like the Son of Man means you arrive last. Competitiveness is often about us.

We/Us/Me are often the problem.

Keep your purpose fresh and alive

The meaning for the reason of the coming of Christ was hidden from his Disciples by their prejudice and belief that they would conquer with Him. They knew their Scriptures of the glorious impact of the Messiah but their hope and excitement of his glory blinded them to the necessary suffering. They just couldn’t see it.

“Now Jesus was going up to Jerusalem. On the way, he took the Twelve aside and said to them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!” (Matthew 20 v 17-19)

He took the disciples aside. This was the third time of doing so and perhaps there were other occasions too. Your purpose needs to be reiterated time and again. It needs to be ever before you.

He provided more details this time, he spoke of the Gentiles on this occasion which he hadn’t done before. Sometimes our purpose is one of discovery and this is done over various seasons of our life.

He knew he had to take them with him, “we”. Who do you need to come with you? The people you choose are the ones who will enable you to get to that place.

What is ahead may not be easy but it wasn’t for who you follow.

Jesus spoke of being delivered over (a betrayal), being condemned, mocked, spat at, flogged and killed. There will be times when you feel out of control and pushed from here to there. If that happens know it happened to the one you follow before you.

“Now Jesus was going up to Jerusalem. On the way, he took the Twelve aside and said to them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!” (Matthew 20 v 17-19)

The third and final time that Jesus tells the team what is going to happen. The first, Peter opposes the plan (Matt 16:22-23); the second time the disciples were filled with grief (Matt 17:23); and this time they say nothing. They were numb. Just like I was when I heard on the radio an Afghan man who had worked for the U.N. say he knows he will be killed because he cannot get out of the country. Just hearing the words and the emotion behind the words was enough to numb me.

Can you read the words of Jesus again?

He is leading the way, he knew his purpose and he was focused.

Your purpose in life is that of Christ, it will take many different forms but ultimately will be for people, in the end it will have something to do with the transformation of their lives through the love of God.

Focus on the last verse and see again what happens on the third day!

It may not be easy and you might be afraid of what lies ahead but we have a third day, all of us who follow Christ have a third day! Amen!

“You should be thankful”

I said those words but the person I was speaking to was filled with only injustice that they had not received what they ought to have done.

The following story found only in Matthew is not teaching us about salvation or how to gain eternal life because both are not achieved through works. But it is about how we live our lives within the Kingdom of God. Let me come back with 3 simple thoughts. But first …

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. He agreed to pay them a denariusfor the day and sent them into his vineyard. “About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went. “He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’ “‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered. “He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’ “When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’ “The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’ “But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” (Matthew 20 v 1-16)

This parable speaks to us that if ever we feel we are entitled to something because of our work and our commitment then we have lost sight of the real value of who we are and what we are doing within the Kingdom.

The working hours were 6am – 6pm generally speaking in the Jewish world and mind.

The landowner went out at 6am; 9am; 12 noon; 3pm and 5pm. Each hired labourer was given a day’s wages regardless of how many hours they worked. It indicates that the day’s work wasn’t for the wage, it wasn’t about entitlement, but it was about the wonderful opportunity of being in the Kingdom and working for Him.

  • You should be thankful: don’t compare what you have been given with what others have.
  • You should be thankful: don’t replace your gratitude with self-entitlement.
  • You should be thankful: don’t see serving Christ in any other terms than grace given to you for the opportunity.

The pursuit of more (5)

Many commentators have expressed different views on what are difficult verses to truly understand. (When the Bible gets difficult I always hide behind the fact my devotional blog is just that, a devotion. Nothing more and certainly nothing that can be compared to a commentary. So I hide again!)

A final thought on the pursuit of more ….

“Peter answered him, “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?” Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.” (Matthew 19 v 27-30)

What was Jesus saying in this context of the wealthy young man? He wouldn’t create the lack in his life for Jesus but Peter and the disciples had. He had pursued more wealth and was pursuing eternal life but wouldn’t pursue lack so walked away sad. However, they had left all to follow and Jesus knew it. He knew they had left their homes and their families for Him.

  • They would have positions of authority. Not denying the fact that if I was God I would definitely make sure these 12 were in a good position in our eternal future! (Well not Judas, I would probably swap him for Matthias or the Apostle Paul). But I am thinking more about their authority post Resurrection/Ascension and post-Pentecost when they were filled with boldness, released as missionaries, their gospels and teachings influencing still today the spiritual Israel of God, the Church. These are the thrones of authority.
  • Jesus knew that not only the 12 but ‘everyone’ who had stopped pursuing their more and had given up or forsaken for Jesus would gain in this life ‘a hundred times as much’ of new homes of fellowship and new families filled with wonderful relationships. That is the beauty of the world-wide Church and many missionary will tell you their story of finding new families across the world.
  • Our eternal home and our life there seems to be impacted by our deposit in our life on this earth. Perhaps we should live more in the light of that fact than we do. What we give up now for the kingdom will be restored to us in our eternity. One day, surrounded by eternal riches (whatever they are) we might be able to say, “We have left all we had to follow Jesus!” It will be so worth it!!
  • Finally a reminder of the upside down kingdom of Christ. “the first will be last, and many who are last will be first” in the context of the wealthy young man and the pursuit of more. They are a warning to us all that earthly success will not lead to heavenly reward. In fact our pursuit of success, wealth, fame (even in the guise of goodness and the gospel) can become an entrapment to our lives where we end up losing it all. I have met many who have done so and it began as they commenced the pursuit of more.

The pursuit of more (4)

If what you are pursuing takes up more time and more focus than pursuing Christ then it has to go.

Even if that be your moral living and keeping every commandment in an ultra-disciplined pious way or you have become wealthy (nothing wrong with that) but the way that happened was the desire for more took over your life, then it has to be surrendered.

 “Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19 v 23-26)

It is hard for those who are not desperate, who do not have nothing, who do not need to trust and rely on God for their future to get into the kingdom of God. It is these things that the rich man didn’t have that make us rich. Those with nothing but God often look happier than those who have everything but not Him.

The disciples were once again stunned. Everyone believed that the wealthy were the blessed but Jesus says the wealthy have a stumbling block and it is the condition of the heart. It is difficult for them. Jesus uses a funny image of the largest land animal they can imagine going through the smallest hole. It probably was that which he meant rather than a hole in the city wall that traders would pass through at night. Probably because it was the most impossible (and funniest) of images.

So who could make it? Who could be saved if the wealthy couldn’t get there then there is no hope for them? Jesus looked at the disciples and in the look there was a pause, long enough for them to remember this amazing statement which we quote in every context of our lives and so we should: With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.

We can pursue ‘more’ of anything and everything can become an idol if we choose to make it so. The pursuit of more will never satisfy and it will always leave a person outside the rule of God. However, God can meet any person at the place where they have found themselves. He can meet the wealthy, the religious and those who have pursued every idol you can think of and He can break into their life and do what looks impossible. How? It starts with this story of ‘selling everything and giving to the poor’. It is a heart that says all my ‘stuff’ is worthless, all I have become and all I have pursued is worth nothing compared to choosing Christ.

The pursuit of more (3)

There was no lack.

That is what he lacked.

“All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?” Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.” (Matthew 19 v 20-22)

If this man had walked into many churches we would have got him saved and certainly a tithing member as soon as possible! However, Jesus seems to purposely offend this man and to make it so difficult for him.

Jesus doesn’t say “repeat the sinners prayer and you’ll get eternal life,”

He says this and it is all pointed towards the commandments he has kept in reference to people.

You have everything

You have done everything

But you lack one thing

There is no lack in your life.

In the one area where you are rich the most, in your relationships, here is what you must do.

This is not another commandment for you to accomplish perhaps using your riches as a crutch.

Sell everything.

Give to the poor.

Lay your life down.

Come to me with lack.

Come to me with nothing.

This is how you follow me.

With lack.

Total reliance on me for your salvation and eternal life.

The response of the man was that the earthly actually mattered more than the heavenly and Jesus knew it.

It is hard for those who have it all and want to pursue it all because they have no lack, no desperate need, no longing. They are full.