Thought for the week 24/01/22 

authority 

Power and authority

You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you.”
Mark 10:42-43
 
There’s a moment in Jesus’ ministry when it looks like it’s all over – before it’s even begun. For 3 years Jesus has been training, working, and living alongside 12 handpicked followers. These disciples are the ones Jesus believed would lead his church. They were his successors. And it nearly all falls apart.
 
How did something so good nearly go so very wrong?
 
It all started on a journey. I’m sure we all have experienced journeys that have gone wrong. Perhaps we have taken a wrong running late at night. It could be that the sat nav was set to argumentative mode. We’re told that Jesus and the disciples were on their way up to Jerusalem when Jesus tells them that he will be arrested, condemned to death, and killed.
 
James and John react to this earth-shattering news from Jesus. Not with tears because their friend is about to die. Not with anger because it will be unjust and wrong. Not even with a move to defend their rabbi. Instead, they say to Jesus: “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask” (Mark 10:35)
 
It is utterly shocking. Yet also frighteningly familiar.
 
How often do we ask Jesus to do what we want rather than simply praying ‘Your will be done’?
 
Instead of putting these 2 disciples back into line Jesus asked: “What do you want me to do for you?”
 
To which James and John reply: “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.”
 
James and John had left a successful business and a secure future to follow Jesus. They knew that they could not get the top position – so they wanted the next best. They wanted power.
 
It was fine to follow Jesus. It was even acceptable to give things up to follow Jesus. But now was the time for the reward. And the reward they sought was power.
 
We’re told that the other 10 were indignant with James and John. The fragile unity among Jesus’ closest followers was disintegrating. I wonder why the others were so annoyed with James and John? Was it because they too wanted those top positions?
 
Power. It’s the same reward so many of us seek today.
 
Power to control my finances. Power to look after myself. Power to do as I want when I want. People are after power.
 
“Not so with you.”
 
Jesus has an alternative way of living for his followers.
 
“Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.”
 
Why?
 
“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45)
 
Followers of Jesus must first be servants. What does a servant look like today? It might look like doing those tasks nobody ever notices or thanks you for. It might mean letting someone else take the praise you think you deserve. In lots of different ways, we are called to follow Jesus by serving God and others.
 
What can you do for Jesus today? Who might you serve?

Keith Wilson, 24/01/2022

 Thought for the week 17/01/22

 Speak truth

Talking about the Truth

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” John 14:6
 
By the time you read this we may very well have a new leader. Speculation about his future has been mounting for weeks. After a series of disastrous performances, the truth has been exposed. But that’s enough about the situation at Reading Football Club.
 
This week the news has been dominated by this word ‘truth.’
 
Did they or didn’t they tell the truth?
 
From Princes to politicians. From tennis players to football managers. It seems that many people struggle with the truth. Which we probably knew anyway. Because if we’re honest with ourselves we too struggle with the truth.
 
For example, if your beloved spouse asked for your opinion about a new outfit they’ve just purchased – what would you say? If you wanted a quiet night alone while your partner sulked, you might risk an honest answer, “Is it meant to have lumpy bits that stick out?”
 
Or if your friend asked for your honest opinion about a new job they were applying for, what would you say? If you’re hoping to get home quicker, you might give truly truthful answer, “Really! Wow! I thought only really clever people applied for that role!”
 
Truth is we might be much more diplomatic and try to cover over some difficult facts.
 
Who can we trust to tell us the truth?
 
The Gospel of John records a conversation between Jesus and his disciples. Jesus tries to reassure his disciples by saying, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me” John 14:1
 
Jesus then talks about his going to prepare a place for them in his Father’s house adding, “You know the way to the place where I am going.” John 14:4
 
There’s only one problem with this fact – the disciples actually have no idea where Jesus is going.
 
Thomas says, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
 
To which Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6
 
Jesus is the truth.
 
That means his claims are true. Jesus claimed to be the Son of God.
 
That means his teachings are true. Jesus taught that all people including you and I have sinned and need a saviour.
 
That means that Jesus’ actions are true. Jesus went to the cross to forgive us for our sins.
 
Jesus is the truth.
 
And everyone who trusts what Jesus said, taught and did has a hope they can trust. One day we will get to go to our Father’s house.
 
This week can you and I follow Jesus by being truth tellers and pointing people to the one who is “the way, the truth and the life.”

Keith Wilson, 17/01/2022

Thought for the week 10/01/22

 Priorities

Getting our Priorities Right

Then Haggai, the LORD’s messenger, gave this message of the LORD to the people…” Haggai 1:13
 
Haggai was a prophet and not an extra in a Harry Potter film. The book of Haggai is in our Bibles but is often overlooked. Haggai had a message from God. For 70 years the people of God had been exiled away from their homes to the land of Babylonia. Haggai’s prophetic ministry began in 520BC, almost 20 years after the first exiles had returned. Exile had done much damage to the physical and spiritual state of Israel.
 
For years people had longed for a return to their old lives in their own land. Other prophets had promised a glorious restoration after the exile. Yet for returnees in Jerusalem the reality was difficult.
 
The people of Israel had come back only to face drought and failed harvest. Everyone was busy but nothing seemed to be going right. Why were things so tough for the people of God?
 
To explain, God sent a messenger.
 
Haggai noted that the people now lived in fine houses. After their return people had worked hard to put their own homes in order. Yet the temple remined a ruin. The people had been rescued from exile and their response was to side-line God.
 
It was a case of wrong priorities.
 
We do not live in Jerusalem, and we have neither a ruined nor a complete temple. Yet God has rescued us too. Is our response to being saved by Jesus to push God to the margins of our lives?
 
Does Haggai still have a message for us?
 
Haggai makes it clear that focusing only on our own needs can lead to disaster. Our jobs. Our homes. Our families. Our free time. These are all good gifts given to us by God. But if our ‘own homes’ take a priority over serving the living God – trouble will soon come.
 
In Haggai 1:5 there is a challenge for the people of Israel – and for us. ‘Give careful thought to your ways.’
 
The start of a New Year is a good time to look afresh at our priorities. Where does God feature in the list of things we want to get done.
 
How much time will we give to serving God?
 
What do our finances tell us about our priorities?
 
Are there areas of church life we could be helping with or supporting more?
 
After hearing the words of Haggai we’re told that the people ‘came and began to work on the house of the LORD Almighty, their God.’ Haggai 1:14
 
And then something hugely significant is said.
“Be strong, all you people of the land,’ declares the LORD, ‘and work. For I am with you.’ Haggai 2:4
 
God is always with us. His love for us is unconditional. Yet when we make it our priority to put God first – our awareness of this unconditional love and presence increases. Working with God changes our relationship with God. No longer is God a dull theory for sleepy Sunday sermons– rather He is the living, breathing, to be feared, number one focus of our lives.
 
When asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus replied that the most important one was this:
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” (Mark 12:30)
 
In 2022 how can we make serving the living God our priority?
 

Keith Wilson, 10/01/2022