Saturday, 18 June 2016

Luke 14 v28-33 the parable of the tower and the King going to war

Decision making-what would Jesus do?
In this story Jesus has been interacting with the religious of Israel, but now he turns his attention to those who would claim they want to follow him. He tells those who "were travelling with him" that there are costs to discipleship. We need to assess these costs and this he illustrates in two parables: building a tower, and going to war. Count the cost!
He is saying you have to consider the costs before making any decision.
The cost of discipleship

Jesus' statement "whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me", Luke 9:23 is behind these parables. Instead of self-reliance, a disciple must rely on a following Jesus whose credentials are anything but convincing! A daily faith-reliance on a crucified messiah (v27) comes with a cost, A seeker needs to consider this cost before taking up the day-by-day faith. Jesus forces the potential disciple to abandon self-reliance for a dependent reliance on God.

Parable - on building a tower, v28-30. The two short illustrative parables support the contention that there is no point following Jesus without first recognizing the cost demanded of a disciple. If we are not willing to pay the full price, then there is no point starting out on the journey. None of us would be so silly as to not first sit down and calculate if we can complete the building project. It is probably a watch tower, but possibly any farm building.
Sit down and estimate and calculate the expense then asks yourself the question, will you be able to complete the project? Or you may incurr ridicule. 
And having laid the foundations the foundations you may be unable to finish the building?

Parable - on going to war, v31-32. Who would be so foolish as to undertake a war, without first gauging whether success is possible? Under normal circumstances no sensible person would. Consider the cost - if it is not possible to win the war, then accept the reality and go for peace. As the old saying goes; don't start what you can't finish.
Obviously no king would be so stupid as to go to war without first making sure he can win. To fight against another king will he not first sit down and consider and deliberate whether he is able to oppose the one coming against him? If he is not able to win, then he will send a delegation, having sent an ambassador. By sending a representative he requests terms for peace.

What would Jesus do? He would go on record against people who act in the name of God to hurt others. He'd stand up against crusaders parading with signs that venomously attack and label others. And he'd speak out against those who profit from the oppressed but who claim their God is full of compassion.

So what would Jesus do? He would seek God for the strength and wisdom to make the right decision. The consequences we meet today are a result of the decisions we made yesterday. And the decisions we make today will determine our happiness tomorrow. Notice how Jesus made life-changing decisions.

Jesus chose. The key word in making decisions is to “choose.” We are not what we are today by accident. We are the sum total of all the decisions we have made in our lives, plus those times we did not make decisions. We arrive where we are in life by decisions and non-decisions, and we are responsible for both. Therefore, it makes sense to be like Jesus and control our lives and destinies as much as possible by choosing to choose.

Jesus withdrew. When we make decisions, we have to withdraw. Jesus withdrew from the world so He could spend time in prayer. He went alone to think His way through decisions. He spent time alone in prayer before every major decision or circumstance in His life and ministry on earth. What Jesus did is no different than what we also must do if we are going to made the right decisions in life.

Jesus prayed. If Jesus who was God felt it necessary to spend time in prayer, how can we do otherwise? As we make decisions, we should first of all ask God for the wisdom that He can give (James 1:5). 

Jesus obeyed. Jesus said, “A good decision had to be in line with God’s will, which is found in God’s Teachings. We need to study the Scriptures and seek God in prayer to discern Gods will.

Saturday, 11 June 2016

Pentecost 4 Matthew 6v25-34

Matthew 6 v25-34 Anxiety and Worry

My dad was a worrier. And so he loved this passage in the gospels and though he was not a believer he could quote it verbatum. It had helped him through some tough times. He passed on to me the ability to be anxious and the importance of resting on this passage at the difficult times in your life. 

The early church in Jerusalem did actually attempt a literal application of this passage, an early form of communism some might say! But it was not continued though it was later taken up by ascetics like St Francis and is a fundamental Christian theology. However people like to wriggle out of any literal translation!

There will always be situations that cause us to worry and be anxious. The possible causes of anxiety and fear are legion: family, money, housing, conflict, health problems, dangerous situations, death. 
“Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God” Psalm 42:5.

Sometimes we have done something, which keeps us awake at night! If you have confess it, get right with God. Get right with those you’ve harmed. 

Jesus said to His disciples "You will have trouble" John 16:33. Worry and anxiety are part of being human. “Man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upwards” Job 5v7 

So we have to accept our anxiety. Trying to fight anxiety creates just creates anxiety. Accept it! Fighting anxiety isn't possible. But it's not God’s will for people to worry their lives away. God has something so much better in mind for all of us

There is a direct link with the Lords Prayer "give us today our daily bread", give us the food we need for our journey today. It is in stark contrast to the materialistic possession and money centered world we live in.

Verses 27 and 34 are both independent sayings of Jesus, probably Palestinian proverbs and part of the Aramaic oral tradition of the gospel prior to its formalization. 

Jesus does not want us to store up treasure on earth! Dont worry or be anxious! What a word for today!

Dont worry about your life (or soul) or about what you will eat, or your clothing, or your life (the word life means your soul, inner life, being).

Instead look at the birds (who are busy but dont worry!
Then this independent saying "People cannot change what God has destined for them". Almost fatalism.

Worrying cant make you live longer. In fact we know it could shorten your life so its good advise. But in fact the translation should probably read make you taller! Worrying cant make you taller. In Luke the equivalent passage asks “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?’” Luke 12:22-26. 
Look at the wild flowers around you! They are more beautiful than anything rich people like King Soloman had.

And the grass that grows up everywhere even after the rains we've had, but is cut and thrown away. Here it is thrown into something like a wood fired clay, pizza oven.

"You of little faith" is an expression used by Matthew. Dont follow the pagans or unbelievers who are "feverish prayer life, constantly agitating for health, wealth and happiness. We are called to stand apart and have a completely different attitude to life.

So dont worry. 
Make up your mind to stop worrying! 
A concious decision. Or at the very least agree to pray about your worries. 

Instead first seek to build God's kingdom and righteousness
and Gods blessings, including food and clothing will follow, like a promise.

The next independent saying concludes the passage; 
Take life a day at a time. 

Again it has the hallmarks of an Aramaic saying. So, we should focus on the problems we have today and leave tomorrow's problems for tomorrow. How often do we plan for a future that never comes?
So dont worry about tomorrow. Let it take care of itself.
Because there's sufficient trouble in today!

So what are the ways to cope with worry and anxiety? 

1.Think positively "For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope." Jeremiah 29:11-12. You have a future, which is as unique as your thumb print! A destiny so claim it!
God has not given us the spirit of fear, "but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind" 2 Tim. 1:7. 
2. Pray. Pray for wisdom. Use a God-bag. Write your real worries on slips of paper and place them into a paper bag. Agree with God that you are not going to worry about these situations for 30 days. When tempted to do so, remind yourself, "It's in the bag!" Notice at the end of the month how God has answered prayers. Or put a list of your prayers under a big cross. Leave them with God. In Matthew 11:28, Jesus said, Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden and overburdened, and I will cause you to rest.

3. Ask God to Give You Peace and Rest. Sometimes we need more sleep! Sleep deprivation can increase anxiety. Get enough rest. And ask for a feeling of peace. Philippians 4:6-7: Do not fret or have any anxiety about anything, but in every circumstance and in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, continue to make your wants known to God. And God's peace which transcends all understanding shall garrison and mount guard over your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. John 14:26 says, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world gives, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

4. Realise you may not have the answers! Life is complex and we are finite. Just go with what information you have and realize your limitations. 

5. Define the problem. Break it down. Write it out. Draw it out. Shout it out. Break it down into blocks. And don’t try to solve it all at once. 

6. However do what you can do to sort out the problem. If there is something practical and wise that you can do to alleviate the problem or avoid needless danger, take action. Don’t put it off. Procrastination raises our anxiety.

7. Talk to someone about the problem. Don’t hold all the anxiety inside. Get another mind on it. It can be a relief to share our fears and worries with someone else—a friend, a relative, someone at church, a counselor. 

It’s a strange paradox but God comes alongside us when we go through hard times and we often feel much closer to God. Jesus is good at stilling storms. So, what is the storm of worry that has us drowning? Worry and anxiety drive us to God. 


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