Working your way to the top

Coffee time devotions

Luke 18:1-6 tells the story of how the disciples asked Jesus ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ What prompted this question? The kingdom of heaven was still, in the disciples’ mind a nebulous concept, there was no set of rules they could follow, there was nothing tangible to get to grips with. I don’t think that the disciples were just wanting to know in absolute terms who was the greatest there and then. I believe that they were (possibly subconsciously) trying to figure out the nature of this kingdom of heaven and how to get on in it. In the same way that the Pharisees had ‘gamed’ the system of Judaism in order to rise to the top (they added their own set of rules to make it simpler for them to win), so the disciples were asking: ‘How do we succeed in this new regime?’

The answer is that you’re asking the wrong question! The answer is that you don’t try to ‘game’ the system in order to get to the top. Child like innocence and humility is required. A deliberately naive failure to see or to seek a pecking order among God’s people is the true nature of the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus’ words on those who cause a child to sin reveal just how wrong he considers this position seeking to be. Anyone who encourages or entices a believer into position seeking is an enemy of the kingdom! In a church full of position seekers and granters we must take these words very seriously.

If we would be authentic members of the kingdom of heaven, then we will choose deliberate humility and Christ like service – this should be our aspiration. If we would be authentic members of the kingdom of heaven we would take seriously Jesus’ comments on position seekers and keep Christ’s Church free from Phariseeism, power broking and position seeking.


Espresso Quotes

Espresso Quotes

Sometimes a writer captures the essence of an idea so succinctly that it reminds me of an espresso – all that body and flavour contained in such a small package, just asking to be tasted. So, without making a latte of an espresso, here’s a wonderfully succinct word from John Frame:

“God, therefore, has the ultimate viewpoint on the world – the broadest, deepest understanding of it. His word about himself or about the world, therefore, is more credible than any other word or any other means of knowing. It obligates belief, trust, and obedience.”

John Frame, The Doctrine of God (A Theology of Lordship, volume 2), p. 81


Beware of being religious!

Matthew 12:9-14 tells the story of Jesus going to the synagogue one Sabbath day. It’s the equivalent of our going to church on a Sunday morning. When Jesus arrives there is a crowd centred around a helpless man. He is helpless because his hand is withered, and that puts him at the bottom of the heap, unable to work in meaningful way, unable to provide, and despised.

Jesus’ immediate response is to liken this poor man to a sheep in trouble and himself to the shepherd who, of course will help the helpless sheep. And with that he heals the man! The Pharisees’ response is to conspire to destroy Jesus!

Beware of being religious! The Pharisees were the respectable face of religion in Jesus’ day. They would have been the ones in the suits, with large, obviously read Bibles, the smart, well to do pillars of society that stood around in lobbies and hob nobbed with the professional church leaders, that ran things; they would have been, on the surface, the pinnacle of church life. People looked up to them. Sadly, they looked down on people!

The man with the withered hand was not respectable, he was not looked up to, he was looked down on and despised by the religious synagogue worshippers.

Our response to good done by others or received by others is very telling. If, like the Pharisees, we resent the good done in Christ by others for others then we need to re-evaluate our faith. As Jesus pointed out in the parable of the moneylender in Luke 7:47, those who are forgiven little love little. The most genuine faith in and love for God is generally found in those who have been lifted from sin, not those who come from a religious background.

The irony is that we are all forgiven much – many of us just fail to see it! And that in itself is a grievous sin!

So, we should see ourselves in the helpless man and not in the Pharisee. We should rejoice to see others lifted, healed, restored, forgiven, and rejoice to see other believers being the people God uses to bring about that restoration. Jealousy of those who are doing good or who have received good has no place in the Kingdom of Heaven!

Don’t look down on the rough and ready, the needy, the less cultured or educated – that is the religion of the Pharisees. Don’t ever forget that you, personally, have been forgiven much, and love much in return. Love God, love Jesus, love Jesus’ people.


On Walking the Path


Deuteronomy 28 begins with the instruction to be careful to do “all his commandments”. This is a constant theme right through the first 5 books of the Bible. The covenant relationship of Israel with their God is all encompassing – the whole life – this is why it is often described as a ‘walk’. What we often miss is the positive nature of this covenant relationship. Apart from the 10 commandments, and some lists of the most heinous moral outrages the goal of the covenant is wholeheartedly godly living – it is a positive aspiration. It is not “What should I not do?” but rather “What should I do?”.

Western culture tends to see perfection in terms of absence of blemish or flaw; the biblical picture is one of fullness of good. One concentrates on individual failures, the other looks to build good upon good.

The covenants is to faithfully obey the voice of the Lord – being careful to do all his commandments. This is a whole life relationship, living in, with and for God, looking to him in all things.

The entire thrust of the Old Testament is to show godward living as the ideal, the norm for the child of Israel. This is what living as the people of God is all about.

Our prayer morning by morning should be:

Lord, by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ I am yours. How can I live today as yours? By your Spirit help me so to live.