Some Reflections on Paul before Felix

Today we read about Paul being dragged before a court to defend himself regarding blatantly false charges. 

Read Acts 24

Here’s some things that came to mind/struck me as I read this:

  • The injustice of the accusations against Paul
  • How unfair it was that Paul was left under house arrest for 2 years simply as a favour to the religious leaders
  • How calm, and reasonable, Paul was e.g. ‘you can easily verify that no more than twelve days ago I went up to Jerusalem to worship’
  • How God used this situation as a means of Paul proclaiming the Gospel to the leaders of society

Here are some questions I had after reading it:

  • If I were in Paul’s situation would my conscience be ‘clear before God and man’?
  • When things are unfair, do I respond as reasonably as Paul does?
  • Jesus promised to give his disciples the words to say in these situation (Luke 21:15). Similarly, Paul had been told on several occasions that these types of situations would happen to him e.g. Acts 20:23. I wonder what role these promises played in helping him to remain calm in this situation?
  • In times like these, do I rely on God’s promises?

Peter Lenehan

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Shaking Dust

Read Luke 10

There is a lot going on in this chapter of Luke, so I thought I’d just focus on one issue that came up for me while reading this chapter. In verse 11 Jesus tells his disciples to move on if people reject them and say something like ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you.’

What should we do with this? Does this mean I’m meant to shake the dust off my metaphorical feet (they’re actually quite clean most of the time honestly) and move on from my friends and family who don’t want to hear about Jesus?

I just want to share with you another passage that occurs later on in Luke which I think helps us see that this is probably not the application. In Luke 22:35-38, we read a discussion between Jesus and his disciples that occurred during the last supper

35 Then Jesus asked them, “When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?”

“Nothing,” they answered.

36 He said to them, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. 37 It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’[b]; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfilment.”

38 The disciples said, “See, Lord, here are two swords.”

“That’s enough!” he replied.                                                                                                            

I think this second passage really helps us interpret and understand the first in Luke 10. Firstly, Jesus explicitly brings to fulfilment some of the commands he gave his disciples. I think this shows that the mission Jesus sent his disciples on in Luke 10 was a specific mission that was particularly designed to prepare the way for “where he himself was about to go”. In light of this, I think there are particular, unique, things about this mission that are no longer binding for Christian mission. For instance, Jesus clearly wants his disciples to take a bag with them now. And his harsh reply/rebuke of “that’s enough”, only makes sense if we understand his command to buy a sword and bring a bag, more generally as a command of being prepared.

In light of this, I think there is some aspects of the first mission that Jesus sent his disciples on that were fulfilled during the time of Jesus, and some that are timeless for us today.

Therefore, I for one am not going to give up on sharing my faith with those who don’t want to hear it. I would love to encourage you to do the same and to keep going even if sometimes you do feel discouraged, like moving on, or shaking off that dust off your feet.

Keen to hear you think are the timely and timeless principles of this mission for Jesus’ disciples today.

Peter Lenehan.

 

God shall arise

How are the Psalms fulfilled in light of Christ?

I think this is a massive question way beyond the scope of a post, but here I try to have a go at reading Psalm 68 through the lens of Christ’s death and resurrection. It helped me see things I wouldn’t have seen before.

 68 God shall arise, his enemies shall be scattered;
    and those who hate him shall flee before him! 

It is very easy to read this as just referring to end of the world, judgement day, revelation kind of things. But in light of the resurrection, I think it brings a new perspective. Particularly the notion ‘God shall arise’. God literally did arise, and in that moment he absolutely conquered all of his enemies. What more could they do? If even death wasn’t enough to stop him? They had no other choice but to flee.

As smoke is driven away, so you shall drive them away;
    as wax melts before fire,
    so the wicked shall perish before God!

Possibly reading too much into this, but it sounds like the psalmist is saying that even after God has arisen, he will drive them away over time. The image of wax melting supports this I think. While God’s enemies have fled before him at the resurrection, they haven’t been totally annihilated. But God promises that just as wax will inevitably melt before a fire, so too will evil eventually be wiped out before him.

But the righteous shall be glad;
    they shall exult before God;
    they shall be jubilant with joy!

The use of ‘But’ might be an acknowledgement of the fact that even though this will take time, the righteous will be glad. Even though evil will be allowed to flee for sometime, there will be joy for God’s people. Even though evil has not completely perished, there is joy on offer for God’s people. Joy in the fact that he has arisen and done what he promised to do.

I think there is joy to be found in this today. Do we find joy in the fact that our God has arisen. That evil flees before him. That one day, despite the nightmares we see through our media, evil will perish? That this is as inevitable as wax melting before a fire?

At this point I realise that doing this for each verse requires a few more words than I have!!! So I’ll leave it to you!

Praying we would continue to grow in our wonder that our God has arisen.

Peter L

 

 

Random thoughts on Chronicles

Watch this 7min vid if you’re interested in how Chronicles holds together as a whole. https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=388&v=HR7xaHv3Ias

Here’s some thoughts.

This section of Chronicles captures two moments that couldn’t be more different from each other. Firstly, David is given a crown with ‘precious stones’ (20:2), and defeats a number of armies in God’s strength. And yet, in the next chapter, he ‘sinned greatly against God’ because he didn’t trust him to help him with his other battles! This contrast left me contemplating the paradox of how easily success that God gives us can actually make us less trusting of God. I was also left thinking in what ways I rely on my own achievements and ability rather than trusting in him.

It is just so easy to do sometimes.

But if the entire bible points to Christ, how does this section do that? I think at the very least it shows our need for a perfect David. David, in all his goodness, still wasn’t good enough. Even after all he had seen God do, he was still scared of his enemies and so wanted to know exactly how many soldiers he had. He did this rather than trust that God would be with him regardless. This shows me our need for a king who really does trust God despite his own ability, crowns and achievements. The way Jesus trusted his father’s will at the cross, rather than his own will, is testament to this (Mk 14:35).

A random point I also found interesting, is that behind David’s lack of faith was Satan tempting/”enticing” him (21:1). A quick Bible Gateway search showed that this is one of the very few references to Satan in the entire OT besides Job and Zechariah. Despite this temptation though, David is still held responsible for how he acted. Passages like this confirm to me that even though there are so many factors that ultimately lead us to sin that are beyond our control, there is still some level of responsibility for all our actions.  I know personally that I use situations I find myself in as an excuse for sin. A Classic example is when people are jerks to me and I feel like this somehow makes being a jerk to them defensible. This passage clearly shows that no matter what the circumstances surrounding our temptation, even if we are being directly tempted by Satan himself, even if this reduces some of our responsibility, there is still a level of responsibility to all our actions. Maybe this is part and parcel of taking for ourselves the knowledge of good and evil.

Contemplating my need for a Saviour, and the excuses I use,

Peter L

In God, whose word I praise — in God I trust and am not afraid.

Here’s some thoughts:

While this Psalm is clearly very personal and talks about a particular moment in David’s life, he clearly thought it had abiding significance for God’s people. I think we can assume this because he put it into song. I think most people when they put something into song, do it so other people can hear it, sing along to and resonate with it.

In light of this, while there are lots of the specifics I don’t think we can necessarily resonate with (I’ve never been captured by Philistines), I do think there is a lot here that speaks about our walk with Christ particularly in light of the Cross. Here’s some things I noticed.

I wonder if when David wrote it he realised how much a line like “you have delivered me from death” would mean in light of what Jesus has done? I can only assume he was referring to a physical death. A single moment where death was almost certain. I imagine Israelites singing this must have also thought in these terms about God’s grace to them in light of the nations surrounding them. And yet now we can say that God has saved us from death eternally! I just thought that was such an interesting way Christ fulfilled this Psalm.

Another thing I noticed was that David talks about why God has delivered him from death. He says

For you have delivered me from death and my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before God in the light of life.

I’m not entirely sure what this phrase meant to David, but it sounds like it means walking before God, and in his sight. And yet Jesus said “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12). I wonder if Jesus was thinking of this psalm when he used that term? From this, I love the idea that we both walk before God – as David’s psalm tells us, yet also behind him as we follow Christ – as Jesus told us.

“In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. (John 1:4)

Peter L

 

 

 

 

Questions about Hebrews…

Read Proverbs 9, Heb 11:17-12:3

I think a passage like Hebrews 11 shows me just how little understand about God. I just came up with so many questions as I read it! Here’s two of them and some very tentative thoughts.

What does it mean that ‘by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead?’

I wonder if what he means is that Abel’s life, his faithfulness to God and desire to please him still speaks to us today?

I’m not really sure about this though, because in all honesty, Abel’s story really only takes up a few verses. While it does ‘speak’ in the sense that his story is part of the word of God and has abiding relevance for our lives, Abel himself doesn’t utter a word! Not to mention, he’s not exactly the first person I think of when I think of martyrs or someone to draw inspiration from? This is probably overthinking it though, and I would be keen to hear what people think the writer of the Hebrews means.

Moses is said to have ‘regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt’. How though, when Christ had not yet been revealed, could he have regarded disgrace for him as worth it?

Not sure. But somehow Moses’ persecutions for God’s sake, and his peoples, was really for Christ. Reflecting on this has added more depth to the parable of the sheep and the goats for me (Matt 25).

When Jesus says to those on his right “Come, you who are blessed by my Father take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.” And they reply “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?” There will literally be people there, like Moses, who never met, knew or heard of Jesus from OT times! I often think of that parable in post-Christ terms, but it certainly adds a new dimension to it for me thinking of those who lived, died and suffered for his sake before they even were aware of the incredible promises, hope and life he brings.

Feeling confused about Abel, thankful for living this side of the Cross, and encouraged and ashamed by the witness of those faithful men and women pre-Christ.

Peter L

 

 

Thanks Geoff.

Read Mark 14:1-11

There are some sermons that stick with you for life. I remember one Sunday when Geoff spoke on Mark 14:1-11. I must’ve been 17.

I remember him telling the story of a man who was deeply frustrated with the way others worshiped. This frustration grew over time until one night he’d had enough. He became so frustrated by the way others worshiped, it led him to a dark place. It led him to hate someone who had shown him nothing but kindness. Who had done nothing but serve him. He was talking about Judas. The act of worship was the way the woman came and poured perfume on his head.

I remember those words cutting like knives. I reflected on how something that seemed so innocent to begin with, discontentment, mild frustration, led to me actually disliking people who had shown me nothing but kindness. Who had done nothing but seek to serve me. This parallel has stayed with me and continues to challenge and humble me as I reflect on my own attitude.

This passage also makes me wonder how, if I was there, I would have responded? I think sadly I would’ve been no different from the disciples. Their pragmatic cry resonates with me. ‘It could have been sold for more than a years wages and given to the poor!’ I wonder if that’s really what they would have done. I wonder if that’s really what I would have done.

My prayer is that we would continue to reflect on Geoff’s insight and assess our attitudes towards the way others worship our Lord,

“Search me, God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting.”

Psalm 139:23-24

Peter Lenehan