October 2021

Against all prejudices – Levi

Few people, if any, have no prejudices at all in life. There will always be those issues that stir up the strongest emotions which we struggle to get past. Luke chapter 5 records one such instance. The Romans ruled first century Palestine, and the Jews carried a strong prejudice against Rome, understandably. They were enemies. So, for a Jewish person to support Rome, or to work with the Romans in any way was considered unforgivable.

Against all prejudices - Levi
Luke 5:27-32 records the short but revealing story of a man by the name of Levi whom Jesus engaged with. Jesus had just healed a bedridden paralytic man who was lowered down through the roof by friends, landing at Jesus feet. But this man walked out of that house on that day glorifying God.

As Jesus was walking away from that place He stepped into the life of a Jew by the name of Levi, who was a collector of taxes for Rome. Levi was sitting at the tax booth (Lk 5:27), minding his own profitable business of exploiting excessive taxes from his community on behalf of Rome. Levi was not looking for Jesus. In fact, there is nothing to suggest that Levi was interested in Jesus in the slightest. Uninvited, Jesus steps up to the tax booth. Without any recorded greeting or introduction, Jesus speaks His first two words to Levi. “Follow me” (Lk 5:27). That was it, end of conversation.

Obviously, Levi would have thought through and calculated his options. How would he respond to this stranger by the name of Jesus who abruptly stepped into his life and demands to be followed? Whatever was going through Levi’s thinking resulted with his leaving everything, he rose and followed Jesus (Lk 5:28). The Jewish Pharisees and scribes would have hated Levi as a traitor of his people for the profit of self and Rome. But now, they would hate Levi even more, as a man who had left everything to follow Jesus.

The certainty and joy of Levi’s decision to follow Jesus was quickly seen when Levi made him (Jesus) a great feast in his house, and there was a large company of tax collectors and others reclining at table with them (Lk 5:29). Having abandoned his old life of tax collecting, Levi celebrated his new life as a follower of Jesus with his old-life friends. Levi was now actively introducing Jesus to all of his old-life friends, who were a large company of tax collectors and others (Lk 5:29). Levi had no shame of being seen with Jesus. Levi also had no shame of announcing publicly that he had left the tax collecting life. Levi had even invited Jesus’ other disciples to join the celebration with his old-life friends. I’m sure that many of Levi’s old tax collecting comrades thought he was crazy, and no doubt many would have happily picked up Levi’s clientele.

Meanwhile, the news has reached the Pharisees and scribes who raced across town and grumbled at Jesus’ disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” (Lk 5:30). Levi would now be considered a traitor of Rome, a traitor of Israel, and a traitor of Jewish religion. The nation’s prejudices where fully stacked against Levi, but Levi celebrated with Jesus!

Much to everyone’s surprize I’m sure, Jesus steps up to these self-righteous Pharisees and scribes, and proclaims the liberating repentance of Levi which was at the very heart of Jesus’ earthly ministry. “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Lk 5:32). Repentance of sin with its lifestyle choices has always been at the heart of Jesus’ gospel, and nothing has changed. May we also rejoice with repentant sinners, calling them to leave everything of their old sinful lives and follow Jesus.

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Prayer and thoughts – Part 8

In Psalm 5:1-3 King David gives us a brief look into his thought life of anxiety and prayer.
1 Listen to my words, LORD, consider my lament.
2 Hear my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray.
3 In the morning, LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.
Prayer and thoughts – Part 8David needed to know he had God’s attention, particularly as he was sharing his laments (passionate grief). David began each day with prayer, it was the uploading of his deepest thoughts and concerns. He knew that it’s OK to mourn before God, and it was therapeutic to hear himself unloading his inner most thoughts, feelings, pains, disappointments, regrets, doubts, questions, and desires onto the Lord. Prayer allows repeated exposure of our most private thoughts to the Almighty. In prayer you have access to God, and He is listening, He is taking note with the intention of acting upon your prayers. While David was a man of many faults and issues, yet, in his heart of hearts, David was attached to the Lord and did not hesitate to call out for help.

David’s greatest prayer asset was his humility when he called God “my King and my God.” King David understood the distinction between God and himself. God is the ultimate KING of kings who is the GOD of all gods. While King David was a man of earthly authority, yet, before God Almighty, he was vulnerable, inadequate, and fearful. Through prayer, he reached out to God knowing that His Lord listens and provides. Using New Testament language the apostle Paul explains, “my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). When we pray, nothing is left to chance, even the lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord (Proverbs 16:33). David understood this.

You see, faith enables thoughts to increasingly become focused on who God IS. Awareness of God’s nature increases stability in our thoughts of Him. Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and you are exalted as head above all (1 Chronicles 29:11). God is NOT challenged by world events or political leaders. He oversees all natural events. He controls plagues, and He is unthreatened my human opinions or conspiracies. God never trembles at the squeaky voices of our belligerent world. Therefore, God is our confidence, He is dependably Sovereign in all scenarios!

Even when we make bad choices, prayer gives us access to God’s gracious resources. In these times, David’s words of Psalm 23:4 help, even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. The question is, do we truly believe this? Or do we permit worldly voices of error and small god thinking to dominate our thoughts?

>When we pray according to God’s Word and God’s will, we are injecting truth into the flow of our thoughts, and we are speaking biblical absolutes into our souls. Prayer draws from faith, and simultaneously instructs the heart with truth. Prayer is surrendered, open hearted, and vulnerable worship loaded with frailty and imperfection. May we rise above our manmade insecurities, and say with David, that we lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.

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Pained thoughts – Part 7

Pain can be a powerful motivator feeding into our thoughts. As with many aspects of life, pain is diverse in nature and caused by a host of possible sources. Unfortunately, pain of any kind is memorable. In our humanity, it is not uncommon for our whole being: physically, emotionally, and spiritually, to hold onto pain and resists letting go. While we are blessed to live in a time where many aids exist to assist us with pain relief, there is no magic pill that fixes all. I suggest that pains of the heart are not only the worst, but they can be the most difficult to deal with.
Pained thoughts – Part 7
Secret pain, self-condemnation, loss of dignity, guilt, repeated memory replay, unforgiveness, anger, abuse,  and harmful desires, can all become the inner pains which scar the heart. Left unattended these can dominate our thoughts with devastating consequences. While Christians are not exempt from the pains of life, they do have God’s resources at their disposal to manage and even conquer such pains.

Solomon acknowledges that the heart knows its own bitterness, and no stranger shares its joy (Proverbs 14:10). There can be a world of activity happening within our hearts, and no-one else may know of it. The reality for most of us, is that even in laughter the heart may ache, and the end of joy may be grief (Proverbs 14:13). The heart is complex, it’s secretive, and its relationship with our thoughts carry self-appointed authority which often oversteps healthy boundaries. Consequently, emotional scars can form lasting disfigurement of the heart if unresolved conflict is permitted.

Realise that Jesus Christ wants to step into this messy thing called the heart. He comes with understanding and the capacity to bring healing, restoration, and hope. The starting point of all Christian inner restoration is the Cross of Jesus Christ. Realise that when you come to Jesus Christ with a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, …God …will not despise or reject you (Psalm 51:17). Jesus invites us in Matthew 11:29, 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.

Christ enables us to forgive each other; as the Lord has forgiven you (Colossians 3:13). Forgiveness is powerful to heal inner scars, and we govern the implementation of forgiveness with our thoughts. Having received forgiveness, we pass that same forgiveness onto others in Jesus’ name. When memories of past hurts resurface, we surrender them to forgiveness, entrusting others into God’s care and His judgement.

With our thoughts, we choose to forgive and walk in love which restores worship and dignity. The love of God re-energises our weakness, it re-prioritises our heart, and seeks to communicate in recognisable ways. Love is remarkably therapeutic for everyone, but it takes thought to put it into action. So, we choose to love one another… to outdo one another in showing honour, …to rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer… and to contribute to the needs of the saints. Being forgiven and loved ourselves, we bless those who persecute… we rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep, and we endeavour to live in harmony with one another (Romans 12:10-16).

Informing thoughts to comply to a more Christlike pattern also enables us to seek assistance from others. Be it medical, counselling, friendship, or guidance, but help is often needed and always involves others. This is because we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another (Romans 12:5). Jesus Christ heals painful hearts and corrects painful thoughts when we invite Him to transform and renew our minds (Rom 12:2).

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