Downwardly mobile

We want to be associated with the rich, powerful and famous for through them we gain a foothold in their world and are elevated among our peers.

The ‘Great Banquet’ of Luke 14 expresses the betrayal felt by a host as each guest despises his invitation. Then, in a surprising turn, the host invites not the next best but those at the other end of the scale –

bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.

Perplexed, I re-read the chapter for clues. This parable was given in the context of a banquet.

12 Then Jesus said to his host, ‘When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbours; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. 13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.’

There is the same phrase! Here, Jesus gives a reason for inviting outcasts – a reward in heaven. This reveals the Lord’s value system often declared by Jesus –

Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last. (Luke 13:30)

To surrender the race for the top, receiving those the Lord sends us is a sacrifice of love, doubly so to receive those who will disadvantage us before those we care about.

Hope for the hopeless

My struggle with hope is an indication of how hard I find it to keep my focus on Jesus without being overwhelmed by our spiritual climate.

I look upon our situation in the Church and it seems to be without hope. Everywhere churches are closing and congregations shrinking. Yes there are notable exceptions, the mega churches that grow and grow, but these exceptions hide the big picture of the thousands of shrinking churches. However, there is hope. The only way we lose hope is when we fail to recognise that we are needy and must look to God and call out to Him for mercy. As Psalm 9 says,

“But God will never forget the needy; the hope of the afflicted will never perish.” (Psalm 9v18),

God watches over us; Jesus is our eternal hope. He is ready to save from whatever mess we find ourselves in – often because of our own failure. This is a great hope.

Psalm 9 also gives me an encouragement.

“Those who know your name trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.” Psalm 9v10

My observation is that the Church is seeking Him. We may frequently be off beam in this search but there is a sincerity in our desire for Him. I find this encouraging. We may be harassed and helpless like sheep without a shepherd, but the Lord will never forsake those who seek Him.

We hope because Jesus is the One we hope in.

The original study –

Torrent to come?

When I read of the collapse of God’s people in the last days of Israel before the Assyrian invasion, I am amazed that godliness could be wiped out in such a short time. Then I look at what has happened in the UK. Thirty years ago even an agnostic would know the basics of Christianity better than many Christians today. Many hide their faith in order to have freedom to ‘enjoy themselves’ without being troubled by conscience.

At times I have seen a Christian chose a path that pushes out God and the Lord has made that path the trial that brings them back to Himself. This process is seen in Isaiah 8:5-8 (Msg) “Because this people has turned its back on the gently flowing stream of Shiloah.” (the location of the Tabernacle). ‘And gotten all excited about Resin … I’m stepping in and facing them with the wild floodwaters of the Euphrates, the king of Assyria … sweeping everything before it, water up to your necks.’

The problem with such floodwaters is that they are indiscriminate, so the Lord is hesitant to send them. Yet Jesus says, ‘I will show you what he is like who hears my words and puts them into practice. He is like a man building a house who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When the flood came the torrent struck that house but could not shake it because it was well built.’ (Luke 6) So, if it comes, who will stand?

Head held high

My defensiveness towards others inadvertently rubs off on my relationship with God. If He asks something of me that I believe is unacceptable to others I will not fully receive it in case I feel embarrassed.

“Lift up your heads, you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.” (Ps24)

Many want more of Jesus and ‘lift up their gates’ to let Him in.  As we do so we understand that the king of kings comes both to bring glory and to rule.  We let him in with an attitude of surrender. Yet ‘Lift up your heads’ implies honour. It is the place where I look people in the eye and speak with confidence and a clear conscience. It is not enough to know in my inner world that I have honour. To stand before God and people with head high I need to be willing to trust God with my outer world.

It has taken years for the Lord to lift my head. I have always walked head down, secure in my inner world, insecure in the outer one. The King encourages me to lift my head secure in His honour. He has been proving that confidence by leading me into situations where I may be misunderstood. As I face them with Him by faith and with openness, I learn that Jesus is faithful and can be trusted with my reputation. So, I lift my head and receive more of what He has for me.

Where did all the Christians go?

It seems they believed the message that all you have to do to be saved is pray the prayer …

I have been perplexed for many years that when I was at University there were about 6-8% of students who were active Christians. Now it has collapsed to about 1%. What happened?  Surely a movement does not collapse so quickly!

I was talking with a friend who chats on line at Christian chat sites. His comment was that 90% of those he chats with would call themselves Christians while saying something like, ‘I prayed this prayer, so I know I am going to heaven, but I don’t need to go to church or live by any of the Christian teaching that I don’t like.’ Many of them have parents who are active Christians but few would be recognisable as Christians from the way they live. So, they are there but one would not know by looking at their lives.

When the fruit is suspect it is good to look at the health of the tree it came from. Looking at the message that was prevalent 10-30 years ago, there was such a drive to rescue people from hell that the gospel was presented as a ‘Get out of hell free card’. It seems we are reaping the consequences of salvation without discipleship.

May God have mercy on us! What will He do to save His Church from the mess we have presented Him with?

What of the gospel that is being lived and preached today?