Jesus is offensive

Often ‘the church’ can say and do really stupid, even horrible, things in the name of Jesus. Individual Christians do the same. Whether by word or behaviour individuals and churches can put others off Christianity. This is a bad thing.

Yet Jesus himself offended people, he appears to have even done so on purpose:

When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”
After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. (John 6:60-66 ESV)

In the discourse of John 6:25-58, Jesus had spoken words of truth to a large crowd of people. What he said offended them, not because it was hard to understand but because what they did understand was offensive. Jesus fully knew it would offend them and he would lose followers but spoke the truth to them anyway. He had no problem with a huge crowd turning away from following him, leaving only twelve disciples.

We must always speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15), but there will be some occasions when the words of Jesus, in fact Jesus himself, is offensive to people and they will turn away. This is heartbreaking, I don’t care how much of, or what kind of, a sinner anyone is the last thing I want is for them to be eternally excluded from fellowship with God. Yet even comprehending the truth – understanding the meaning of the words – some will refuse to follow Christ.

Theology lets us down on the topic of predestination, but Jesus makes it clear enough that unless God enables it to happen, nobody can come to Jesus. So in those awful times when somebody is offended by Christ and cannot see his beauty the most useful thing I can do is pray. I can pray fervently, desperately, that God will grant for that person to see the glory of God in Christ Jesus.

But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? (2 Corinthians 2:14-16 ESV)

Pray for your kids – Willing to work

Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going.
(Ecclesiastes 9:10 ESV)

I guess most parents struggle when their kids are flatly unwilling to pitch in and do a fair share of work around the home. The exact expectations may vary from family to family and between cultures, but part of our task as parents is to train our children in how to work.

God values work, He set Adam the task of tending the garden even before the fall:

The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. (Genesis 2:15 ESV)

When we work we glorify God by doing what He created us to do. After Adam and Eve sinned work became harder, but it is still part of our purpose and so does not have to be a demeaning burden. By teaching our children that work is an expression of what is good about being human and that it glorifies God, we help them to become willing to work hard.

What do I pray?

Pray your children grow into understanding a Biblical perspective on work which enables them to accept it will not be easy but that there is a purpose in all work. Ask Jesus to help them see that as our Father is working, so too it is good for us to work.

Download the prayer prompts:

The first thousand thanks

During this past week I noted my thousandth prayer of gratitude to Jesus for all He gives me. What I’ve learned in the 22 months since I first began recording gifts goes way beyond any pop psychology feel good factor. In fact, for much of this time I’ve not felt good at all and counting blessings hasn’t changed that at an emotional level.

The primary lesson has been a realization of how vast the eucharist is. As Ann points out, the Greek word for giving thanks is eucharisteo, and our sacrament of holy communion derives it’s traditional name from the same word:

And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”
(Luke 22:19 ESV)

Jesus has given Himself that we may have life. The sacrament of communion was instituted to cause us to remember this in thanksgiving and praise. I am learning how vast God’s giving is, and how unending and appropriate is my continual thanksgiving and praise in response. Counting gifts is a useful reminder to look for God’s provision in all of life.

In walking with Christ, straining to see properly, a common theme is my need for constant reinforcement of what He has already taught me. If I could only live what He has already taught me I would be unrecognisably stronger in faith. It is comforting to know others also experience this:

The one who lives his life in circles, discovering, entering into, forgetting and losing, finding his way round again, living his life in layers – deeper, round, further in.
(Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts, p105 Slightly modified)

The one thousandth gift:

  • Kowhai flower budNew flower buds on the kowhai tree {1,000}

Looking over my list, there are some common themes in what I have counted:

  • My wife
  • My children (and their antics)
  • Increasing knowledge of God
  • Creature comforts
  • Financial stuff
  • Quietness, peace
  • The natural world God has made
  • The creativeness of people
  • Enjoying the company of family and friends
  • Benefits of being born in this place and this time

It could be argued that there is a lot of selfishness in what I am thankful for, this is true but these are the sort of things I noticed as gifts from God. Perhaps as I grow and mature the themes may change, wait until I reach 2,000!

Related to this topic:

My cheerful winter friends

As a lily among brambles,
so is my love among the young women.
(Song of Solomon 2:2 ESV)

Near the entrance to the building in which I work is a patch of irises. I particularly like these irises because they flower during the winter, adding a splash of cheerfulness on gloomy days as I head to work.

I’m no gardening expert, but to the best of my knowledge these plants would normally flower in spring or summer, but for at least 12 years that I know of this clump of greenery has flowered right in the coldest part of winter. I feel like they have been my little cheerful friends for many years now, even when I have worked in other parts of campus these flowers boldly send a message of beauty and hope during the dreariest part of each year.

Somehow these small, fragile living things displaying their beauty does more to lift my heart than all my own efforts to do so. As I near the one thousand mark on my eucharisteo list I notice that many times I have given thanks for the fresh air, sunlight, plants, birds, insects, hills, and water that is given by God to all of us to partake of.

These flowers remind me of God’s extravagant love. His love in placing reminders of Him and His creative power in my path. His extravagance in that even though flowers wither within days and may not be seen by many, it is God’s pleasure to make them. Within the thorny brambles of life in a sin-wrecked world God creates stunning beauty for everyone if they will look for it.

Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith!
(Luke 12:27-28 ESV)

Gifts I have noticed recently:

  • Frost crystals on a sunlit rock {973}
  • Irises blazing midwinter colour {976}
  • Dozing in the sunshine {978}
  • Being less then 1 metre from an adult fur seal {980}
  • Enormous ice creams {983}
  • Very silly, giggly girls at bedtime {990}
  • Three-year-old son ‘reading’ the dictionary {995}
  • A quiet cup of tea with my wife after she finished work {997}