In this passage of Scripture there are a number of crucial lessons for us to ponder on and yes even learn.
The disciples are arguing amongst themselves, who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?
They were not prepared for what the Lord was about to do, although I am sure that it did not surprise them, they had known the Lord Jesus long enough to understand what He was about- well to a point.
They were about to get a lesson on humility- and much more.
At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
Like all households, and all organisations there is a pecking order, someone wants to be at the top, someone has to be in charge, others are there to follow- This is the worldly order of things and it has it good and bad points- Like that old story book Animal Farm- ‘all animals are equal, some more equal than others!’.
A proclamation by the pigs who control the government in the novel Animal Farm, by George Orwell. The sentence is a comment on the hypocrisy of governments that proclaim the absolute equality of their citizens but give power and privileges to a small elite. The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
The disciples were not immune to the frailty of humanity.
‘True humility means knowing yourself, and being yourself-your best self- to the Glory of God’ W Wiersbe p64
It means avoiding two extremes:
1. Thinking less of yourself than you ought.
2. Or thinking more of yourself than you ought.
A small child trusts and is dependant. It is naïve and in need of great protection.
2 He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. 3 And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little child, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
I believe that His meaning here is threefold,
i. Our attitude toward little children and
ii. our personal attitude towards faith
iii. And our attitude towards the faithful.
Each with a solemn warning and a solemn responsibility!
The Lord Jesus called his follower to have childlike faith one that would trust completely in the Lord their God.
The Lord Jesus called His disciple to have a good attitude and responsible attitude to all who would come to faith.
Here is a challenge to every believer:-
6 “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. 7 Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come!
We all have a duty of care!
Being a parent, being a responsible adult is a solemn responsibility, a duty and a privilege one that God holds dear and want us to hold dear to our hearts.
The sad fact of life is that humanity will and does fall down in this charge- 7 Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come!
God gives to each one of us a free will to follow Him and His principles; OR to reject- Along with this He makes us responsible for our own actions, thus this stern warning- When I see all the atrocities in this world I am overwhelmed, the only thing that keeps me going is that in God’s eternal plan there is a time of reckoning.
Hebrews 9:27.Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment.
And to be honest with you, I thank God that I am not the judge.
The old age question: ‘AM I my brother’s keeper’ comes to mind.
In the Gospel we see a high regard for human dignity- for mankind is the object of God’s love, compassion and forgiveness.
I would rather preach one sermon on the love and Grace of God than 100 on God’s wrath and judgement.
Having said this we should not kid ourselves, as the apostle Paul puts it to the Galatians:
7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. Galatians 6:7
Sin has entered the world- and humanity is fragile- the Lord Jesus can heal that which ails humanity. But many will not receive they will reject.
I believe that too many people look at what they believe to be the negative of the Gospel and Christianity and not the positive.
If we examine the Word of God there is so much about the positive that we should major on.
For example who wouldn’t want:- Love, Joy, Peace, Forgiveness? In their lives.
Who wouldn’t want fulfilment in life and purpose?
Who wouldn’t want true humility and strength?
The Lord Jesus wasn’t finished with His disciples there is more for He underlines what he is saying with another parable: Verses 12-14
12 “What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? 13 And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. 14 In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.
This is perhaps one of the simplest of parables. This is important; too often people make things so complicated.
It teaches us a number of vital facts.
The Lord Jesus uses an illustration that all would be familiar with.
A shepherd has lost one of 100 sheep.
The shepherd leaves the 99, under the care of another shepherd presumable. To search for the one lost sheep.
The purpose of the parable is to outline the Love of God.
1. The Love of God is an individual love. Yes there were another 99 but that one was just as important as the rest.
2. The Love of God is a patient love.- the sheep might be foolish but the shepherd would still risk his life to save it. God is patient with each one of us.
3. The Love of God is seeking love. The shepherd could have waited for the sheep to come home, unlikely though- he was not content to do so- there was a sense of urgency.
4. The Love of God is rejoicing love, no recriminations, just forgiveness and joy when the sheep is brought back into the fold.
5. The Love of God is protecting love. T is his love that seeks and saves.
Luke 19:10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
Mother’s day means so much too so many people; personally I see mother’s day and father’s day as a great opportunity to celebrate parenthood and to focus on the love of God the Father. In the western world, mother’s day has its origins within the Christian church.
Mother’s day celebration is attributed to a lady by the name of Anna Marie Jarvis; the first mother’s day service was celebrated on 20th April 1887.
Born on the 1st May 1864 her mother was Ann Reeves Jarvis was a social activist, founder of Mothers’ Day Work Clubs, and a unifying force within her community during the American Civil War Ann was friends with Julia Ward Howe, who had first advocated in 1870 for the idea of a Mother’s Day as a call for mothers throughout the world to work together for peace. As a woman defined by her faith, she was very active within the Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church community. It was during one of her Sunday school lessons in 1876 that her daughter, Anna Jarvis, allegedly found her inspiration for Mother’s Day, as Ann closed her lesson with a prayer, stating: “I hope and pray that someone, sometime, will found a memorial mother’s day commemorating her for the matchless service she renders to humanity in every field of life. She is entitled to it.” ? Ann Reeves Jarvis.
On May 10, 1908, three years after her mother’s death, Anna Marie Jarvis held a memorial ceremony to honour her mother and all mothers at Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church.
Jarvis valued the symbolism of such tangible items as the white carnation emblem, which she described as: Its whiteness is to symbolize the truth, purity and broad-charity of mother love; its fragrance, her memory, and her prayers. The carnation does not drop its petals, but hugs them to its heart as it dies, and so, too, mothers hug their children to their hearts, their mother love never dying.
Jarvis struggled against forces of commercialization that overwhelmed her original message. [Excerpt from Wikipedia]
It is not unusual to see the Christian Church celebrating or setting aside time to commemorate mother’s day.
But our society is changing, attitudes are changing- the idea of family and parenthood – how to bring children up-the idea of gender all these things are experiencing a revolution in our society. And for some of us it is unsettling!
Anna Jarvis struggled with the commercialism of Mother’s day as she experienced some of those changes.
I recently read where a school in Canada decided that it will no longer celebrate Mother’s Day or Father’s Day as it may isolate a small percentage of its students the school didn’t want them to feel displaced or embarrassed. Think what you may it is obvious that for some it is an important issue.
• Is the idea of family, cultural or a Biblical concept or maybe both?
• Is the idea of family some big con job or conspiracy to trap free thinking people, or is it a ploy of the advertising giants to make a financial killing?
• The cynic might well say that this family thing is a conspiracy designed to repress true sexuality and freedom.
As Christians we are left with a dilemma, one that will always divide and cause great conflict and concern.
Some feel strongly about what they see as political issues and the separation of state and church.
While others see that there is nothing that is not under the Christian doctrine.
I must admit that I often cringe at both positions. What is a Christian to do in this current political and social climate?
Personally I fall back to my default position.
“When all else fails try reading the makers instructions.”
Unfortunately there are those who would like to make drastic changes to the maker’s instructions bringing doubt to their clarity with new knowledge.
What is one to do?
Again I would go back to my default position. “When all else fails try reading the makers instructions.”
It was C. S. Lewis who said:
“Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.”
I am sure that many a Christian has said or thought of this over the years.
As a young man in my late teens I asked my father for his blessing, I wanted to go into Bible college, having been brought up Greek Orthodox, seeking to apply as a student at a Protestant Bible College this was a big deal and it could have gone so wrong, Dad being much wiser than I had given him credit, asked an important question: ‘if I do not will you still go?’ I thought about it of a second or two, and said ‘probably’, he then said, ‘you have my blessing’, He then followed up with the following:
There is one word of advice that I want to give you as you leave home. Yes dad I said, his reply was short and simple and alas I did not follow his advice.
He said: – Don’t talk about politics, sex or religion and you will do well in life.
Wether we like it or not politics does have a vital impact on each one of us, it is important for Christians to be at least politically literate. In saying this I do not believe that the church is the place to advertise any political party, years ago when I stood as an independent for local elections I didn’t mention this from the pulpit, I didn’t solicit the congregation in their support. But I did stir them to vote and to prayerfully consider their vote.
Our sexuality is also vital. God made us He knew what He was doing. Are Christians experts on sexuality NO! There will always be more to learn. Again the Bible is helpful and instructive.
What I believe to be a tragedy is when the Bible is reinterpreted to fit into our present cultural thinking instead of interpreting or viewing life from a biblical perspective.
There is much happening today that some would call the sexual revolution, is it a revolution or the rehashing of the very things that brought the fall of many a civilisation?
And religion, wow if Christianity is wrong we have nothing to lose, if it is right, we have a lot to gain. You cannot go wrong in life if you embrace the teachings of the Lord Jesus- you can go one step better if you embrace the Lord Jesus as personal Lord and Saviour.
What am I struggling to say today?
The Bible says that:-
“He made them male and female”.
• It teaches us about life, love, morals and ethics, it points us to the Lord Jesus and new life in Him.
• It doesn’t sugarcoat the problems that we may face, nor does it encourage us to escape from life or from each other.
• The Word of God challenges our very existence, and it is interesting to see that thousands have given up their lives so we can have a copy of the Bible in our hands.
• The Word of God is more than a written history or instruction manual for it points to the living Word, the Lord Jesus.
It is possible that we may never get everything right, and our judgement and attitudes may falter along the way. This is why it is important to go back to the makers instructions.
I believe that the maker has a lot to say about family, and human dignity.
For Example: when it comes to marriage, family, children parenting there is much in the scriptures.
There is much about human dignity, love, care, respect and so on.
I suppose one of the difficulties I have is what do you do when others hold an opposing view?
Do you jump up and down, and call hell fire and brimstone upon them getting on one’s soapbox and letting them have it!
Or do you leave it in God’s hands? I like the latter.
I thank God for the order of things, even if we get it wrong at times.
I thank God for parenthood, and for the wonderful responsibility of being able to influence a young life for the better.
I thank God that he is called Father and as a father his love never ever fails.
There are two people who stand out in Acts chapter 11.
1 The Apostle Peter
Both these men were a great blessing to the early church.
• Their words, faith and integrity are a great example for each of us to follow.
• They loved the Lord Jesus with all of their might! This sort of commitment should not surprise us it is consistent with what God asks of us:-
Matthew 22:37 Jesus replied:
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’
Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.
In Acts 10 we saw that God wonderfully blessed Peter and the Gentiles.
The high that Peter may have experienced was about to be challenged.
“The apostles and the believers throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. 2 So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him 3 and said, “You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them.”
• Everyone has an agenda.
• It is the foundations of the past that in many ways sets out agendas.
Sometimes we are not aware of what makes us tick, why we do what we do or say what we say.
In The Apostle Peter’s case the foundations were set in concrete, religion and the law played a strong part in who he was.
The Good news is that his agenda changed when he had an encounter with the living Lord Jesus Christ along with a life changing experience of the Holy Spirit that transformed his past agenda to a new and living hope!
The church in Jerusalem should have been happy to see the Gospel spread and Gentiles saved! INITIALLY this was not the case-
• They did not rejoice in the Gentiles coming to faith!
• Their concern was that Peter broke the law-2 So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticised him and said,
“You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them.”
AFTER HEARING PETER’S TESTIMONY they saw things from a Godly perspective.
Thank God that we do not have to rely on knee jerk reactions, for this is what the early church did. This is what we do so often-
There should always be a time for the dust to settle so we can gather our thoughts- before we make any important decisions or react to situations.
By the way- never make a decision out of anger or fear.
My personal experience has been that the urgent is not always that urgent and what we believe to be of paramount importance today may not be tomorrow.
Like Peter each one of us has a past and a TESTIMONY!
Like Peter each one of us has a story to tell!
Our past should not inhibit or hold us back- it is series of stepping stones to the future. There are many directions for one to turn, many questions that seek answers and so on-
It was to individuals, for a personal response that the Lord Jesus said:-
“seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.”
OUR AGENDA SHOULD BE THE KINGDOM OF GOD;
1. LIVING AS PEOPLE OF THE KINGDOM
2. SEEKING ITS GROWTH THROUGH OUR INVOLVEMENT IN THE MISSION OF THE LOCAL CHURCH.
We have all heard of He is one of those guys who sort to live out the kingdom of God in his life:-
Peter and Barnabas took seriously the words of the Lord Jesus.
1. Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness
2. and God into all the world and make disciples of all nations!
When we allow the Holy Spirit to work on our lives, ‘He takes that which is good and makes it better and he deals with that which is bad’. He does this with our cooperation and He works with us.
It is the same with faith walk! We must come to God and invite Him to work in our lives
We must trust Him and allow Him to bless us. THE BIBLE SAYS; ‘Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed!’
Peter and Barnabas trusted the Lord and became a blessing to others their agenda was the kingdom of God what’s yours?