14th July 2024 

Jesus’ amazing point is that God is not far off for anyone. This is the starting point for anyone is to hear his opening vision “The Kingdom of God is near”, that is, God is available (Matthew 4:17). This is radical! God has no favourites. Unless we get this, we won’t be able to hear the next amazing point that Jesus teaches.

Because Jesus’ next point is amazing: you are salt, you are light! (Matthew 5:13-16). You. 

Remember Jesus is explaining to people like you and me who have been captured by the kind of person Jesus is. Suddenly he turns the attention to us. What he says is life-giving and empowering. You are salty and light. He means you are able to preserve and bring out the best in this world God has given you. You are able to bring truth and security and direction to this world God has given you. Jesus is affirming that God’s plans in creating you have not changed (Genesis 1:26-28). He wants you to be a force for good in this world. 

Stop looking over your shoulder thinking that Jesus is talking about someone else. He is not talking about the people we think have got it all together. He is talking to any person who is attracted to what Jesus is doing and explaining. So, don’t look over your shoulder, instead go to the bathroom, look in the mirror and say, “Jesus says, I am the salt of the earth, I am the light of the world.” Do it every morning this week. 

7th July 2024

Because of the wonder that was happening with the crowds, the disciples came near to Jesus; they wanted to understand what he was doing (Matthew 5:1).

Wonder is where discipleship to Jesus starts for you and me too. What is happening Jesus? So, Jesus explains in Matthew 5:3-11. This part has been called the beatitudes, which simply means blessings. But! We must read them in context. This is all about grace.

Jesus is not saying look at the crowds and because they are spiritually lost, mourning, meek etc they are blessed. No, not because, but despite. Jesus is teaching that experiencing God being near, available is not determined by your circumstances. 

We think that God seems far off; look at the messes we live in. But we assume that until we get our act together, he won’t come near. I need to be good enough – wrong! But neither is Jesus saying you need to be “weak” in the way he lists. He is saying that no-one deserves the kingdom, not even the poor in spirit etc.

Jesus’ amazing point is that God is not far off for anyone. The starting point for anyone is to hear his opening vision “The Kingdom of God is near”, that is, God is available (Matthew 4:17). This is radical! God has no favourites. Unless we get this, we won’t be able to hear the next amazing point that Jesus teaches. 

Are you blessed by God, despite your circumstances? Ask me to help you discover this.

30th June 2024 

If we’re really going to be disciples of Jesus, we will need to be captured by his vision of who we are. I wonder how much vision we have through what Jesus is actually saying? 

Over the next weeks, these reflections will be from the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew chapters 5-7). We must understand the context of what Jesus says in this sermon if we are really going to live the vision. 

Matthew begins, “Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountains side and sat down. His disciples came to him and he began to teach them.” We must not rush past this crucial sentence! 

Firstly, crowds! Everyone wanted to be around Jesus. Is that your view of God? Is God the kind of being you want to be around? Or are you here at church to “hedge your bets”, out of fear, because of tradition, to get on God’s good side? There is a big difference between this and what we see happening around Jesus. The Jesus who was talking about God was attractive, because the God of whom he spoke was attractive. The Good News that Jesus shared was the “God is available” (The kingdom of heaven is near, Matthew 4:17).  

That is, God was making himself available to everyday people, little old you. Do you know that? Does it warm your heart? God wants to be near you? If you’re not sure, don’t stay in doubt. Please, come and talk to me about it. God is really glad that you exist. 

23rd June 2024 

Observe Jesus trusting God’s way in the everyday (money, relationships etc) and do the same: that’s what discipleship is all about. 

Who do you follow when it comes to relationships, money, retirement, parenting, conflict? Is Jesus the expert in these areas, or not? It is possible to think that Jesus is just an expert on death, or avoiding hell. If that’s the case, Jesus is only worth consulting on things like the afterlife. 

So, I wonder if you’ve noticed that the majority of what Jesus talks about is related to the here and now? Perhaps the most extended reflection on the here and now is recorded in Matthew 5-7, referred to as the sermon on the mount. Everything that Jesus talks about in that sermon is about living now. He deals with anger, lust, revenge, rewards, possessions, giving advice and more. Jesus is an expert on now. Do you believe that? 

Jesus does not divide life into two stages, the present and the future. He argues that the Kingdom of God is available now. He urges us to enter into this current reality to deal with everyday issues. 

Discipleship to Jesus is not preparing you for “heaven when you die”. Discipleship to Jesus is allowing you to live heaven now, that is, the reality of God with you. Jesus’ death and resurrection assure you that you will not be wasting your life if you follow him now, in fact you will save it. Over the next weeks we’ll unpack what Jesus has to say about how to live now as his follower. 

16th June 2024 

At one time, Jesus and his followers found themselves in a boat in a huge storm (Mark 4:35-41). Jesus was asleep, while the others were in fear of death. They wake Jesus, “Teacher don’t you care if we drown?” Jesus’ response is, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” 

I suspect that the disciples were thinking, “What do you mean why are we afraid, we were about to die?!” And Jesus’ answer would have been, “So what?”  

This incident in the storm is instructive for our conversation on “making disciples” (see website blog for the previous discussion). Jesus can sleep in the storm because he has learned through experience that his good heavenly father will always keep him safe. Now that doesn’t mean not dying; Jesus will die the worst kind of death, one that is unfair, cruel and shame filled. Yet even at that point he can say, “I commend my whole being to you Father” (Luke 23:46). 

Last week I asked, “If a am diagnosed with cancer do I deal with that by Google or God?” The starting point that Jesus longs for us to understand is that cancer cannot kill me, any more than the storm on the lake. Not because I won’t physically die, but because reality is far bigger than what is seen. When Jesus rises from death he is confirmed as the one who holds a greater knowledge about reality than us. How will I start to experience this? Well, like Jesus: observe Jesus trusting God’s way in the every day (money, relationships etc) and doing the same.  

9th June 2024

Why is Jesus smarter? That’s the question I left with you last week. You can find the previous parts to this discussion below. 

Let me put the question another way, “It is not possible to trust Jesus, or anyone else, in matters where we do not believe him to be competent. We cannot pray for his help and rely on his collaboration in dealing with real-life matters we suspect might defeat his knowledge or abilities… if Jesus were divine would he be dumb? Or uninformed?” (quote from Dallas Willard) 

Where you and I look for help is the fruit of who we believe is smartest. A quick prayer to Jesus to heal us from a diagnosis of cancer, while we devote hours to read every internet page we can on treatments and how to save myself should trouble the person who says “I follow Jesus.” Think about it: it’s not that human wisdom has no value in cancer treatment, but if my way of dealing with life is really Google and not God, what do I also really believe about Jesus? This is a very serious discussion that we must have as a community following Jesus. Does Jesus have more knowledge about cancer and how to deal with it than google, and how do I live out the belief that he has more knowledge? 

The claim of Jesus is that he holds all knowledge and the future of the universe in his hand (Colossian 1:17; 2:3; Revelation 1:5). Do I believe this? It’s okay if you’re not sure! We don’t work ourselves up into belief, we must experience it (let’s talk about that next week). 

2nd June 2024

Let’s keep talking about what Jesus means by “making disciples”. You can find the previous parts to this discussion below. The second part of what Jesus means by “making disciples” is “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded” (Matthew 28:18-20).

Here is the important question: is Jesus the smartest person you know? I don’t mean the smartest religious person you know. I mean the smartest, smarter than Einstein? I don’t just mean intelligent either. Is Jesus better (smarter) at cooking than Jamie Oliver, better at finances than Warren Buffet, better at IT than Steve Jobs, better at gardening than Don Burke, better at football than… insert your favourite player?

I’m serious. Is Jesus the smartest person you know, in the sense that what he says about life and how to live it to the full tops everyone else? Jesus is calling us to apprentice ourselves to him, not just in one area of life, but all of life. That means Jesus know the best way to cook and garden, deal with finances and IT, even play football. Remember, Peter had to learn that Jesus is the best fisherman, twice (Luke 5; John 21).

If we don’t understand this, we won’t obey Jesus in every area of life, like an apprentice would. That would be also why we don’t experience the reality of God being with us in everything we do. If we want Jesus just for religious experience and then other experts for what we call “real life” we will find ourselves in all sorts of mess. 

Why is Jesus smarter? Tune in next week.

26th May 2024

When Jesus said, “make disciples” he begins to explain what he means by the next words: “baptising them into the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit… (Matthew 28:18-20).

The word “baptise” simple means “immerse” or “surround”. Although Jesus might have meant “with water” he certainly means more than a symbolic act. He means, immerse those you invite to be my apprentices to live in the reality of the Trinitarian God.

Here is the key question: What is real? What is reality? The “world” teaches us to be its apprentice by believing that owning a home, comfortable retirement, wrinkle free skin, sufficient grandchildren, and so on, is ultimate reality.

Jesus is saying that those who apprentice to him immerse themselves into the reality that God is with them now, as Father, Son and Spirit. They would do that because who they see in Jesus, in his life and his death and his resurrection, as more real than mortgages, beauty treatments and continuing the family line (among other possibilities). So, living in the same reality as Jesus makes sense. Again, making disciples is not by force (see last week’s reflection; it’s available on the website). It’s a natural outcome of seeing the world as Jesus presents it as true reality. We want that to “form” (make) us.

More thoughts on this important theme next week.

19th May 2024

In our mission statement we begin with we want to bring glory to God by making… disciples.

It’s possible that you cringe at these words. The word “make” might suggest to you forcing something onto someone, like in the phrase “I’ll make you do this.” So, it’s important that we understand what is meant by these words.

These words come from Jesus. They are part of his last words spoken to his followers in Matthew’s account. Jesus’ life gives us the understanding of what “make disciple” means. Firstly, he never forced anyone; Jesus always invited, “Come…” Secondly, he was serious about following him, not accepting a set of ideas, but living like him (disciple could easily be translated apprentice). So, to accept the invitation is to choose to let Jesus shape the way I think, speak and act. 

We are all “disciples” of something or someone (I’ll let you ponder that; if you really think you are a completely free agent, I’d love to hear more from you over coffee!). Jesus’ last words are saying to the first disciples, it doesn’t stop with you; who I am and the call to follow me continues. As you have become my disciples, apprenticing the way you live to conform to how you see me live, invite others to do the same. Simply put, that’s what is means to “make disciples”. Jesus, whose way brings life in abundance, continues to be offered as we “make disciples”

If you still cringe at this idea, I’d love to have coffee with you too. I’ll continue these thoughts next week.

12th May 2024

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Psalm 139:13-14

God’s good purposes for us involve our mums. Being born is good! You are fearfully and wonderfully made, even if the journey from birth for you has included pain and difficulty. Remember that today, and give thanks to God that your mum did give birth to you.

God’s good saving purposes for the world include mums. He made a promise to Eve that her offspring would one day crush the power of evil, and we can trace that plan through the history of the world, all the way to the birth of Jesus. Jesus knew pain and difficulty too. Yet, finally in this birth, we see how God overrules all evil. Even death has no hold. Being born is good and God wants us to know that he has also given us new birth through Jesus. Being born, does not have to end in death.

Today, as we remember mothers, dwell on these truths. Let the words of Psalm 139 speak into you pain. Let the reality of the birth of Jesus speak into your joy. Let the wholeness and fullness of the Good News of Jesus shape how you celebrate your mum.

Hear these words again: “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Psalm 139:13-14