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Chris (email link at the bottom of each page)

Follow Jesus

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Matthew 8:18–22
 
Photo of Bonhoeffer with quote
 
God wants us to face our concerns honestly and gives us the Holy Spirit to shed light on the truth of Scripture.
 
Today’s passage is a perfect example of a passage of Scripture that can cause us difficulties.  A number of people approach Jesus, ostensibly desiring to follow him, but each is rebuffed by the Lord in a way that can appear harsh and unreasonable.
 
We can just about understand the man who is enthusiastic to follow Jesus, but who is informed of Jesus’s nomadic and precarious existence – that even vermin and poultry have somewhere to rest at night, but not the Son of Man.  It is the next approach that can cause us concern, because the would-be disciple who wants first to bury his dead father is rebutted with harsh words, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead”.
 
The truth is that discipleship is radical and requires us to decide to follow Christ at any cost.  Jesus was telling them that following him required sacrifices, some quite radical: that they had to choose Jesus above everything else.
 
When Christ calls us he invites us to come with him and to die to the old life; in this way we can rise with him to the new life of the resurrection.
 
”The cross is laid on every Christian.  The first Christ-suffering which every man must experience is the call to abandon the attachments of this world.  It is that dying of the old man which is the result of his encounter with Christ . . . When Christ calls a man he bids him come and die . . . [I]t is the same death every time — death in Christ, death of the old man at his call.”  (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship).
 
Chris
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The Golden Rule

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Matthew 7:6, 12–14
 
Sun shining through trees in golden light
 
The Golden Rule is the heart of justice and of righteous behaviour.  The rule is “golden” because if we apply it in any situation, it becomes clear to us what we ought to do – it may not be easy, but we can see the right course of action.
 
Thinking about thsi rule can cure us of the blindness we often have when we get angry about what others do to us without realising that we do exactly the same to them.  But if we live by this rule we are sure to keep God’s commands and thus fulfil “the law and the prophets”.  Jesus links this to what he has just said about God’s goodness and generosity: if we keep the rule we are acting as true children of our heavenly father, who loves us however wicked we are and however often we reject him.
 
Lord, you call us to tret others as we would wish to be treated.  May we have the wisdom to remember this rule in our lives, and the strength to follow it, and so pass through the narrow gage that leads to eternal live with you.
 
Chris
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"Create in me a pure heart, Oh God"

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Psalm 50 (51)


10.    Create in me a pure heart, Oh God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

11.    Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.

12.    Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me.

Chris


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Walk the extra mile – for Jesus

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Matthew 5:38–42
 
Jesus has fallen under the cross
 
We need to strike a balance between Jesus’s call not to seek retribution and the moral responsibility to take a stand against the evil in our world.  Jesus is telling us that we have a personal responsibility to examine our response to challenges we face, evil or otherwise.
 
Jesus’s challenge to turn the other cheek, is an almost impossible one to meet – our instincts for self-defence are strong, after all.
 
Jesus also asks us to examine how we face up to demands on our property (giving the cloak), our time (walking the extra mile) and our money (borrowing).  Because we are immersed in a materialist culture it can be difficult to respond as Jesus teaches us when we encounter such demands.
 
But as we consider those demands and Jesus’s call, consider that he has given us the greatest example of all: beaten, spat upon, mocked and unjustly condemned, he remained silent; stripped, humiliated and crucified, he pleaded for forgiveness for his tormentors.
 
Jesus is our model as well as our teacher.
 
Lord Jesus, may the power of your Holy Spirit break through my deep-seated selfishness and egocentricity and give me the grace to put these attitudes to death.
 
Chris
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To Fulfil the Law

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Matthew 5:17–19
 
Jesus proclaimed that he had come not to abolish the law but to fulfil it.  It was to Israel that God gave the law and his great promises and God remains faithful to his chosen people.  The old law was superseded, not because it was wrong but because it was inadequate to bring people to salvation.
 
Elements of the Jewish law remain in place, such as the Ten Commandments, but there are also elements that are now obsolete, such as sacrifices, the idea of legal impurity.
 
But the main problem with God’s law is the inability of sinful humans to keep it, so we shall always be condemned by it.  Paul said, “if it had not been for the law I should not have known sin . . . I delight lin the law of God, in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin which dwells in my mmebers” (Romans 7:7, 22–23).
 
God has set us free from this dilemma.  Christ has freed us from our sins on the cross, and we are now put right with God, not by keeping the law but by faith in Christ. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:1–2).
 
This does not mean that we are not to observe the law: he sets us free so that we can keep it, with the help of the Spirit.  When we fail, we know that we can repent and be forgiven.
 
We are also called to teach this law and to communciate it to others, in an appealing way.  The law is not a burden or restriction on our freedom – it is the road to life and joy.  Jesus calls us to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect.  And if we rely on the power of God’s Spirit we will find that we can do what we could not do alone, for “with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).
 
Lord Jesus, we thank you that you have set us free from the law of sin and death and poured out your Spirit upon us.  Give us the grace to live life in the Spirit, so that we might fulfil your commands and lead others to know you.
 
Chris
 
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The Beatitudes

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Matthew 5: 1-12

Seeing the crowds, Jesus went up the hill.  There he sat down and was joined by his disciples.  Then he began to speak.  This is what he taught them:

"How happy are the poor in spirit; theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 

"Happy the gentle: they shall have the earth for their heritage. 

"Happy those who mourn: they shall be comforted. 

"Happy those who hunger and thirst for what is right: they shall be satisfied. 

"Happy the merciful: they shall have mercy shown them. 

"Happy the pure in heart: they shall see God. 

"Happy the peacemakers: they shall be called sons of God. 

"Happy those who are persecuted in the cause of right: theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 

"Happy are you when people abuse you and persecute you and speak all kinds of calumny against you on my account.  Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven; this is how they persecuted the prophets before you."

Lord, help me to keep faithful to your teaching and to know that you are always with me, as you have promised.

 

Chris

from Bible Alive

 

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The Holy Trinity

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John 3:16–18
 
Depiction of Father, Son and Holy Spirit
 
It is common today for commentators to point out that the three major world faiths are very similar in that they all share a belief in one God.  Althoug it is true that Christians believe in one God, our faith departs radically from Islam and Judaism in its belief that in the one God there are three Persons: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.  Furthermore, God the Son entered time and space and lived as one of us.
 
Belief in the Trinity is a central mystery of the Christian faith.  We are baptised “in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19), and we are invited to develop a relationship with each Person of the Blessed Trinity.  Jesus’s life, work, ministry, preaching and teaching all testify to this fundamental truth of Christian revelation.  In fact, the doctrine of the Most Holy Trinity could be described as the central mystery of the Christian faith and life; and it is this mystery that we are celebrating and rejoicing in today, Trinity Sunday.
 
For many Christians the ‘mystery’ of the Trinity remains just that: a mystery.  But the word in this sense is not used to mean a conundrum or a puzzle impossible to solve, but a sacred truth which we wil be able to penetrate more deeply only if we ask the Holy Spirit to shed his light and truth on our minds and spirits.
 
Instead of saying, “I can’t get my head around the Trinity,” we should say, “I need God’s help to get my head into the Trinity.”  In other words, we need to pray, “Lord, teach me, show me, guide me, lead me into the beauty, glory and majesty of your Blessed Trinity."
 
Here’s a prayer that could help:

"O my God, Trinity whom I adore, help me to forget myself entirely so as to establish myself in you, unmovable and peaceful as if my soul were already in eternity." (Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity)

 
Chris
 
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Christ the High Priest (Feast of the Lord)

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Matthew 26:36–42
 
Icon of Christ the Great High Priest
 
 
 
A profound mystery of our faith is that through baptism we receive the threefold ministery of Jesus: priest, prophet and king.  This amazing truth should affect our lives every day.  We have a share in the priestly, prophetic and kingly ministry of Jesus Christ!
 
Key to deepening our grasp of the High Priestly ministry of Jesus is understanding his sacrifice on the cross.  Jesus is both priest and victim.  "God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through shedding of his blood" (Rom. 3:25 NIV), and he "offered for all time one sacrifice for sins" (Heb. 10:12 NIV).  By his death Jesus atoned for every sin that has ever been committed on this earth.
 
The light of revelation shows us that in Jesus we have a Great High Priest who is now seated at the right hand of the Father.  In him we have One who identifies with our weakness and temptations because he has been tempted in every way that we are, but did not sin.  Therefore we can approach God's throne of grace with freedom and confidence, knowing that we will receive mercy.
 
We tend to think when we are tempted that God is far away, but this isn't true: God draws close when we are suffering.  His grace gives us the strength to resist temptation and, should we fall, to repent and receive his mercy.
 
Heavenly Father, I thank you that through baptism I have a share in the priestly ministry of Jesus, our Great High Priest.
 
Chris
 
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