In our early years of marriage we only had 1 car. I would usually walk to work and my wife would have the car, but on the occasional days I needed the car, I’d have to drive her to work before I went on with my day. I remember one day I couldn’t find my keys anywhere. I’d looked high and low and had to use my wife’s keys to drop her off at work than came home again to find them. I was getting really frustrated and after some time of looking I paused, prayed and then immediately thought, have I looked under the coffee table? Low and behold, there they were.
The story of Jesus’ temptation in the desert is one of resistance that leads to true contentment. Jesus is tempted to turn stones to bread to satisfy his physical needs (v3), to worship the devil to gain power and authority (v7), to test God’s promises by throwing himself off the top of the temple to see if angels will save him (v9-10).
Take a look at Jesus’ response to each of these temptations (v4, 8, 12). See how at each point Jesus resists these temptations by responding with quotes from scripture. Each time Jesus speaks, he speaks words which remind us to resist the allure of worldly demands for the sake of a strengthened relationship with God –offering us fulness of life, true contentment and unconditional love.
As we begin again our journey through Lent, may we each begin by being reminded to resist the temptations of this world, and to rest in God’s truths.
Follow Up: Take some time this week to read some of your favourite passages of scripture. How do they or have they helped you resist worldly temptations in your life?
Today’s reflection is also available in Worshipping Together, a monthly worship at home resource.
My prayer life is Rubbish. There isn’t enough of it. I never know what to say, or how to say it. My prayer list is always so long, and I never feel like I ever get to the end of it. I don’t know what to pray, or if I’m praying right. I don’t know if God is doing anything anyway.
Ok – so that may not be how you expect me to start, but I wonder, can you relate? Do you have similar self-depreciating thoughts that make you feel guilty about your prayer life, or lack of it.
If you have thoughts like I do, then I also want to suggest to you, that like me, there’s a mistake in your understanding of prayer.
The mistake comes when we assume there is a right and wrong way to pray.
But there is no definitive right and wrong way to pray – there are simply lots of ways to pray, and we each find different combinations of those ways are what works for us as individuals.
Prayer is, for us, conversation with God and seeking God’s kingdom, listening to God and looking out for the signs of God’s kingdom responding to God and living for God’s kingdom.
When I was training as a local preacher I remember going through different types of prayer…
intercession and petition – prayers for others and the world
adoration, praise and worship – words to adore God
confession – recognising the fragility of our humanity
thanksgiving – giving thanks for who God is
And at times I felt as if there was this list of ingredients that, if all were included in the recipe of a service, it meant the service worked and would successfully bake a good cake for the congregation.
But actually, thinking about forms and types of prayer is not about a recipe to success at all.
I wonder if we’ve failed ourselves by overthinking prayer – and not grasping it’s joy, it’s flexibility, it’s breadth and depth, and its uniqueness for each of us as individuals.
What all those types of prayer do helpfully remind us of though, is that they, along with many others, are tools in our toolbox to resources us in our relationship with God, as worshippers and as disicples.
You see, prayer is not following a recipe to make a successful cake for others, prayer is a tool from the disciple making toolbox that we used to help us as disciples to nurture a relationship with God. To make our relationship with God a good cake.
And for prayer, it’s not actually the ingredients that matter, but the heart from which they come, and to which God speaks and responds.
I wonder, if prayer sometimes too easily becomes a list of wants and desires. Well-meant and good to be prayed, but if wants and desires for others and the world is all prayer is to us, then prayer becomes so focused on the earthly kingdom and asking God to intervene, that we miss out so much more.
Because if we are too focused on the earthly kingdom our attention is drawn away from also seeking God’s kingdom – the kingdom and way of living that God calls us to seek and live out in the world…
When Jesus was asked by his disicples how to pray, he begins: ‘Our Father in heaven, you are holy, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as in heaven.’
Prayer is a mutli-resourced way of life with a heart focused first on seeking God, and God’s kingdom, and partnering with God in bringing about that kingdom on earth.
Prayer can be conversation, it can be thoughts and feelings, prayer can come while we’re shopping or talking, cycling or swimming, using a prayer book or a mobile phone app, it can be when we are alone of with others, with other disicples, or with those who have not yet met Jesus, via podcast, Youtube video, facebook or a paper book.
May prayer be a tool for us, not to fill us with guilt and shame, but to empower us and nurture us as worshippers and disicples. That we will seek first God, and God’s kingdom.
Last week our journey through the ending(s) to John’s gospel took us to the shore of Galilee to Peter and some of the other disciples having fun fishing on the lake, meeting the risen Jesus and enjoying fresh fish with him around a campfire. Friends enjoying breakfast together as the sun breaks on the shore.
This week we pick back up where that scene left us, because as breakfast is finished and the campfire moves from flames to glowing embers, Jesus turns to Simon Peter and asks him ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?”
It feels like a change of pace in the story – we move from an intimate breakfast with friends perhaps having fun and laughter together, to an intimate and deep 1 to 1 between Jesus and Peter.
“Yes Lord, you know that I love you.” comes Peters’ reply.
I wonder how he spoke those words. What his tone and body language was? Was Peter filled with confidence and conviction, as he must have been moments before when he had jumped into the water and waded to shore. Or was he filled with remorse and guilt, his denying Jesus that night in the Jerusalem courtyard coming back to haunt him?
This conversation repeats, 3 times in total Jesus ask Peter do you love me, each time Peter responds, “yes Lord you know me, everything about me, you know, you know I love you.”
It is interesting and perhaps not surprising given how we often find numbers used within scriptures storytelling, that after Peter 3 times denied, Jesus asks him 3 times ‘do you love me’.
I wonder if, for Peter, there was something redemptive and transformative in that being asked 3 times – if it helped him to find forgives and wholeness after his 3 times denying Jesus. But let’s not get Jesus wrong, there is no suggestion here that our wrongdoing, our guilt, our sin, needs to then be corrected by actions, words and works that go in the other direction – as if we have to rebalance the scales. That’s not how Jesus’ love and care for us works.
Jesus is not reprimanding Peter. Yes, he is asking a question, but it seems to me that this conversation is a gentle, friendly, loving one between 2 friends in a corner on the beach after sharing fish sarnies.
Each time Jesus responds to Peter in a similar way.
Feed my lambs. (v15b)
Tend (or shepherd) my sheep. (v16b)
Feed by sheep. (v17b)
Different words – and there may be some significant to the nuances there, but a common thrust. In just a few small words Jesus calls Peter deeper, responding with love, acceptance, welcome, forgiveness and commissioning to serve the flock of Christ.
Sometimes I wonder if, as we see this encounter move from the fun and laughter of breakfast to this 1 to 1 with Jesus, we think Peter is expecting to get his comeuppance for his denying. But Peter knew Jesus, and I wonder if Peter would have been expecting the exact opposite. Expecting Jesus would forgive and love and accept him, and still call him deeper – and feeling guilt and shame because he didn’t think he was worthy of it.
I wonder if this challenges some of our assumptions as Christians about how we think about our own worth. I wonder if we too often feel guilt and shame more intensely than we should or than Jesus ever intended us to. I wonder if we expect reprimand when Jesus just wants us to receive his love, and love him too. I wonder if we have allowed the notion of sin to become a barrier in our relationship with Jesus and our responding to his call to go deeper.
Jesus says to you today: do you love me?
Friend, no matter what I love you. I forgive you and I still call you. Come deeper with me, serve me, follow me.
Use of this service is subject to the terms and conditions printed in size 3 font on the back left wall of the store – next to the white display unit.
Alternatively you can access our Terms and Conditions through our website by finding the link somewhere on our homepage – usually in pretty small grey font, but it depends if you’re viewing our website on computer, tablet of mobile device.
Ok, so it’s not always that hard to find them, but they’re not always easy to make sense of are them. Terms and Conditions are often long, full of legal jargon, and it’s not unusual that I’m still not sure what they really mean after I’ve read them. In fact, I confess I sometimes just tick the box to say I’ve read them and move on.
Terms and Conditions are part of 21st Century life, every social media account, every purchase we make, every contract we sign comes with some sort of conditions. Rules, guidelines, commitments, legal requirements – from the provider, but also from me the receiver.
I’ve heard lots of times people saying things like ‘God doesn’t love me, I’m not good enough’. Every time it fills me with sadness because somehow the world thinks God has a long list of complicated, undecipherable terms and conditions that mean no one can ever live up to them.
But it’s just not true, this misconception.
In the Bible there’s a letter that Paul writes where he talks about this sense of being cut off from God. I’m putting into my own words here – you can look it up for yourself if you want, it’s Colossians 1:21-22.
once you were cut off from God because of your evil deeds, but now you are reconciled because of Jesus, made holy and blameless and no longer cut off.
In the gospel of John we read Jesus saying:
“anyone who comes to me I will never drive away”
A relationship with God doesn’t need to start with terms and conditions of us being perfect or thinking we’re good enough. There are no legal requirements.
Relationship with God starts with accepting the wonderful, amazing fact that God loves us for who we are and will drive no one away.
If you haven’t already, start a relationship with God today – he’s ready and waiting to hear from you, and accept you with open, loving arms.
Throughout August I will be encouraging us to reflect on things we have learn and are learning through lockdown about self, God and being Christian community.
Who are you connected to?
At the start of lockdown, I spent a lot of time on the phone.
Many people in my churches have been shielding, or choosing to isolate, and lots are not on the internet, and so from the start I could see regular phone calls were going to be incredibly valuable during lockdown.
We reorganised the church pastoral system to ensure everyone would have at least 1 assigned regular contact and encouraged everyone to regularly call each other to share fellowship, friendship and maintain relationship.
The hands down thing that has I call people now, people say they have valued most is the phone calls they have been receiving from each other.
People have shared that lockdown has offered the opportunity to get know each other better.
People who live on their own have shared how the phone calls have helped break up their day and left them feeling less alone, that they feel valued, loved, thought about.
That it has not only helped maintain relationships, but that they have grown and deepened.
What has this meant I have learnt?
I think it has shown me just how essential relationships are for human well-being. We need one another. God has created us to be in relationship with one another. Human interaction is in our DNA.
But why has it taken lockdown to get to know each other better?
In Luke’s gospel we find a story of Jesus and his companions, visiting sisters Mary and Martha.
Mary sits as Jesus feet listening to all he has to say. Martha is busy doing – organising the hospitality necessary for Jesus and his companions, fretting that Mary is not helping her.
She stops, and says to Jesus – don’t you care that my sister is leaving me to do all the work on my own?
Jesus says to her, Martha my child, you are so distracted by many things, but there is only need for one thing.
Jesus doesn’t criticise Martha for wanting to be hospitable.
But he does suggest that Martha may be letting the doing get in the way of what really matters.
(To read the story in full, take a look at Luke chapter 10)
I wonder if the absence of meetings and events has meant that the distraction of doing has been removed, and suddenly we’ve discovered new ways of being with one another. Where we can be interested in one another without the distraction of the next task that needs doing or event that needs planning.
And I’ve heard testimony to the same with people’s relationships with God.
Not being busy doing has meant people have been able to spend more time focused on the one thing that matters – their relationship with God.
Now what might this mean we learn from lockdown?
The value and importance of relationship – with God and with one another.
What does that mean for the future as we begin to emerge from lockdown?
I’m not suggesting we shouldn’t have face-to-face activities and events.
But I do find God’s Spirit challenging me to reflect on what may need to change, what we may need to do differently, to keep relationship with God and one another as the one thing that matters.
What ways of being together can we discoverthat do not tie us up in so much doing that we can’t be?