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Wednesday, 30 October 2013

The Cost of Discipleship



“The Cost of Discipleship”
Luke 14:25-35

Attached or committed? How would you describe your relationship with Jesus? Luke tells us in this passage that large crowds were traveling with Jesus like an entourage. There is uncertainty as to whether they are just going along for the ride or whether they really believe in Him. Some are probably saved, some are not just like many groups of people who gather. But whatever their spiritual status, Jesus intends to teach them the full implications of being a Christ follower.
Jesus then tells two brief stories. The first one is of a careless builder. One who does not estimates the costs of supplies and labour or considers the ground on which he builds. The second, wise builder estimates the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it. He will also make careful evaluation of the costs, risks and resources. The unfinished structure of the first builder will be visible evidence of impulsive commitment and his failure will expose him to ridicule. Applying this to discipleship enables us to understand that it is not a casual or occasional activity. Enthusiasm is important but more is needed in order to sustain one with Christ’s experience of the cross. It is an exciting adventure but it is also draining and demanding.
The second parable describes a king who is being invaded by an army twice its size. Should there be resistance at what cost? His position and resources may be enough but what if he fights and loses? Time to decide is imminent and so he must weigh the risks, make a choice and live with the consequences. Jesus’ point is not only the cost of discipleship, but the consequences of refusing discipleship. Choice is inevitable. Not becoming a disciple is to miss the privilege of knowing and following Jesus.  What is your decision? Are you willing to give and follow Jesus? Discipleship involves daily acts of giving all things to Christ. Are we willing to do this?
PRAYER:
Holy and loving Lord, we thank you that you want us to follow you to live for you to be your disciple. Help us to do so and to strive to live faithfully in your way always. Hear us as we pray. Amen.
BLOG QUESTION
The cost of discipleship involves both commitment and looking at the consequences. Are you choosing to follow actively or to drift as you see fit? Count the cost of discipleship—are you careless or careful?  Consider the consequences- to delay is to not know Christ Jesus!  Is being a disciple of Christ worth this?

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Persistent Women



Wednesday, October 23, 2013
By Rev Cathy

“Parable: Persistent Widow and the Judge”
Luke 18:1-8

How well are you at waiting? How patient are you when you have to ‘wait your turn’? We live in a time when waiting is necessary but how well do you do this? What about when you are struggling with a relationship or with having to make a difficult decision. How easy is it to just wait? How well do you wait on these things? If you are a person of prayer, that is one who dialogues with God you might even wonder if God has forgotten you and your prayers as you wait for His answer.
Jesus is teaching his disciples about prayer. They would have all been familiar with prayer as this is part of their Jewish tradition. But Jesus is trying to open their hearts and minds to new ways of praying and why it is so important. He does so by encouraging them not to give up as they grow in their relationship with God. To emphasize his point, he tells this story of a judge and a widow.
 This woman has a pending case against another person and even though we are not told what it is, she goes to him with her plea to grant her justice; that is, to be heard. The judge is the epitome of powers. He has much authority and he has no fear about anyone else. He is a hard bitter man and has no sense of accountability to God or even to God’s law. He does not show emotion or compassion and he does whatever he likes.
            The woman is at the opposite end of the spectrum- she is helpless, and weak, no political clout and most likely very poor. She has no advocate or protector since her husband’s death and someone has wronged her and yet she is spunky and a fighter. But before this indifferent judge she is helpless, or so it seems.
The judge refuses to hear the woman but she continues to come to the courthouse. Her only resource is her persistence and so she does not give up. And after a period of time- we do not know how long, the judge says to himself, “This woman keeps bothering me that I may hear her story and so that she will receive justice, I will listen to her. Not because she deserves justice, but because if I settle her case she will leave me alone.” The judge finally hears the woman’s story and responds.
 Jesus wants us to recognize that God- the one to whom we pray is not like this judge. God cares for our needs because He loves us we are God’s chosen ones and are chosen for a purpose. Because we are His children we can pray with confidence.
If a helpless widow who had no resources but her persistence could get her way with a hardhearted, unjust judge, how much more will God’s people receive what they need from a gracious Father?
Who are we in this story? We are the believers who cry out to God through prayer with intensity and urgent appeals for help. This is prayer-- crying out from within those difficulties and failures in life to God who is listening and hearing our voices filled with anything from desperation to hope that He will respond.
Jesus tells this story because he wants us to pray- and not just a little bit but with intensity and expectancy, with a deep hope from within that change will happen—in God’s time and in God’s way and according to God’s will.
The challenge of prayer is this—will you pray persistently? Will you give up if you don’t think God is listening? And will you have faith in the God who made you and loves you unconditionally?

PRAYER:
Holy God, we pray and we wonder if you really hear us. So we pray again- not only for ourselves, but for your will to be done in the lives of others. You provide us with many gifts, but we don’t use them for your kingdom to grow instead we hinder others and hurt others when we just cant’ wait any more. Help us to never give up and to teach others to be persistent in prayer. Hear us in this time of silence as we pray to you Amen.

BLOG QUESTION
Never stop praying. We are called to pray even when things are wonderful and positive and more so when things are requiring change and transformation.  But do we see prayer this way? Or do we offer to God His weekly to-do list and expect it to happen without us? God calls us to be in prayer with him. Are we willing to pray regularly and to hear his voice speaking to us?  Are we willing to listen?

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Debt Forgiveness



“Parable: Unforgiving Servant”

Matthew 18:21-35

How many times should one forgive? This is the question Peter asked Jesus. His response was not seven times, but seventy seven times and then told the parable of the unforgiving servant. A master wanted to settle accounts with his servants. One man owed the master 10000 talents. But he was not able to pay. The master ordered that he and his wife and children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. But the servant fell on his knees and begged. The master took pity on him and canceled the debt.
But when that servant went out he found another servant who owed him money. He grabbed him and demanded repayment. The other servant could not pay and he was thrown into debtor’s prison. The master became aware of this and called him in. He told him that he had canceled all the debt he had because he had begged for forgiveness of the debt.. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as he had? The servant was turned over to jail until he could pay back all he owed.  The point of Jesus’ story is what he states at the end. This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.
What is forgiveness? G.K.Chesterton wrote, “Forgiveness means pardoning the unpardonable or it is not forgiveness at all.” It means erasing the act, letting go of the wrong. Forgiveness is the prerequisite for reconciliation as reconciliation is the rebuilding of a trusting relationship and takes time. And forgiveness is always within my power, through the enabling of the Spirit. Forgiveness is granted not earned.
In this parable the first servant was freed from all debt when he could have been sold along with his wife and possessions to another master. But the master had pity on him. However, when this same servant went and demanded payment for a debt from another servant  and he could not pay that the master became angry. And when the servant had the other servant put into jail the master could not let it go. He questioned the servant for his actions and then put him into jail as well. The act of forgiveness is such that one needs to carry it through to others. If you have been forgiven about something you have done wrong then you are not to demand forgiveness when someone else does this to you. You are to learn about your sinful act respond, seek forgiveness and then grow in a new way. The servant did not do this and this is why he was sent to jail.
Have you been forgiven by another person for something you did? What did you do to live out this forgiveness? Did you go and complain about something else? Did you talk about the difference being forgiven meant or did you do the same thing over again?
Jesus makes it clear for the need to forgive and to be forgiven. And when forgiven we are not to seek revenge on others. Jesus calls us to forgive again and again. As disciples of Jesus, we are to overflow with forgiveness. Do you forgive as you should?

PRAYER:

Wonderful God we praise you that we are forgiven of our sins through Jesus. Help us to forgive others as we seek to live in peace. Enable us to renew our faith, to love Jesus and to be forgiven. Hear our prayers we pray. Amen.

BLOG QUESTION

Forgiving others is one of the most difficult tasks we are called to do as Jesus’ disciples. Jesus said that we are to forgiven and never really stop. But sometimes it seems pointless to forgive another who will just hurt you again. The desire for revenge is there. Yet do you act on it this desire or not? This is the question. Have you ever really felt the need for revenge? Have you forgiven others and found peace within? Jesus says to keep forgiving but are we really willing to forgive all the time. What do you think/ feel?

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Thankful Women



“Parable: Thanking Jesus”
Luke 7: 36-50

            Jesus tells a story during a dinner party at the home of a Pharisee.
Why Jesus accepted this invitation is unknown until the events of the story are played out in real events. What occurs at the Pharisee’s home includes the telling of the story and the immediate reaction being lived.
Jess is at the home of a Pharisee when a woman who had been known to lead a sinful life came to the home with an alabaster jar of perfume. This woman stood behind Jesus and wept at his feet, she wet his feet with her tears, wiped them with her hair, kissed that then poured perfume on them. The Pharisee sees what this woman is doing and questions Jesus. “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is- that she is a sinner.”
IT is then that Jesus tells a story about two men. These men owed money to a moneylender. One owed him 500 denarii and the other 50 denarii. Neither had the means to repay the money so the moneylender canceled the debts of both. Which of these will love him more? The one who had the bigger debt canceled would. Jesus responded stating that Simon was correct in this.
Jesus then using the woman as an example tells Simon. Since the woman came into the house she has wet his feet, wiped them dry, kissed his feet and anointed his feet with oil. It is through these actions that this woman has shown her love. And through these actions, Jesus states, “Your sins are forgiven. Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
Through the parable Jesus develops the need for the forgiveness of debt and forgiveness of sins. Of the two men who owed money the one who owed more should be more grateful. Such is the case of the woman who entered this house knowing Jesus was to be there. She was a known sinner, who in the company of men, touched Jesus. But it is she whom Jesus forgives for her past sins and she is now to lead a life of peace. This woman showed her love for the teacher in her actions and through this she was forgiven.
Forgiveness arouses love, which is expressed by gratitude. Both love and gratitude are shown to Jesus through the woman’s actions. Jesus teaches Simon what this means and forgives her. This woman’s life was changed and she left that house forgiven and at peace.
Thanking Jesus is the natural response to being forgiven of sin. As we approach Thanksgiving (Canada) what are you thankful for beyond the harvest of food? Do you give thanks for Jesus and that you receive forgiveness?

PRAYER:
Holy God, we praise you and thank you for Jesus who through his death and resurrection we may be forgiven of our sins. We praise you that He teaches us how important it is to love and that we may forgive others. We are grateful O God and we rejoice in all your many blessings to us. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

BLOG QUESTION
Have you shown your love to Jesus for forgiving your sins? The woman risked her life by entering a home of a Pharisee and pouring the oil on Jesus’ feet in the presence of many people. She showed her love and desire for forgiveness by showing her love for Jesus as her teacher and Saviour. How do you show your love for Jesus? What do you do show that Jesus is worth it?

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Bandages, Oil and Wine



“Parable: Good Samaritan”
Luke 10: 30-35

Jesus tells this parable in response to a simple question, “Who is my neighbour?”
A man is travelling from Jerusalem to Jericho and falls into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away leaving him half dead. A priest and a Levite pass him by on the other side after seeing him. A Samaritan came where the man was and when he saw him he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. He put the man on his own donkey took him to an inn and took care of him The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. Look after him and when I return I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.
            Today’s headlines reflect this kind of story on a regular basis. Muggings, murders, death in the streets of many urban settings occur day and night. But what is different in this story is that the priest and the Levite people who are supposed to help people because of what they do and who they are, walked by on the other side. It is a man of a different background, a Samaritan, who sees the situation and responds as he is able- with bandages, oil and wine and a place for the man to rest. Why did the priest and Levite walk by? Were they already going to help others and could not or were unable to get involved? Yet it is the Samaritan who has compassion which sets him apart to care for the injured man.. And he is committed to doing so- he needs to make sure the injured man is looked after and those who will care for him will be compensated as he goes about his business.
            Who is the neighbour in this story? The neighbour is the one who had mercy on the injured man.
To whom do you show mercy? How regular is this that you do this- that is help out another person in need? Does showing mercy affect your ability to do your everyday routine? Should it?

PRAYER:
Wonderful God we praise you for the ability to reach out to all our neighbours who are in need. Help us O God to show compassion, care and commitment as we reach out to others in love like the Samaritan of this story did. Enable us we pray to share this love with all whom we meet. We ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Quotes from  Gary Inrig, “The Parables: Understanding What Jesus Meant” 1991.

BLOG QUESTION:
The Good Samaritan is a parable that is often shared because of the act of love offered by one who was not suppose to respond because of their place in that society. So many times we see and hear stories of people whose plights are ignored by passers-by. We live in a world drowning in human needs. But we must ask are their limits to my love? How far does my responsibility go? Who is not my neighbour? How much is too much care in light of the number of people who experience ‘compassion fatigue’ where many burn out because they carry around the hurts of others by caring for them?