Dear Theophilus… September 2014

Dear Theophilus

A leper came to Jesus and, on his knees, begged him for healing. And Jesus reached out and touched him. He didn’t need to touch him in order to heal him; ten other lepers came to him for healing and he sent them on their way and it was as they went that they were healed. But this one he touched. And in touching the leper he’d have become unclean himself if the guy didn’t get healed. Jesus took a risk and touched him. And in that touch Jesus brought the leper back into the community. (See Luke 5:12-14).

Now I know we need to be wise, and I know we’re not all touchy feely people (though I think some are just shy) but I also think most of us appreciate some form of physical contact, whether it’s a hand shake, a hand placed on the shoulder or a hug. You can’t really explain it, but something powerful is exchanged through physical contact. Jesus knew this when he healed the leper, when he healed Peter’s mother in law, when he healed the blind and the dumb, and when he raised the dead. He also knew it when he blessed the little children and when he said that his followers would lay hands on the sick and they would be healed. Something happens.

A touch can bring healing. A touch can give a blessing. A touch can also say, ‘You’re welcome here’. And when words are hard to find, or quite inadequate, a touch can say, ‘I care’.

For the leper, who had probably spent years excluded from the community, healing was important. But so was belonging. The word translated ‘salvation’ also means ‘healing’. The Christian gospel is a gospel of healing for the soul and spirit as well as for the body. It is also a gospel of belonging. Belonging to God and to family of God. And both healing and belonging can be communicated through a touch.

Let’s be wise. Let’s respect personal space. But let’s also take a risk and say to those outside and inside our Christian family, ‘You’re welcome here’.

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… August 2014

Dear Theophilus

Most of us love to be invited out to share a meal with friends; Jesus certainly did. We know he ate at Peter’s home, as well as at Matthew’s, Simon the Pharisee’s and at Mary and Martha’s. He even invited himself round for tea with Zacchaeus.

But meals for Jesus were not just about the food or even about the friendships, they were also about the gospel. Jesus didn’t just eat with his family or his close friends like Peter, Mary and Martha. Matthew was a recent acquaintance, Zacchaeus was a stranger and Simon the Pharisee was part of a group who were some of Jesus’ main critics. But, by sharing a meal with Matthew, Jesus made a whole new circle of friends with Matthew’s work colleagues; his meal with Zacchaeus resulted in a transformed life and with the Pharisees he was able to share profound truths about the Kingdom of God.

One of the things that Jesus said to this group of Pharisees is that the Kingdom of God is like a banquet where there is more space at the table than there are guests to fill them. The servants were then sent out onto the streets it invite anyone they could find to come in and share the meal. The same is true for the banquet God has prepared in heaven. The banquet has been paid for, Jesus has seen to that, and the food has been prepared. Some guests have arrived, but there are still places to be filled by people who have not yet received their invitation. And that is where we come in. Our job is to take out the invitations, inviting people to come to the feast.

We have some great news to share, people just need to hear it. They need an invitation, whether it’s to Church, to Messy Church, to cell groups, to our homes for a meal or a coffee, or to other events that we might organize. Somewhere where they can hear the good news of Jesus. And when we take out the invitation, let’s not just take them to our family and our friends, let’s also take them to strangers like Zacchaeus, to new acquaintances like Matthew, and even to those, like the Pharisees, with whom we struggle to get on. Fulfilling the great commission starts with the invitations.

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 2014

Dear Theophilus

It’s very easy to feel insignificant in a culture that makes celebrities out of entertainers and sport stars and which measures success by wealth, influence and power.

But the rules are very different in the kingdom that Jesus came to bring. In his kingdom, power is measured by service, success by faithfulness and true wealth can on-ly be stored in heaven.

Consider the early Church. Five hundred people bore witness to the resurrection of Jesus, a further three thousand were converted at Pentecost and fairly soon afterwards the Church had grown to around five thousand, and continued growing. But how many of these do we know about?

None of them had a Facebook page or tweeted. We have letters from a handful of them, and The Acts of the Apostles records the names and some sketchy details of a few lives. But many died without record or trace and with nothing known about their lives or their influence. Except, that is, for everything that is recorded by God in the Lamb’s book of life!

Your life may be extremely short in the great span of time and eternity, and your influence may seem very small and easily forgotten, but if you are a follower of Jesus, if you have put your faith in him, you can be assured that your name is written in the Lamb’s book of life, rec-orded for all of eternity, and that God will reward you for every faithful act done in his name. Remember that Jesus said ‘whatever you did for the least of these, you did for me’, and to the servant who used his talents wisely, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant’.

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 2014

Dear Theophilus

If you blink you’ll miss it! Such is the way with Ascension Day, a major Church festival, that slipped by on Thursday May 17th (40 days after Easter Day) with no bank holidays and no fanfare. I doubt the same would have been true when Jesus returned to his Father in glory. I’m sure there would have been great celebrations in heaven between the Holy Trinity and the angels at the return of their conquering hero. Mission accomplished!

In fact Ascension Day was so important to Luke that he mentioned it at the end of his Gospel and at the beginning of the book of Acts. To Luke it was the pivotal point between the mission and ministry of Jesus and the mission and ministry of the Early Church. The closing ceremony of one event becomes the curtain raiser for the next.

Just before he returns to heaven Jesus blesses his disciples, promises them his Holy Spirit and commissions them for the task ahead. The dumbstruck dis-ciples are then told by the angels that one day Jesus will return and, in the meantime, they were not to stand around with their heads in the clouds, but to get on with the job in hand. (Acts 1:11)

And that is where Christian ministry needs to be worked out; with one eye on the task ahead and the other on the return of Jesus. Maybe we shouldn’t have our heads in the clouds, but we should remember that faith in Jesus means that we too will one day share in the glory of heaven. In fact St Paul goes fur-ther by saying that through faith in Jesus we are already seated with him in heavenly places so that he might show us the riches of his grace (Ephesians 2:6,7). And that should give us a whole new perspective on our lives today.

In the tasks and challenges that face you each day, take time to step back and look at them from heaven’s perspective. What is God working out in your life long-term? Keep one eye on the task and keep the other on the return of Jesus and the glory that, by faith, you and I will share with him.

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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