Dear Theophilus… May 2017

Dear Theophilus

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI well remember the Scout Motto ‘Be Prepared’; it is a good motto for life. In scouting terms it means ‘always being in a state of readiness, in mind and body, to do your duty.’

When we climbed Ben Nevis, we had to be prepared in mind to actually tackle the mountain and in body to be physically fit enough, which was mainly achieved by doing some long walks in  Derbyshire. We also had to be prepared in terms of footwear, clothing, maps and compasses, and to be carrying enough food and water for the journey

But what does ’Be Prepared’ mean for us in Christian terms? Early in his ministry, when Jesus sent the disciples out to preach the kingdom of God, he told them to take nothing with them for the journey. He simply gave them power and authority to drive out demons and to cure diseases. (Luke 9:1-3).

After the resurrection, Jesus told the disciples that they were to be witnesses to all they had seen and all he had taught them, but that they were to wait in the city until they had been clothed, by the Holy Spirit, with power from on high. (Luke 24:48,49).

There is almost a sense that to be prepared in Christian terms is to be  unprepared in human terms. Being prepared as a Christian is not about knowing the answer to every question that might be thrown at us, or about being able to quote every verse from the bible, it is about spending time with Jesus and being empowered by the Holy Spirit; it is about bearing witness to the love of God that we have all known and experienced in our lives.

This time, between Easter and Pentecost, is a time when the disciples worked through the issues that had been raised by the traumas of Jesus’ arrest, trial and crucifixion, such as their fear of the authorities, Thomas’s doubts and Peter’s denial. In this time they realised the significance of the resurrection and they waited for the Holy Spirit to come upon them in power, to equip them for the task ahead. Let us too work through the issues that hold us back, let us get a hold on the significance of the resurrection, and let us get on with the task ahead, in the power of the Holy Spirit.

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… April 2017

Dear Theophilus

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhat a difference a day makes! Especially when it is Easter Day.

Reflect for a moment on the many accounts of the resurrection of Jesus; notice the differences that it made to the people who witnessed it. I wonder which encounter best speaks into your situation?

There is Mary weeping at the tomb; her grief was turned to joy by the resurrection of Jesus.

There were the disciples locked away in the upper room. They found peace, and their fear was turned to boldness by the resurrection of Jesus.

There were the two on the road to Emmaus whose dejection was turned to excitement as they ran back to Jerusalem to tell the other disciples what they had witnessed.

There was Thomas, a week later, whose doubts turned to faith and worship as he met his Risen Lord.

And Peter whose conversation with Jesus enabled him to find forgiveness and to rediscover the ministry that God had prepared for him.

And what about Mary? We are not told about her encounter with her Risen Son, but it must have happened. How do you think went?

For all of these people, for countless more at that time, and for millions more down through the centuries, the resurrection of Jesus made a life-changing difference.

What difference has the resurrection of Jesus made to your life so far? Have you found peace, joy, boldness, excitement, forgiveness, faith? You can do, as you encounter the Risen Lord.

And what difference will Jesus’ resurrection make to the rest of your life? Have you discovered, or rediscovered, the purpose for which he called you?

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… March 2017

Dear Theophilus

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs well as being St David’s day, March 1st this year marks the beginning of Lent, the time when the Church prepares for Easter by remembering Jesus’ forty days in the desert where he was tempted by the devil. (Matthew 4 and Luke 4).

Whilst this might all sound a bit grim, it was actually a very positive time for Jesus as he prepared for his future ministry and, I believe, has some important things to teach us.

Jesus’ desert experience was a time of personal discovery, a time where his identity was both questioned and affirmed. In the desert Jesus was effectively asked ‘Who are you and what do you want?’ Two of the temptations started ‘If you are the Son of God…’ and then challenged him to prove who he was by either turning stones into bread or jumping from a tall building and trusting the angels to catch him. In both cases Jesus’ response was rooted in his relationship with his Father. The third temptation offered Jesus instant fame and glory if he switched allegiance from his Father to the devil. Again Jesus’ response was based on his relationship with his Father who alone should be served and worshipped.

Jesus’ identity was never in doubt, he knew that his identity was founded solely on his relationship with his Father and what his Father said about him, and not on the things he could do or on what other people might say about him. This inner knowledge was affirmed in his time in the desert and was the foundation for his up and coming ministry.

We all go through times that feel like desert experiences, times that feel dry and barren, times when we feel alone, times when we are tempted to do things we shouldn’t do, or to take the easy option. The message for us from Jesus’ time in the desert is that these can be times of personal growth, times when we discover that our true identity is not in what we do or in what others say about us, but in our relationship with God and in what he says about us. Moreover, these are times of preparation for future ministry as God uses all that we have learnt on our journey of faith to help others on a similar path. As rich as these desert times can become, the good news is that they don’t last for ever; God has plans for all of us; to be blessed and to be a blessing.

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 2017

Dear TheophilusOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt the beginning of Mark’s gospel we get an account of a day in the life of Jesus. Jesus is now living in Capernaum, on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. It is the Sabbath, Saturday, and Mark starts his account with a morning service in the Synagogue, where Jesus is down to do the teaching; something he does with an authority that surprises the people.

At some point during this time, Jesus is interrupted by a man possessed by an evil spirit, a situation he again handles with authority and which again amazes the people. This is followed by lunch at the home of Peter and Andrew where Jesus heals Peter’s mother-in-law who has a fever.

Such was Jesus’ reputation by this time that a large crowd gathered in the evening for an impromptu healing service, attended by the whole town, where Jesus heals many of various diseases and casts out many demons.

Whether Jesus then went home to bed, or stayed the night at Peter’s we don’t know, but we do know that very early the following morning, while it was still dark, he was up and spending time in prayer to his Father, before setting off again to preach in the neighbouring villages.

And so ended a very busy 24 hours!

Reading this account, we can only marvel how Jesus managed to teach and minister both with authority in the synagogue and with sensitivity in the home, and that he was able to be totally available to the crowds and still find time for the individuals and also time to be alone with his Father.

There is a pattern here that we can all learn from. We may not be called to teach and minister to the crowds, but we are all called by God to fulfill his purpose for our lives, which we can do with the authority of his calling. In the busyness of each day, though, let us not overlook the times when we have opportunity to help someone in need, like Peter’s mother-in-law, and let us not forget to spend time alone with our Heavenly Father, to re-charge our spiritual batteries and to learn from him his plans for the coming day.

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 2017

Dear Theophilus
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen we think about the Christmas story, we think about the journeys to Bethlehem: Mary and Joseph, the Shepherds and the Wise Men, but we often forget the journeys away from Bethlehem.

There is a message for us in these journeys. All of these lives were changed by their encounter with Jesus, but they were all changed in different ways, as their journeys away from Bethlehem tell us.

The shepherds returned from the stable to the hills to look after their sheep, but they did so with a fresh spring in their step and a message of hope, about all that they had seen and heard; a message that they told to all those that they met.

Having been warned by God in a dream, about the murderous plans of Herod, Joseph led his family from Bethlehem into exile in Egypt where they were refugees until it was safe to return home. A familiar story today.

The Wise Men were also warned in a dream about the murderous plans of Herod and returned to their own country by a different route, presumably to avoid capture by Herod and interrogation to find the whereabouts of this newborn King.

The gifts that the Wise Men gave to Jesus remind us of the sacrifice we are all called to make as we too bow down to worship him. Gold, a gift for a king, also represents our wealth which we lay at his feet. Incense, a sign of God’s presence, also reminds us of the sacrifice of our prayers and our worship. Myrrh, a sign of his coming death, is also to us a symbol to us of the daily laying down of our lives for him.

But there is also a message for us in the journey they took back to their own land, a journey they made by a different route. Our own encounter with Jesus should change the way that we travel through our lives. So, as we travel through 2017, let us be open to God’s promptings. Let us be prepared to give up the familiar and the safe and let us travel by a different route in order to fulfil his purposes. And let us remember that, as ‘Emmanuel – God with us’, he is with us on that journey, wherever it takes 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… Dec 2016

Dear Theophilus

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhat do you think of Mary, the mother of Jesus? The bible tells us that she was ‘highly favoured’ (Luke 1:28) and whilst we may not hold her in the same regard as Christians in other denominations, most of us would see her as someone very special, and very important in the plans and purposes of God. But what was it that made Mary special?

The word in the original text that is translated ‘highly favoured’ has at its roots in the word ‘Charis’ which is usually translated ‘grace’ or ‘gift from God’. So the sense of Mary being ‘highly favoured’ is about the grace or favour that God bestowed on her, rather than some intrinsic goodness within her. Mary didn’t earn God’s favour, she was blessed by God purely and simply because God chose to bless her.

I think Mary is special, not because she was somehow more perfect than other women, but because she said ‘Yes’ to God. She risked her
reputation, her marriage, her future and ultimately her life in order to do what God asked of her. And what God asked of her was both
mind-boggling and scarey. When Mary was told of God’s plan she asked the angel ‘How can this be?’ to which the angel replied ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you.’ Not only did God look with grace upon Mary, he would also empower her to do what he was asking of her.

Are you aware that you too are highly favoured by God? That he wishes to pour out his grace on you? Think about it. Highly favoured. Not for anything you have done, but simply for who you are, for who God created you to be. And in his creation plan, God has a purpose for your life, a purpose which only you can fulfil, a purpose for which he will provide the means and the power to fulfil, a purpose to which he asks you to say ‘Yes’.

God’s plans for your life may well take you out of your comfort zone, but probably not as far out as he took Mary! You are not called to be a Mary, or a Joseph, nor anyone else other than the person that you are. You are simply called to be who you are, to know God’s grace and favour, to say ’Yes’ to the things that God asks of you and to let him achieve all that he wants through his Holy Spirit within you.

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 2016

Dear Theophilus

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIf there is one thing, above everything else, that for me heralds the arrival of winter, it is altering the clocks. The dark evenings and the nights drawing in seem to close everything down, as our lives resemble the world outside our drawn curtains.

For some of us the physical darkness can also pitch us into a time of emotional darkness, and for all of us there are times in our lives when disappointment or sadness seems to envelop our souls in a cloak of darkness.

It is in these times of darkness, whether they are physical, emotional or spiritual, that it is good to remind ourselves that Jesus came as the light of the world. A light that, as we so often read about at Christmas, shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot put it out (John 1:5).

The challenge for all of us, though, is to let this light shine out of us and bring light to others who also walk in some form of darkness. For not only did Jesus say ‘I am the light of the world’, he also said ‘You are the light of the world’ (Matthew 5:1). Each of us in who has received the light of Christ into our lives becomes a light that can illuminate someone else’s path.

And we don’t have to be anything special for this to happen. The singer songwriter Leonard Cohen wrote ‘There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in’ and St Paul wrote ‘We have this treasure in jars of clay, that the all-surpassing power is from God and not from us’. God’s grace is such that he is pleased to let his light shine into the cracked pots that are our lives, and for that light to then shine out of our cracked pots into the world around us. The only proviso seems to be that we continue to keep the light of God alive in our hearts. In a parable about servants waiting for their master to return, Jesus urges us to keep our lamps burning (Luke 12:35). We do this by continually coming to God to receive forgiveness for the things we do wrong and to be filled afresh with his Holy Spirit.

Let your light so shine before others, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven (Matthew 5:16)

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 2016

Dear TheophilusOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn Luke chapter 10 Jesus tells us one of the most familiar parables in the bible, the parable about the Good Samaritan. Jesus tells this parable to answer the question ‘Who is my neighbour?’ and much is preached about the need to care for others, regardless of race, faith or social status. But it is also a parable about healing. It is a story about someone going about their daily life, travelling from one town to another, when they get attacked, stripped, beaten up and left for dead.

The victim is eventually discovered by a stranger and the process of healing begins. Firstly oil and wine are poured onto the wounds and then the wounds are bandaged up. The victim is then put on the rescuer’s donkey and taken to an inn where they are nursed back to health. They are then left in the care of the inn keeper, all expenses paid, until the rescuer returns when, we assume, a full recovery will have been made.

Could you now imagine yourself in the story? Could you be the traveller going about your normal daily life? Something happens to you and you end up feeling naked, beaten up and left for dead. I’m sure there are times in our lives, past or present, when we have felt like that. Who is your Good Samaritan? What is involved in the healing process for you?

Can you see Jesus as your Good Samaritan, rescuing you from the pitfalls of life? Can you see the wine and the oil as the ministry of prayer and of the Holy Spirit as you go on your journey of recovery? Could the church be a place where you find restoration and wholeness?

But this story works on many different levels. Could you be the Good Samaritan? Is there someone on your journey who has been beaten up by life? Could you help to rescue them, bind up their wounds, minister to their needs and take them to a safe place to recover? Or could you be the inn keeper, ready to receive those who need encouraging on the road to a full recovery? Or could you go back out onto the highways of life and rescue others as you wait for the Good Samaritan to return?

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 CAMERAJesus’ call to his disciples was to follow him. The ones we are more familiar with: Peter, Andrew, James, John and Matthew, all did that. They heard the call of Jesus and said ‘Yes’. They left their businesses (fishing and tax collecting) and followed Jesus.

Saying ‘Yes’ to Jesus involves a step of faith, but such a step is always rewarded by God. In Luke’s gospel the four friends take their crippled friend to Jesus and he is healed, as is a centurion’s servant, a sick woman, a leper and a blind beggar. In the same way a young girl is raised from the dead and a prostitute is forgiven. All of these either came to Jesus or were brought to Jesus in faith, and none of them was disappointed. They said ‘Yes’ to Jesus and Jesus said ‘Yes’ to them.

But not all of those that Jesus called said ‘Yes’. There is the story of the rich young ruler (Luke 18:18-23) who was doing his best to live a good life, but he put his wealth above Jesus’ call to follow. He said ‘No’ to Jesus and went away sad.

What is the underlying difference between those who say ’Yes’ to Jesus, and those who say ’No’? I think it is a question of faith. Throughout the Old Testament faith is seen as the combination of hearing what God says and responding in obedience.

In the gospels it was faith that enabled Peter to get out of the boat and walk on the water when Jesus called him and, on a different occasion, it was a lack of faith that caused fear to overwhelm the disciples when they were in the boat on the lake during a storm.

Faith is about saying ’Yes’ to Jesus. ’Yes’ to following him, not just at the start of our Christian journey, but also at each step of the way, whether it is in the daily routine of life, whether it is with our careers and our riches, or whether it is in the struggles and difficulties of life. Let us be people who continually say ‘Yes’ to Jesus, and who follow him in faith and obedience, and not those who say ‘No’ and go away sad.

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… Aug 2016

Dear Theophilus

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe story of Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10) is perhaps one of the best known stories for anyone who has been to Sunday School. Zacchaeus was part of the Jewish community in Jericho but he was an outcast because he worked for the occupying Roman authorities. He collected taxes from his own people and, after taking a cut for himself, passed them on to the Romans. He thus became very rich, but would have had few friends.

Zacchaeus also struggled physically. He was ‘vertically challenged’ so, when Jesus arrived in Jericho, he had no chance of seeing him over the crowd. Determined to see Jesus, Zacchaeus climbed a tree, and when Jesus looked up into the tree and saw him, he invited himself back to Zacchaeus’ place to stay. And so the tables were turned: the outsider became part of the in-crowd, and the crowd became outsiders through their hostile attitude to Zacchaeus.

Like Zacchaeus, there may be things in our lives that prevent us from getting a good view of Jesus. It may be that we feel like an outsider: ‘God wouldn’t be interested in me if he knew what I’d done’. Or it may be that we let things get in the way: upbringing, health, busyness, lifestyle.

What is there in our lives that prevents us from getting a clear view of Jesus? Is there anything we can do, a tree that we can climb, in order to get a better view?

The story of Zacchaeus tells us that Jesus has got time for each one of us, whoever we are, that he is looking for us and if we look for him we will hear him say to us, ‘I must come and stay with you’. The story also tells us that when we come to Jesus he gives us the space to sort out our lives, to right the wrongs and to make a fresh start.

Jesus continues to search for the outsiders, the lost, today. And he asks the insiders to join him in his search for the lost, and not to get offended by the love and the acceptance that he shows to them.

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!

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