For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. Phil 1:20-21.

Paul the Apostle from the time of his Christ encounter on the Damascus road, was forever changed. In what ways? Well this simple question probably has a thousand answers, but in large measure they boil done to I think two statements and that is that a) He became Christ obsessed and b) he became radically committed to others.

Pauls Christ obsession can be seen in these verses above. He gives us a short pithy statement that in large measure sums him up- “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” After Paul met Christ the shape of his existence was largely defined by a relentless passion for the glory of the name of Jesus. He travelled, shared and measured his life by its Christ exalting capacity. So much so- that he could say- “to live is Christ.” And even the second part of this statement- “to die is gain,” is also not so much a death wish to end his suffering (an ever present reality), but a culmination of his ambition to truly know Christ and enjoy him forever. So what? Perhaps, I need to become more Christ obsessed. Perhaps I need to get to know this Jesus Paul knew and then maybe like him- by the Spirit I will become convinced that “to live is Christ.”

Grace and peace from Marcus

 

Now may God, the inspiration and fountain of hope, fill you to overflowing with uncontainable joy and perfect peace as you trust in him. And may the power of the Holy Spirit continually surround your life with his super-abundance until you radiate with hope! (Romans 15:13)

In his great letter to the Romans Paul is celebrating God’s grace expressed to both the Jews and now through Christ, the nations and he is overwhelmed with joy. As he is- he is moved to pray that the full effect of all that God had done in Christ would permeate the experience of the Roman Christians and I think of course, all of those who are in Christ Jesus including us.

So what does he pray for? Well actually Paul begins by talking about the one to whom he prays, who is he and what is he like? Well- he is the God of hope. That is, who he is and that is what he gives. He is the God of hope. Initially that hope was directed at and through the people of Israel- but now in Christ this hope permeated all creation in Christ. So Paul prays for them and us- that we might be filled with uncontainable joy and peace as we trust in God. Trusting God is of course the doorway to this peace. Paul prays that through trusting in God, God’s children might know both joy and peace in increasing measure. In doing so I think he is “fairly confident.” Why because he knows that that reality is part of the will and purpose of the Holy Spirit who is the personal presence of God to radiate hope.

Grace and peace from Marcus

For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations. Luke 2:30-31

Simeon was a righteous man. He loved the Lord. And he ached for his people who had for centuries lived under occupation. He knew that one day God would send someone who would be a consolation of Israel. God in his grace had revealed to Simeon by the Holy Spirit, that he would in fact send the messiah in his own day. He would see him with his own eyes. That same Spirit stirred in Simeon's heart instructing him to go to the temple court on one particular day. When he arrived there, he noticed Mary and Joseph, a young couple who had brought their child to be dedicated. The instant he saw the baby- he took him in his arms and prayed to the Lord and thanked him that his "eyes had seen the salvation of the Lord". He would be a light to the Gentiles and the glory of Israel". The messiah had come and Simeon had seen him and for that he was thankful. My prayer for our community is that this Christmas as we prepare for the business of this season we might also prepare spiritually by reading Luke & asking God; give me eyes to see your salvation. May it be so- in Jesus Name, Amen.

Grace and peace from Marcus

 

So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you... (Matthew 7:12)

This is probably, the most famous part of Jesus sermon on the mount. It is of course often called the "golden rule"; such is its categorical nature in defining human relationship in light of the coming kingdom. In it's context, it comes at an unusual place- Jesus most immediately in verses 7-11 is talking about asking and receiving and as he does so, of course he is talking of asking and receiving from God. We can do this- on the basis of our being children, of a Heavenly Father who cares for us and wants what is best for us. So in one sense it seems quite- out of place. But throughout his message he has been eager to articulate that our relationship with God is not merely about me and him- but it also concerns me and others in light of all that God has done/is doing in Christ. And the "me and others," that Jesus calls us to, as we seek to honour God in one sense can be summed up in Jesus succinct and powerful admonition, to do to others as we would have them do to us. Imagine the profound change that such be behaviour could have in or world today. It would be revolutionary and of course we can wonder saying to ourselves; "why don't we do things this way," but a better question might be- how can I enact the kingdom by living this way?

Grace and peace from Marcus

"And Jesus said to them, "Follow me" Mark 1:17

According to Dallas Williard the word disciple is only used twice in the New Testament. Yet for us- who belong to Jesus, it is the primary word that we use to describe ourselves or others who belong to Christ. Does that seem odd to you? In one sense- "no", twice is still twice, and Christian is not bad word, after all it includes "Christ". But "Christian" to me is one of those words that has been so widely utilised in our culture that its meaning has been a little lost and it it has become "blurry". So much so, that I think for some the idea that someone could call themselves, "Christian" and yet not see themselves as disciples or learners of Jesus could be seen as legitimate or possible. Being "Christian", has been seen as someone who at some stage "invited Jesus into their hearts", and has the equivalent of Charlie and the chocolate factory's golden ticket into eternity. But is this what being a Christian is? Christianity is meant to involve apprenticeship to Jesus. jesus is looking for disciples who seek to "be with him, in order that they might become like him", not just people hanging onto their golden ticket and living in much the same way as their unbelieving friends and family. But Jesus- is Lord and King. He is authentic humanity. he is the way, the truth and the life, not an entry ticket. Indian leader- Gandhi, apparently once said- "I love your Jesus, but not your Christians. If more of them were like him then you would have won India by now". Now that sounds like a challenge.

Grace and peace from Marcus