Dear Theophilus… March 2018

Dear TheophilusOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs we move towards Easter, we will be reminded of the last supper, where Jesus met with his disciples to celebrate the Passover. It was during this meal that he gave to them his new commandment, “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35). Love, Jesus says, must be central to both the life of the Church and the mission of the Church.

As we know, the Church of Jesus Christ is first and foremost a community, not a building. A community of people who have discovered the love of God for themselves; a love that forgives, a love that welcomes, a love that heals. A community of people who belong together; loving, forgiving, welcoming and healing one another.

God the Father demonstrated this love by giving his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him should not die, but have everlasting life. God the Son demonstrated this love by willingly going to the cross on our behalf.

As disciples of Jesus, our role then, is not just to tell people about the love of Jesus, it is also to demonstrate to them the love of Jesus; to show the outcast and the sinner, by our actions, that they are loved by God. To be a disciple is to demonstrate to those within the Church, and those outside the Church ’I love you and I am committed to you. You belong.’

This love is a response of the heart and a demonstration of the heart of God. As disciples of Jesus we must recognise, as Ezekiel tells us, that our hearts need to be transformed from hearts of stone to vulnerable and loving hearts of flesh. And that, as he says, is a work of God’s Holy Spirit. (Ezek 36:26,27)

It is so easy for us as a Church to get so caught up in our structures and our systems that we lose sight of the call to love our neighbours as ourselves, and so caught up on the rights and wrongs of morality today that we forget that Jesus met with and welcomed the outcasts and sinners.

As we prepare for Easter, let us commit to loving one another as Jesus has loved us, and let us reach out to love our neighbours as we love ourselves.

David

Theophilus is the guy for whom Luke wrote the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts. (Luke 1:3 and Acts 1:1) Theophilus means ‘Lover of God’ so, if you love God, it was written for you!

Dear Theophilus… Feb 2018

Dear TheophilusOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

When we pray ‘The Lord’s Prayer’, the chances are we will be more familiar with the words recorded by Matthew (6:9-13) and less familiar with Luke’s shortened version: ‘Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation.’ (Luke 11:2-4). I think the simplicity of Luke’s account can help us focus afresh on Jesus’ words, not just as a prayer we recite, but as a guide to the of our relationships with God and with each other as we come to him in prayer.

This ‘pocket guide to prayer’ focuses initially on our relationship with God both as a loving Father and also as a Holy God. The immanent and the transcendent. God with us and God beyond us. Difficult as it may be, we need to hold both of these concepts together. As we pray, we are at the same time approaching our completely loving Heavenly Father and also our awesome, Holy God.

As we approach this God in prayer we reflect that he is the provider of all that we already have and of all that we will need. Our Holy God has the power to produce all that we need and our loving Heavenly Father has the compassion to give it to us. Sometimes it comes unrequested, sometimes we need to acknowledge our dependence on God and ask.

Luke then moves us on to our relationship with each other. If we are to stand in God’s presence we need to be presentable. Not in fine clothes and with clever words, but forgiven and cleansed by Jesus. And that goes as much for our relationship with each other as it does with our relationship with God. If love is the heart of a relationship, forgiveness is the lifeblood. And we want no blocked arteries! It’s no good unblocking the artery between the heart and the lungs if the artery between the heart and the body is still blocked. The lifeblood cannot flow.

Luke concludes by praying that we are not led into situations that tempt us away from God’s love. For some of these times we need the grace of God to stand firm. For others we need the discipline not to go there is the first place.

David

Theophilus is the guy for whom Luke wrote the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts. (Luke 1:3 and Acts 1:1) Theophilus means ‘Lover of God’ so, if you love God, it was written for you!

Dear Theophilus… Jan 2018

Dear Theophilus

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs 2017, with all its blessings and all its difficulties, comes to an end, and 2018, with all its opportunities and challenges begins, let us remember that we worship the God of new beginnings. The Christian gospel, at its heart, is a gospel of new beginnings. A gospel where the past is forgiven as we are born again and where the old has gone as we become a new creation. It is a gospel with the promise of heaven, where God wipes away the tears and makes all things new.

If stepping out of 2017 and stepping into 2018 was like going on a journey to a new home, what is there that you would like to leave behind in 2017? It might be something you’ve said or done, it might be something that has been said or done to you, or it might be something in life that has just happened and has been painful or difficult. Jesus bore our sins and carried our grief on the cross, so we can leave them all there at the cross as we step out of 2017 and into 2018.

But there were also good things in 2017 that we want to take with us on our journey into 2018; gifts we have received, situations that have blessed us, lessons we have learnt, opportunities that have opened up for us. Let us thank God for all the good things that were part of 2017 and let us take them with us into 2018 with grateful hearts and a growing faith in Jesus.

We do not know what 2018 will bring for any of us, but when we put our trust in the faithfulness and love of God we know that he will work in all things for our good, and that Jesus, who said he will never leave us or forsake us, goes with us on our journey.

And what is true for us in 2018 on a personal level is also true on a national and international level. We do not know how things will work out here in the UK, with Brexit, in the Middle East or in the fight against terrorism, but we can pray for each situation, and do what we can in our own communities to further God’s kingdom purposes. And we can put our trust in God who sees the bigger picture and who is working our his plans and purposes in the hearts and lives of countless millions of people around the world.

David

Theophilus is the guy for whom Luke wrote the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts. (Luke 1:3 and Acts 1:1) Theophilus means ‘Lover of God’ so, if you love God, it was written for you!

Dear Theophilus… Dec 2017

Dear TheophilusOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

For most of us, most of the time, life ticks along slowly, with one day little different to another. There are small changes: children getting taller as bones grow imperceptibly longer and older folk getting less mobile as joints stiffen, but on the surface, everything stays much the same. Things evolve, and life ticks along until something major happens. Like the birth of a child. Then we move from evolution to revolution, and everything changes.

But, though the birth of a child may bring about a revolution in a couple’s life, it doesn’t just happen overnight. There will have been nine months of slow, steady growth and unseen changes that have taken place, hidden away within the mother’s womb as this miracle of life grows from a fertilized egg to a fully developed baby. And then evolution gives way to revolution as, at the right time, a baby is born.

This is what happened in God’s great plan of salvation. God’s plans and purposes had been ticking along slowly and steadily for centuries, with small imperceptible changes until, as St Paul tells us ‘When the right time finally came, God sent his own Son, born of a woman’ (Galatians 4:4). Evolution gave way to revolution. God sent his Son. What had been planned by God from eternity and had been developing inside Mary for nine months, was finally revealed to the world. God became flesh and blood and lived among us.

In many ways this is an image of how God is at work in the world and in our lives. We
celebrate this momentous event each Christmas. But one Christmas can become like any other, and in the times in between each Christmas, life may be very routine. In these times God calls us to walk faithfully with him, honouring him in the way we live our lives, serving him as we love and serve one another, and telling others the Good News of Jesus.

But, just occasionally, something happens to disturb the routine. A child is born. We start work. We move house. We retire. We get sick. A loved one dies. Or God steps in and calls us to follow him or to serve him in a new way. At these times we need to grasp hold of the changes and not miss out on what God is doing. This Christmas, let us wait patiently and faithfully when things move slowly and imperceptibly, and nothing seems to change. And let us greet with eagerness the changes that God brings when they happen.

David

Theophilus is the guy for whom Luke wrote the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts. (Luke 1:3 and Acts 1:1) Theophilus means ‘Lover of God’ so, if you love God, it was written for you!

Dear Theophilus… Nov 2017

Dear Theophilus

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI wonder what it felt like for Jesus, after thirty years of relative obscurity, living and working as a village carpenter, to suddenly be thrust into celebrity status as an itinerant minister, preaching in synagogues, being followed by crowds of people and being harangued all the time by the religious leaders? It must have taken a great deal of humility to be content with obscurity and not to be seduced by the fame or intimidated by the opposition.

The early part of Jesus’ ministry was very busy as he went for town to town, preaching in their synagogues and healing the sick. Even when he was invited round for a quiet meal at Peter’s home, he ended up ministering to Peter’s mother-in-law before he could sit down for a meal. And then by the evening the crowds had found him and turned up with their sick, hoping that he would heal them (Luke 4:38-41).

How did Jesus sustain this lifestyle? We see the answer in Mark’s version of events. No, Jesus didn’t have a lie in the following morning! Instead he got up early, while it was still dark, found a solitary place and spent time in
prayer with his Father, something he seemed to do on a regular basis. (Mark 1:35). What went on in these times, I wonder? Who did the talking, was it Jesus or his Father? I suspect the Father did the talking and Jesus did the listening, which is different to the way we think about prayer, with our lists of needs or our ‘Thomas Cook’ tour of the world’s needs.

There is an interesting verse about prayer in Paul’s letter to the Philippians. Having told them not to be anxious about anything, he tells them, ‘in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God’ (Philippians 4:6). Paul makes a distinction between prayer and petition when I think we tend to see them as the same thing. Paul is saying that there is something about prayer that is not petition. I think that something is listening; listening to God, drawing on his love and peace, and holding  before him the events of the past day and the events of the day to come.

I think that’s what sustained Jesus’ hectic life and it is what will also sustain our hectic lifestyles. Find a time and a place and ’by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving…’ Bill Hybels wrote a book ‘Too busy NOT to pray.’

David

Theophilus is the guy for whom Luke wrote the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts. (Luke 1:3 and Acts 1:1) Theophilus means ‘Lover of God’ so, if you love God, it was written for you!

Dear Theophilus… Oct 2017

Dear TheophilusOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI never did get on very well with fishing, except for a spot of mackerel fishing from a boat in Cornwall. I don’t have the patience to just sit on a river bank; I’d prefer to either walk along the bank or stay at home and read a good book! But at least for me it was only ever meant to be a hobby; I wasn’t trying to make a living from it, not like Peter, Andrew, James and John.

The story of Jesus calling his first disciples by the lakeside is a familiar one. Four potential disciples had fished all night and caught nothing, when Jesus comes along and commandeers their boat for an impromptu sermon. He then sends them back out fishing with a tip for catching more fish, which indeed they do. They then return to the shore where Jesus calls them to follow him and catch people rather than fish (Luke 5:1-11).

We might be familiar with the events, but I wonder how the fishermen felt? They have a business to run and mouths to feed. They have put in a long hard shift and have nothing to show for it. Now there’s some maintenance work to do on the nets before they can clock off and get home for a meal and some well-earned rest. And then Jesus comes along and wants to
borrow the boat And, to crown it all, gives them some advice on fishing!

There are times when we all feel that we have been labouring away for nothing. Maybe we have little to show for our time at work. Maybe our efforts at home go unnoticed and unappreciated. Maybe we are seeing little fruit for our work in the church or in the community. Maybe we’ve invested a lot into a relationship and there seems to be nothing to show for it Or maybe we’ve tried hard to keep fit and healthy only to end up sick and struggling.

Whatever it is at the moment that makes us feel we are wasting our time, can we take our eyes off the problem for a moment? Can we look around to see Jesus standing on the shore wanting to come aboard? Can we spend some time listening to what he has to say to us? Can we then invite him into our familiar and frustrating situation and allow him to transform it for us and bring us blessing? And can we then follow his invitation into the unfamiliar and let him transform us into fishermen for his Kingdom?

David

Theophilus is the guy for whom Luke wrote the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts. (Luke 1:3 and Acts 1:1) Theophilus means ‘Lover of God’ so, if you love God, it was written for you!

Dear Theophilus… Sept 2016

Dear Theophilus

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADear Theophilus…

A lot of our Christian hymns and worship songs speak of Jesus reigning in glory. But when was
Jesus glorified? Was it at his resurrection? Was it at his ascension? Or will it be at his second coming, when he returns to this earth at the end of time?

Actually, John’s gospel tells us Jesus was glorified at his crucifixion. Just before the last supper, Jesus said this: “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” To clarify that he was talking about his death, he continues “Very truly I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” (John 12:23-24). Whilst it is undeniable that Jesus was resurrected in glory, that he ascended in glory and that he now reigns in glory, it is perhaps surprising to learn that he was also crucified, not in ignominy, but in glory.

I doubt we will ever fully understand what glory in suffering is all about, but part of it must be about remaining faithful to God, in spite of circumstances. God is glorified every time a Christian believer continues to trust in God while struggling with hardships that life throws up. Another part of the glory in suffering is in a life well lived and a job well done. Jesus was able to say ‘It is finished’ as he died because his mission on earth was complete, he had fulfilled God’s plan to rescue the world from the powers of sin and death.

In God’s economy death is never the end. As Jesus says, when a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it produces many seeds. Death gives way to new life. And what is true for Jesus, is also true for us.

Are there areas of your life today that are a struggle, maybe with health issues, a difficult relationship, financial worries or an uncertain future? As you remain faithful to God, Jesus is glorified, and you too will one day share in his glory. Or maybe there is something in your life that has ended. The loss of a loved one, a relationship, a career or a physical ability. Recognising that ‘it is finished’ can mark the completion of one thing, but it can also become the birth place of something new.

Look around your life. Where is God at work? Look for the signs of new life, nurture them and share in the resurrection, and in the glory that is to come.

David

Dear Theophilus… August 2017

Dear TheophilusOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI was in Wood Lane Cemetery in Treeton towards the end of July and noticed beyond it the glorious sight of a field of wheat, golden and ready for harvest; a sight that took me back to my days in agriculture. We’ve had quite a lot of rain over the past few months as well as quite a lot of sunshine; just the right combination for a good harvest.

St Matthew tells us that, when Jesus went through the towns and villages, he saw crowds of people and likened them to a field of wheat, ripe for a plentiful harvest. (Matthew 9:35-38).

What was it about these people that made Jesus come to this conclusion? Matthew tells us that they were harassed and helpless. I wonder what words he would use today? Would he perhaps use words like stressed and fearful? What is the prevailing mood in our culture today? What is the prevailing mood in your life today? Is there a sense of being harassed and helpless, of being stressed and fearful?

It was to these harassed and helpless people that Jesus proclaimed the Kingdom of God. And the Good News of the Gospel has as much to say to people today as it had to people in Jesus’ day.

To those who are harassed or stressed, Jesus himself is our peace. Peace through Jesus comes to us in different ways. Sometimes it comes as he calms the storm around us, while at other times we find peace from the knowledge that he is with us while the storm continues to rage around us.

To those of us who feel helpless or fearful, Jesus says ‘Do not be afraid, I am with you.’ and ‘All things are possible with God’. No matter how dire is the situation we face, our God is the God of hope, in whom we can trust.

Such situations give the conditions for a plentiful harvest. But, as Jesus said, there must be workers to bring in the harvest. In your daily life, will you join the Lord of the harvest and share the Good News about the peace and the hope you have found with those you meet who are harassed and helpless?

David

Theophilus is the guy for whom Luke wrote the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts. (Luke 1:3 and Acts 1:1) Theophilus means ‘Lover of God’ so, if you love God, it was written for you!

Dear Theophilus… July 2017

Dear TheophilusOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere is something very soothing in Jesus’ words ‘Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest’ (Matthew 11:28). Just reading these words over again seems to bring a sense of peace! Rest is an integral part of the life God intended for us, right from the 24 hour rhythm of day and night to the third commandment to keep the sabbath holy. We all like to rest from work; to go away for a break so that we can relax and be refreshed.

In the new testament Jesus and the apostles re-interpret some of the rules and regulations of the old testament and Jesus himself said he came to fulfil the law (Matthew 5:7), so it seems that in his words Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest’ Jesus is saying that the rest that we so much seek in our lives is now to be found in him, not a specific day, and the book of Hebrews talks about an eternal rest for today, that we find through faith and obedience to God.

We ‘come to Jesus to find rest’ in many ways. The main way is when we first put our faith in Jesus, coming to him in repentance, receiving forgiveness for all the mess in our lives, and discovering his unconditional love for us. We can also find rest on a daily basis as we set aside time each day to pray and to reflect on the scriptures. But, I believe, there is also a rest available at any moment of the day, in any situation, as we focus our minds and our spirits, even momentarily, on the God who never leaves us.

This is why Jesus can continue his offer of rest by saying, ‘Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.’ (Matthew 11:29,30).

The ‘rest for your souls’ that Jesus offers, is not the rest of idleness, but the rest of a life of service, sharing the burden of the yoke with him and finding his rest as we walk with him, ploughing the furrow he has marked out for us.

David

Theophilus is the guy for whom Luke wrote the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts. (Luke 1:3 and Acts 1:1) Theophilus means ‘Lover of God’ so, if you love God, it was written for you!

Dear Theophilus… June 2017

Dear Theophilus

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“What does this mean?” This was the response of most of the crowd to the phenomena of the disciples being filled with the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. Others mocked and said “They’re drunk”; I guess you’ll always get those who mock.

What is your response to the events of Pentecost? What does this mean to you? For Peter and the rest of the disciples it meant many things. Firstly, it meant that all of them were filled with the Holy Spirit, not just Peter, and most likely not just the twelve apostles (Matthias had by then replaced Judas) but more likely the group of 120 that Acts 1:15 tells us were gathered together to pray.

The second thing that it meant was that the disciples overcame their fears and ventured out from behind the locked doors of the upper room, and that Peter, who had previously been afraid to associate himself with Jesus, now stands up and preaches to a crowd that numbered in their thousands. This transformation in Peter, and the preaching of the gospel, meant that three thousand people became Christians on that day. And this meant that the Christian Church was born and began to work out what it meant to be part of a loving and caring community of believers.

If that is what the day of Pentecost meant for the disciples then, what might it mean for us today? We can’t just say that it was only for the early church; Peter clearly states that the promise of the Holy Spirit is for you, and for your children and for all who are far off (Acts 2:39). But neither do I think we can be over prescriptive about the difference the Holy Spirit will make to our lives. I don’t think that the disciples knew precisely how their lives would change, Jesus just told them to wait until they were clothed with power from on high and that they would be witnesses; some locally, some nationally and some internationally.

I think it comes down to a matter of obedience and of trust. Obedience in the sense that we, like the disciples, should wait expectantly to receive the Holy Spirit; and trust that as Jesus says, God is like a loving father, who only gives good gifts to his children. Gifts that change lives.

David

Theophilus is the guy for whom Luke wrote the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts. (Luke 1:3 and Acts 1:1) Theophilus means ‘Lover of God’ so, if you love God, it was written for you!

Pages: 1 2 3 4 6