Posts Tagged ‘Rome’

challengePresident John F. Kennedy, in his speech accepting the Democratic nomination in Los Angeles (on 15 July 1960) said, ‘We stand today on the edge of a new frontier … but the new frontier of which I speak is not a set of promises – it is a set of challenges. It sums up not what I intend to offer the American people, but what I intend to ask of them.’

Life is a set of challenges, problems and hassles. We sometimes imagine that if we could just deal with the immediate challenge that we are facing, all our problems would be over. But life is not like that. If we resolve one problem, others are just around the corner.

The temptation is to see these challenges as preventing us from carrying out the ministry God has given us. In actual fact, dealing with the problems is the ministry. As one former Bishop of Kensington put it: ‘These are not the problems associated with the ministry, they are the ministry.’

The Bible is true to life. The psalmist faced pain and distress. Paul faced false accusation and the frustration of being kept in prison on trumped up charges. The kings in the Old Testament faced battles and a massive building project challenge.

As I read the passages for today, I am reminded that the relatively minor challenges, problems and hassles that I face are nothing compared to what the people of God have faced in the past, and still face around the world today.

1. Talk to God about the problems

Psalm 81:1-7Are you in a time of testing? God sometimes allows us to be tested, as he allowed his people to be tested by the waters of Meribah (v.7, see Numbers 20). But he does not want you to face the tests and challenges of life alone. You can talk to him about your problems.

God says, ‘I removed the burden from their shoulders … In your distress you called and I rescued you’ (vv.6a–7a). Or as The Message puts it:

‘I took the world off your shoulders,
freed you from a life of hard labour.
You called to me in your pain;
I got you out of a bad place’ (vv.6–7a, MSG).

We are reminded of the importance and power of prayer. Whatever situations or difficulties you may face, you can bring them to God in prayer.

God removed their burdens and rescued them in their distress. The psalmist starts, therefore, with worship, celebration and joy: ‘Sing for joy to God our strength!’ (v.1).

Lord, thank you that you are my strength and joy as I face challenges and problems in life. Thank you that you remove the burden from my shoulders. Thank you that I can call on you in my distress and that you rescue me. Lord, I call on you today to rescue me from …

2. Trust that God is in control

Acts 25:1-22Faith means trusting God. ‘Faith’, as C.S. Lewis wrote, ‘is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods.’ It is hard to trust God when everything seems to be going wrong.

Luke records Paul’s trial in a very objective and unemotional way. This must have been an extraordinarily frustrating time for Paul. This great leader of the church, evangelist and teacher is locked away, apparently unable to exercise the ministry to which he has been called by God. He is in custody, enduring the physical constraints and discomfort of imprisonment, such as poor diet and lack of hygiene.

Serious charges are brought against Paul (25:1–7). He defends himself by pointing out that he has done ‘nothing wrong’ (vv.8,10). But Festus was more interested in what people thought (v.9) than in what was right. He was more concerned about popularity than justice. In the end, Paul appeals to Caesar (v.11).

When King Agrippa arrives, Festus discusses Paul’s case with him. Festus says, ‘When his accusers got up to speak, they did not charge him with any of the crimes I had expected. Instead, they had some points of dispute with him about their own religion and about a dead man named Jesus whom Paul claimed was alive’ (vv.18–19).

This reminds us that the resurrection of Jesus should always be at the heart of the message we proclaim. The only accusation that could be made to stick was that Paul was preaching that Jesus was alive, yet numerous other accusations and false charges had been brought against him.

For Paul, in the midst of all these difficulties and frustrations, it must have been very hard to see what good might possibly come out of all the dishonesty, delays and dithering in his trials. Yet, as always, God was at work for good. As Paul himself wrote, ‘We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose’ (Romans 8:28).

First, in the short term, it resulted in an opportunity for Paul to speak to Agrippa. After hearing all about Paul, Agrippa said to Festus, ‘I would like to hear this man myself’ (Acts 25:22). In times of frustration and hassle we never know when opportunities may appear, but sometimes they do.

Second, in the medium term, it resulted in Paul being sent to Rome. Paul had expressed his desire to go to Rome to preach the gospel (see Acts 19:21, Romans 1:15, 15:23), and the Lord himself had spoken to Paul saying that he would testify in Rome (Acts 23:11). It was because of what took place in Paul’s defence of himself that he was eventually sent to Rome.

Third, in the long term, 2,000 years later, vast numbers of people have read Paul’s story and been encouraged to know that he too faced false imprisonment, accusations and criticism. I suspect that Paul would have been astonished in the midst of all these difficulties to know how much good was going to come of them.

Lord, thank you that you are with us whenever we face accusation and criticism, from colleagues at work or the press or wherever else it might be. Thank you that through all of these frustrations of life you work together for the good of those who love you and are called according to your purpose (Romans 8:28).

3. Take the opportunities that God gives you

2 Kings 12:1-14:22In the middle of this rather depressing history of the kings of Israel and Judah, there is an incident in the life of Elisha that encourages us to take every opportunity that God gives us, to be persistent and never give up.

Leaders are a mixed bag. Some do ‘evil in the eyes of the Lord’ (13:2,11). Some do ‘right in the eyes of the Lord’ (14:3).

God is extraordinarily gracious and when Jehoahaz, who did evil in the eyes of the Lord, ‘sought the Lord’s favour … the Lord listened to him’ (13:4). Whenever you seek the Lord’s favour he listens to you.

In this list of Israel’s leaders Joash was probably the best example. He ‘did what was right in the eyes of the Lord’ (12:2), even if it was only for part of his reign.

Joash took on a building project. Like many building projects, it took far longer than he expected: ‘But by the twenty-third year of King Joash the priests still had not repaired the temple’ (v.6). The king calls a meeting and asks, ‘Why aren’t you repairing the damage done to the temple?’ (v.7).

They do eventually get on with the work. They collect the money they need (v.11). They all acted with complete honesty (v.15) and progress was made.

Of course, today God’s temple is no longer primarily a physical building but the people of God. Our money and effort should go into building up the people of God – in number (evangelism), in maturity (discipleship) and in care for the community (social transformation). However, sometimes we need buildings for this and it is not wrong to spend money on the infrastructure of church when necessary.

As well as the challenge of buildings, the people of God faced the challenge of battles. In particular, in this passage we see how they had to face Aram. Elisha says to the king of Israel, ‘Get a bow and some arrows … Take the arrows … Strike the ground’ (13:15–18). The king ‘struck it three times and stopped’ (v.18c). Elisha said, ‘You should have struck the ground five or six times; then you would have defeated Aram and completely destroyed it. But now you will defeat it only three times’ (v.19).

Challenges will be with us throughout our lives, believe me. I know this. So hold on to the above promises from God, and know that God will never leave or foresake you.

Lord, as we face battles ahead, give us a determination not to give up but to persevere and carry through to the end.

prayerToday we’re going to study the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector and learn why God accepted one and not the other. The parable is found in Luke 18:9-14:

Some Background

“Jesus spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others.” (Luke 18:9)

Jesus told this parable to people who were trusting in their good works to make themselves right with God. These were people who did good things, and thought that because they received praise from men, they would also receive praise from God. But Proverbs 14:12 tells us that “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.”

The mistake they made was looking at things from man’s perspective instead of God’s perspective. Jesus had met people like this before in Luke 16:15 – “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God.”

“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.” (Luke 18:10)

Jesus begins by holding up the best and worse society has to offer – Pharisees and tax collectors.

The Pharisees:

– Were a sect of Judaism. Their name means “separate”. They sought to live separately from the godless by strictly following the law.

– Believed in many of the same things Christians believe — the resurrection of the dead, future rewards and punishments, angels and demons, the providence of God and the books that make up the Old Testament.

– Put great emphasis on good works such as feeding the poor, visiting the sick and caring for orphans.

– Were loved and respected by the people. Mothers would pray their sons would grow up to be Pharisees.

Tax Collectors:

– Worked for Rome. The Roman government didn’t collect their own taxes. They divided the empire up into districts then sold the rights to collect taxes in each district.

– Were often Jews and were considered traitors because they served Rome.

– Made their money by overcharging people. For example if Rome said a person owed $100, a tax collector might charge $200, and pocket half.

– Were described as having a life of “unrestrained plunder, unblushing greed and shameless business”.

Now we would expect the Pharisee to be right with God and the Tax Collector to be condemned. But that’s not how the parable goes.

The Prayers

“The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men–extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’” (Luke 18:11-12)

Notice two things about the Pharisee’s prayer:

1) The Pharisee makes no mention of his sin. People tend to have the ability to see sin in others but not in themselves.

2) The Pharisee holds up his religious deeds as the reason he feels he’s right with God

Now let’s look at the tax collector’s prayer.

“And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!” (Luke 18:13)

1 John 1:9 tells us that “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” And that’s what the tax collector did. He knew his sin was great, and that he had no way of paying for his sin, so he simply begged God for mercy.

Who Are We Comparing Ourselves To?

“’I tell you, this man – the tax collector – went down to his house justified rather than the other; For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:14)

1 John 1:8 reminds us that “if we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” That’s the Pharisee. He deceived himself into thinking he was without sin. Instead of comparing himself to God’s perfection, he compared himself to man’s imperfection.

Here’s another way to look at it: Let’s say I offer you a glass of water. You look at the glass and notice that it looks dirty. You say, “You know, this glass looks dirty.”

I respond, “Oh, the glass is contaminated with deadly bacteria, but don’t worry, it’s filled with spring water.” Would you drink it? Of course not, because it doesn’t matter how clean the water is, the glass has contaminated everything within it.

Think of the glass as our hearts and our deeds as the water that fills the glass. Some people lead very bad lives — like our tax collector — they fill their glass with ditch water.

Others – like our Pharisee — lead wonderful lives. They fill their glass with spring water. They boast because their glass is filled with spring water while the tax collector’s is filled with ditch water.

But it doesn’t matter whether your glass is filled with ditch water or spring water, the glass is dirty. The good deeds you offer God to earn your salvation are contaminated through sin and He cannot accept them.

But God will give a new glass to any one who asks.

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezek 36:26)

Christ’s heart is pure, and His work is pure, and His sacrifice on the cross is pure. Romans 5:9 tells us that those who call on Christ to save them are now “justified by His blood” and “saved from wrath through Him.”

Our good deeds, then, are not done to earn our salvation but done out of appreciation of our salvation.

God doesn’t take good people and make them better, nor does He leave bad people without hope. God, through Jesus Christ, takes sinners and makes them a new creation, forgiven, able to stand blameless, able to be called children of God.

  • he date was chosen by the Roman Catholic Church. Because Rome dominated most of the “Christian” world for centuries, the date became tradition throughout most of Christendom.
  • The original significance of December 25 is that it was a well-known festival day celebrating the annual return of the sun. December 21 is the winter solstice (shortest day of the year and thus a key date on the calendar), and December 25 is the first day that ancients could clearly note that the days were definitely getting longer and the sunlight was returning.
  • So, why was December 25 chosen to remember Jesus Christ’s birth with a mass (or Communion supper)? Since no one knows the day of his birth, the Roman Catholic Church felt free to chose this date. The Church wished to replace the pagan festival with a Christian holy day (holiday). The psychology was that is easier to take away an unholy (but traditional) festival from the population, when you can replace it with a good one. Otherwise, the Church would have left a void where there was a long-standing tradition, and risked producing a discontented population and a rapid return to the old ways.

Will a human being ever swim across the ocean? Run a one-minute mile? Go six months without sleeping? Of course not because there are just certain things that we’re not designed to do. Yes, because of the rapidly changing condition of modern living—largely due to progress always giving us more and more of everything faster and faster—we are always trying to exceed our limits in areas at all the same time. The pain from this attempt can easily be seen. People everywhere are collapsing in exhaustion, wondering what happened?

What hit them was overload. This can be defined as the point at which our limits are exceeded. “Load” is not the problem. “Over” is the problem. We have all heard about the straw that broke the camel’s back. When a camel is loaded to the max, just a little straw can break him. The problem is not the load, camels love to carry loads. The problem is the straw, or the overload.

Stress is such an accepted part of our modern culture that most of us accept it as normal. In reality, distress distorts our physical, mental, and emotional health, and affects our attitudes, marriages, work, and even ministry. We can overload ourselves to the point that we burn out and are no longer effective in God‘s work.

Maximizing everything of course has become the way of the world. We push the limits as far as possible. We spend more than we have, whether it be money, time, or energy. Jesus, however, never seemed to be in a hurry. there’s no indication that he worked 24 hour days. He went to sleep every night without curing every disease in Israel. He followed god’s agenda, and so He was perfectly effective.

Jesus understood what it means to be human, and what it means to have limits. Jesus knew what it meant to prioritize and balance in light of these limits and how to focus on the important things. Our Lord knew that busyness does not have to mean Godliness. He’s more concerned with the quality of our lives. He calls us to be fruitful, but he also insists that our fruit should “remain,” not burn out.

God has created a great big, beautiful world for us to live in until He calls us to his to live an eternity, so we need to make the most out of what we have here. We can’t enjoy life, and be an example of Christ to others, if we’re running around stressed out about being overloaded all the time. Take your load to Jesus in prayer and ask him to lighten it. Take some of the weight off of those shoulders, and you’ll learn to enjoy life a lot more.

 

Some verses for peaceful living.

John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

 

Matthew 11:28-30 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

 

Romans 8:31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

 

1 John 4:18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.

 

Luke 6:48 He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built.

 

Psalm 119:71It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes.

 

John 16:33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”