Jesus is offensive

Sometimes Jesus himself, is offensive to people and they will turn away. Understanding the truth, some will refuse to follow Christ.

Often ‘the church’ can say and do really stupid, even horrible, things in the name of Jesus. Individual Christians do the same. Whether by word or behaviour individuals and churches can put others off Christianity. This is a bad thing.

Yet Jesus himself offended people, he appears to have even done so on purpose:

When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”
After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. (John 6:60-66 ESV)

In the discourse of John 6:25-58, Jesus had spoken words of truth to a large crowd of people. What he said offended them, not because it was hard to understand but because what they did understand was offensive. Jesus fully knew it would offend them and he would lose followers but spoke the truth to them anyway. He had no problem with a huge crowd turning away from following him, leaving only twelve disciples.

We must always speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15), but there will be some occasions when the words of Jesus, in fact Jesus himself, is offensive to people and they will turn away. This is heartbreaking, I don’t care how much of, or what kind of, a sinner anyone is the last thing I want is for them to be eternally excluded from fellowship with God. Yet even comprehending the truth – understanding the meaning of the words – some will refuse to follow Christ.

Theology lets us down on the topic of predestination, but Jesus makes it clear enough that unless God enables it to happen, nobody can come to Jesus. So in those awful times when somebody is offended by Christ and cannot see his beauty the most useful thing I can do is pray. I can pray fervently, desperately, that God will grant for that person to see the glory of God in Christ Jesus.

But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? (2 Corinthians 2:14-16 ESV)


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Pray for your kids – willing to work

Pray your children grow into understanding a Biblical perspective on work which enables them to accept it will not be easy but that there is a purpose in all work. Ask Jesus to help them see that as our Father is working, so too it is good for us to work.

Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going.(Ecclesiastes 9:10 ESV)

I guess most parents struggle when their kids are flatly unwilling to pitch in and do a fair share of work around the home. The exact expectations may vary from family to family and between cultures, but part of our task as parents is to train our children in how to work.

God values work, He set Adam the task of tending the garden even before the fall:

The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. (Genesis 2:15 ESV)

When we work we glorify God by doing what He created us to do. After Adam and Eve sinned work became harder, but it is still part of our purpose and so does not have to be a demeaning burden. By teaching our children that work is an expression of what is good about being human and that it glorifies God, we help them to become willing to work hard.

What do I pray?

Pray your children grow into understanding a Biblical perspective on work which enables them to accept it will not be easy but that there is a purpose in all work. Ask Jesus to help them see that as our Father is working, so too it is good for us to work.


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The first thousand thanks

During this past week I noted my thousandth prayer of gratitude to Jesus for all He gives me. What I’ve learned in the 22 months since I first began recording gifts goes way beyond any pop psychology feel good factor. In fact, for much of this time I’ve not felt good at all and counting blessings hasn’t changed that at an emotional level.

The primary lesson has been a realization of how vast the eucharist is. As Ann points out, the Greek word for giving thanks is eucharisteo, and our sacrament of holy communion derives it’s traditional name from the same word:

And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”
(Luke 22:19 ESV)

Jesus has given Himself that we may have life. The sacrament of communion was instituted to cause us to remember this in thanksgiving and praise. I am learning how vast God’s giving is, and how unending and appropriate is my continual thanksgiving and praise in response. Counting gifts is a useful reminder to look for God’s provision in all of life.

In walking with Christ, straining to see properly, a common theme is my need for constant reinforcement of what He has already taught me. If I could only live what He has already taught me I would be unrecognisably stronger in faith. It is comforting to know others also experience this:

The one who lives his life in circles, discovering, entering into, forgetting and losing, finding his way round again, living his life in layers – deeper, round, further in.
(Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts, p105 Slightly modified)

The one thousandth gift:

  • New flower buds on the kowhai tree {1,000}

Looking over my list, there are some common themes in what I have counted:

  • My wife
  • My children (and their antics)
  • Increasing knowledge of God
  • Creature comforts
  • Financial stuff
  • Quietness, peace
  • The natural world God has made
  • The creativeness of people
  • Enjoying the company of family and friends
  • Benefits of being born in this place and this time

It could be argued that there is a lot of selfishness in what I am thankful for, this is true but these are the sort of things I noticed as gifts from God. Perhaps as I grow and mature the themes may change, wait until I reach 2,000!

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Ineluctable

I learned a new word today: ineluctable.

According to the Shorter Oxford Dictionary it means: Unable to be resisted or avoided; inescapable.

This wonderful word was introduced to me by Seamus Heaney in his poem Album:

It’s winter at the seaside where they’ve gone
For the wedding meal. And I am at the table,
Uninvited, ineluctable.

From the anthology Human Chain (2010).

Am I enough?

This week’s 5 Minute Friday prompt is ‘Enough’

Go:

“It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.”
(1 Kings 19:4 ESV)

We men are generally supposed to be strong and provide for our families. There is an unspoken but well understood code which prohibits showing or speaking of weakness or insecurity – such feelings should be masked with bravado.

The truth is that I have spent much of my married life and certainly my time as a father seriously doubting if I measure up.

Am I enough of a husband?

Am I enough of a father?

Enough of a man?

We don’t say such things out loud, but the apprehension is always there. Seeing the task before me, I know I do not measure up. Other men earn more and provide better for their wife and children. Other men are more helpful to their wives. Other men are more tender fathers, more consistent in discipline and better at teaching their children about Jesus.

Like Elijah I look at myself and see the truth – I am no better than my father, or his father. Some might reply that “of course you are enough”. They do not know the truth. I know it. God knows it.

I am a failure at what really matters. I am not enough.

God accepts this and He has done what is necessary to make up the difference between my not enough, and what is enough. The difference is Christ. God knows the truth, He doesn’t offer platitudes, He offered His Son.

Unfortunately the world and other people don’t always see this. Where it gets hard is when my wife sees that I am not enough, does she lie to herself? Or does she see Jesus making up the shortfall? Do my children see my faults and then see Christ making the difference?

Sorry, no answers in this post, only questions.

(I overran the stop timer today!)

My cheerful winter friends

Close-up of iris flower

As a lily among brambles,so is my love among the young women.
(Song of Solomon 2:2 ESV)

Near the entrance to the building in which I work is a patch of irises. I particularly like these irises because they flower during the winter, adding a splash of cheerfulness on gloomy days as I head to work.

I’m no gardening expert, but to the best of my knowledge these plants would normally flower in spring or summer, but for at least 12 years that I know of this clump of greenery has flowered right in the coldest part of winter. I feel like they have been my little cheerful friends for many years now, even when I have worked in other parts of campus these flowers boldly send a message of beauty and hope during the dreariest part of each year.

Somehow these small, fragile living things displaying their beauty does more to lift my heart than all my own efforts to do so. As I near the one thousand mark on my eucharisteo list I notice that many times I have given thanks for the fresh air, sunlight, plants, birds, insects, hills, and water that is given by God to all of us to partake of.

These flowers remind me of God’s extravagant love. His love in placing reminders of Him and His creative power in my path. His extravagance in that even though flowers wither within days and may not be seen by many, it is God’s pleasure to make them. Within the thorny brambles of life in a sin-wrecked world God creates stunning beauty for everyone if they will look for it.

Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith!
(Luke 12:27-28 ESV)

Gifts I have noticed recently:

  • Frost crystals on a sunlit rock {973}
  • Irises blazing midwinter colour {976}
  • Dozing in the sunshine {978}
  • Being less then 1 metre from an adult fur seal {980}
  • Enormous ice creams {983}
  • Very silly, giggly girls at bedtime {990}
  • Three-year-old son ‘reading’ the dictionary {995}
  • A quiet cup of tea with my wife after she finished work {997}

Death and the Victorian child

I found this interesting little quote in the journal Pediatrics, Volume 76, Number 3, September 1985, page 370:

Death and the Victorian child (1869)

Today’s children, at least in this country, are shielded from death and most are never exposed to a dead body. The quotation below taken from The Fairchild Family by Mrs Sherwood (1775-1851), a widely-read book written for English children offered them a graphic and repulsive view of a decaying corpse.1

When they came to the door, they perceived a kind of disagreeable smell, such as they never had smelt before: this was the smell of the corpse, which having been dead now nearly two days, had begun to corrupt: and as the children went higher up the stairs, they perceived this smell more disagreeably. The body of the old man was laid out on the bed… The face of the corpse was quite yellow, there was no colour in the lips, the nose looked sharp and long, and the eyes were closed, and sunk under the brow; the limbs of the corpse, stretched out upon the bed and covered with a sheet, looked longer than is natural: and the appearance of the body was more ghastly and horrible than the children had expected… At last Mrs. Fairchild said, “My dear children, you now see what death is; this poor body is going fast to corruption. The soul I trust is in God; but such is the taint and corruption of the flesh, by reason of sin, that it must pass through the grave and crumble to dust…“

Reference

1. Temple N: Seen and Not Heard. New York, Dial Press, 1970, p 217.

Whats the story

This week’s 5 Minute Friday prompt: ‘Story’

Go:
“What’s the story?”

I hate those words.

As a kid it usually meant I was about to be busted for my latest misdemeanor and had to think real fast to generate an explanation both plausible and least incriminating.

Even as an adult the phrase causes anxiety like seeing a police car in the rear view mirror. It causes my failings to surge into my consciousness – can I blame not meeting a deadline on something other than my own incompetence?

Years pass, my story gets longer, murkier, messier. The stuff I’d like to have left behind twenty years ago surfaces at inopportune times and mistakes I should have learned from end up repeated. New chapters are written containing a distressing mix of beauty and weakness, love and lunacy.

It would be nice to live even a short chapter in this life without failing, stumbling or stuffing up. Fortunately the Author and Editor has chosen to expunge the bad bits from the new me He is creating.

Stop

Sorry for having been erratic in writing lately, a good thing about 5 minute Friday is I feel less internal pressure to write well – the point is to just write! Have a good weekend those to get to have one (I have to work :-( ).

 

Loving God

 

loving-god

Over the last few months I have been slowly re-reading One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. This week I read the final chapter and seemed to finally grasp what she is getting at. It now makes sense why Ann included a chapter about her trip to Paris and her response to a Rembrandt painting.

I could bless very God.
Not take anything. Not ask anything, demand anything, petition anything. I could simply give something to God. A gift to Him! (One Thousand Gifts, p216)

When we love someone it is a delight to give to them. I can bless my wife by giving her some thing she would like, or by doing work for her which relieves a burden from her, or by praising her – letting her know how I delight in her. This is powerful, to be given the gift of being deeply valued for who you are. When genuine and truly given with no motive other than love, such a gift goes deep into the soul of the recipient – an act of love.

This seems to be what Ann means when she writes:

God, He has blessed – caressed.
I could bless God – caress with thanks.

It’s our making love.

(One Thousand Gifts, p216)

A brief passage which has upset some folks. Yet deep spiritual interaction with God is what most of us are desperate for, even in our crazed pursuit of everything other than God. To find the core of what it means to truly live is a source of constant unrest, unease and anxiety because we know it is essential to find it.

I know this is what drives me – beyond all else I must know God. So when someone describes knowing Him in the closest way possible, I pay attention. Even if a word used forces me to reach for the OED to confirm the meaning as being: “communion between human beings and God.”

… this is intercourse disrobed of its connotations, pure and unadulterated: a passing between. A connection, a communicating, an exchange, between tender Bridegroom and His bride. (One Thousand Gifts, p218)

If God is saying, “enjoy Me”, I am a fool to not do so. Purposely being mindful of thanking and praising God for all He gives is a precious interaction with Him, the form in which we each do so is not overly important. I continue to write out my thanks to God, but am no longer numbering or keeping count as this can be a distraction for me personally.


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