King Jesus

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Christmas is upon us.

Unfortunately, this news is greeted with mixed emotions in the 21st century. Not least because a modern day Christmas is crazy stuff. It is full throttle. Pedal to the metal. Flying on all cylinders sorta stuff.

And naturally, our priorities are angled towards other things. Amongst the stuff, we tend to drop God down our list of priorities.

In fact, a prevailing view in society today is that Christ has lost relevance. This is a vague objection often blindly asserted in public places. It is this mammoth misconception founded on the belief that because times have changed, we don’t need God anymore.

Hate to be blunt, but you couldn’t be more wrong.

At Christmas we celebrate God putting us at the top of his priority list.

Christmas isn’t our busy lives stepping into God, but God stepping into our busy lives. Identifying with us. Sharing in our sufferings. Showing the deep love he has for us.

And if that doesn’t totally blow you out of the water, nothing will.

Christmas isn’t some watered down, lame fairytale we tell children before bed. We are celebrating the very presence of God here. God’s presence gives the world relevance. You’re unlikely to believe this if you don’t spend time seeking it.

And I’m going to show you why.

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At the birth of any baby, the first people invited to see the little dude or dudette are significant. VIP backstage pass sorta thing. It is usually reserved for close friends and family members.

We learn a lot about Jesus by the first people invited into His presence. God’s VIP list consisted of a poor couple, some lonely and inadequate outcasts, and three men sent by a corrupt king. A bit random to say the least. Not exactly hard hitting stuff.

Why were these people the first invited into the presence of God?

MARY AND JOSEPH

God called a poor couple from an average town, to share in the riches and deepest joys of his eternally worthy Kingdom.

The first people invited to the birth of Jesus was his parents. Go figure.

In the lead up to the first Christmas, the parents of Jesus would have been extremely excited and anxious. No other mother has a claim to fame quite like bearing the Son of God. And the build-up to this birth is still totally unrivalled.

Because this wasn’t your classic 9 month pregnancy. The arrival of some angels went a long way to confirming this wasn’t your average baby. Mary and Joseph would have been very aware of prophecies made about this baby centuries in advance.

The world had been expecting this champion for hundreds of years. 

So this was a huge calling. I can’t overstate the level of crazy this job description requires. But what is even crazier is that there was nothing particularly special about Mary and Joseph. They were just a poor couple from a dodgy town.

And yet, God promised Mary and Joseph that by accepting Jesus in humility and with joy, they would be used in an extremely powerful way for the Kingdom of God.

And they stepped out in faith.

THE SHEPHERDS

God called shepherds on the fringes of society, to a Good Shepherd who brings all people back to the centrepiece of civilisation

Back in the day, shepherds were pretty low on the social ladder.

In fact they probably didn’t even feature on the ladder. These guys often lived on their own, literally removed from society, as safety of the flock was at risk through the night.

So it is no surprise this is where history first records them. Tending to sheep and staying in the fields (Luke 2:8). A pretty boring arvo, until a host of angels show up announcing the birth of the Saviour of the world. Went from 0 to 100 real quick.  

And the shepherds were initially terrified. I mean, put yourself in their shoes. I’d be shaking like a leaf. But after processing the news, the shepherds dropped their work and hurried into town to see this King.

Here’s the cool part. The wise men brought gifts to Jesus (Matthew 2:11). The shepherds didn’t bring anything. They just came as they were. Wearing stinky and torn clothes, unshaven and unqualified, no social standing whatsoever. 

And yet, God promised the shepherds that by accepting the call with nothing to offer, everything would be offered to them in return. That from the fringes of society, they would be brought back to the centrepiece of civilisation.

And they stepped out in response to his call.

THE WISE MEN

God called wise men from a corrupt earthly king, to an eternal King who rules with justice and fairness.

History records these wise men as being royal astrologers.

There guys were an image of the smartest minds of the day. And not just your average astrologers, the royal astrologers. A good reference on your resume to say the least.

These men are best known for their pursuit of a star. Namely, Jesus. And it’s pretty crazy stuff. These men followed a star, a ball of gas millions of kilometres away in the universe, which according to their intellect was stooping over Jesus (Matthew 2:2).

All of creation bowing down to this Jesus. Not your average baby. Heck, not many can claim to using the universe as a sort of traffic light. Directing everyone to himself.

Equally important to note is that the wise men were from eastern lands (Matt 2:1). This is significant stuff. Because to this point in history, God’s people were almost exclusively citizens of Israel. And yet these wise men weren’t even from Israel.

They probably didn’t even know the language. But you see, God reached out to these men in a language they understood. He used their knowledge on the universe, the very line of their work, and brought them to Jesus.

He met them where they were. God promised the wise men that by seeking Jesus, they would see King Jesus.

And they stepped out in pursuit of that promise.

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WRAPPING IT UP

Each of these VIP guests to Jesus proved one thing.

It doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor, smart or uneducated. Lonely or busy. Qualified or inadequate. From the king’s palace, a dodgy town, or not from any town at all.

God requires our response, not our resume.

The presence of Christ is revealed to those who step out in response to his call. This is the distinguishing feature of those called into the presence of Christ. Obedience rooted in faith. A response to the news of Christ, and the promise of serious hope and joy in him.

Who could pass that up?

We are all called into the very presence of God.

Practical application time.

To those who have accepted God’s call. Take a look at Mary and Joseph. Who despite being filled with absolute awe, still welcomed in the outcasts and the seekers. This season, look for ways to show the presence of Christ to those who need it.

To those too busy or smart for God. Take a look at the wise men. The royal astrologers, who despite having the mysteries of the universe to discover, still found time to seek the true King. This season, seek what Jesus really has to offer.

To those feeling removed from God and others. Take a look at the shepherds. The social outcasts, the lonely and weathered citizens of society, who were personally welcomed into God’s presence. This season, know that you are loved and welcomed by Jesus.

This is the awesome truth of Christmas. This is the awesome truth of Christianity. We are all called by the living God. Only one question remains:

How will you respond to Jesus?

Jesus for President (Part 2)

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I’m officially sick of politics.

But there’s seriously no competition in the race for best PM and government when Jesus is in the picture. And in the end, our vote doesn’t determine his rule and reign. This baby is happening.

The ball is in your court to decide whether you want to be part of His government. In Part 1 we discussed three reasons why Jesus is (by far) the best leader the world has and will ever see. So without further ado, here’s three more reasons in this – Part 2:

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  • He provides the solution to the biggest problem facing humanity

Forget the economy. Forget jobs. Forget global warming. Forget social status.

The single biggest issue facing the world today is death. Nobody escapes it. Everyone plays to its tune. And so we dance our way around in life, looking for ways to prolong what is destined for the grave.

We avoid unhealthy habits. We keep our body and bank account healthy. We seek good times and happiness. We work, accumulate, consume, die. All for what?

It’s all pretty hopeless. And so surely any good leader cares enough to at least address the biggest issue we will ever face. And believe it or not, Jesus does.

But even more than that. What’s amazing is that Jesus had life at the centre of his teachings. He consistently and intentionally promises a cure. A way to the truth and fullness of life.

Namely, himself.

Jesus Humility

So don’t you ever tell me Jesus is not relevant because he lived 2000 odd years ago. But if you do, please explain how death doesn’t affect the world anymore.

This Jesus is extremely relevant.

Because Jesus didn’t just address the issue of death by illustrating what a painful death looks like. Jesus didn’t just acknowledge mankind’s biggest problem and then leave it hanging. He solved our greatest problem by leaving himself hanging. 

His death wasn’t the end of the story. And that sets this leader apart from all others.

  • He fulfils all his promises.

Isn’t this something we lack in politics nowadays.

Politicians are increasingly being characterised by their inability to follow through on promises. Heck, there are even websites tracking the number of broken promises for each government. We expect the leaders of our nation to break definite promises.

Read that again. Let it sink in.

Jesus on the other hand has a perfect track record with promises. Completely contrary to the world’s leaders, when God makes a promise we expect it to happen. And it does.

That a nation would come from the line of Abraham? Tick (Genesis 17:2). That a nation stuck in slavery would be brought out of Egypt? Yep (Exodus 14-15). That a leader from the line of David would rule forever? You bet your bottom dollar (Isaiah 9:6; Luke 1:69).

And not just that. Ridiculous prophecies (God inspired predictions) were made 400-700 years B.C. to foreshadow this coming leader from the line of David.

And the chances of someone fulfilling all of them is astronomical. 

The compelling nature of prophecies fulfilled by the person of Jesus, cannot be explained by way of pure chance.

Some smart people got together and did some cool maths stuff.

They found that the chances of winning the lottery are 1 in 259,000,000. So pretty crazy. But they found the chances of someone fulfilling just 8 (of the suggested 48) prophecies are way more ridiculous: 1 in 100,000,000,000,000,000.

But that isn’t all folks. The research team also estimated the chance of one man fulfilling all 48 prophecies: 1 in 10 to the power of 157. That’s a 1 followed by 157 zeroes.

That’s a lot of zeroes.

Jesus fulfilled all promises and prophecies. Forget Leicester City, The Chicago Cubs and the Western Bulldogs. Jesus literally embodies the biggest upset and logic defying performance of all time. A pretty darn big fluke. 

Unless you believe in a God who fulfils all his promises. Then it just makes sense. 

  • His rule and reign will never end

This is where we bring it all together.

Kingdom literally translated is King’s Dominion – just shortened. So because Jesus smashed sin and death to pieces, his dominion extends beyond death.

And this is perhaps one of the greatest promises made by God.

That through Jesus, we have access to God (Hebrews 10:20). He has made a way to life (John 14:6). And anyone who believes and places trust in our awesome candidate is welcome into His kingdom (John 3:16).

You’d be crazy to turn that offer down.

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I love this quote.

I pray with this in mind most mornings. It is significant to me for a number of reasons. You see, from the hand of God everything was created. He crafted and chiseled out the universe and everything in it from nothing.

So this reminds me that God is totally in control of all things. And sometimes, when all is out of hand, that’s when I see his fingerprints the most.

But more than that. God’s hands signify our citizenship. 

Because Jesus lives, his kingdom endures

Jesus handed us the hammer. And with the nail, we smashed the whole world’s sin and junk into the hand of God. And three days later, Jesus proved he had power over it.

The crazy irony. That the nails we drove in with intentions to stay the hand of God, would become the lasting blows of justice.

Talk about grace.

Jesus, by nature and profession a carpenter, gave amateurs the hammer to deliver the blows of a new covenant (Matt 26:28). To make something new of his body, the church.

And so we can approach God with full confidence (Hebrews 4:16). Knowing that our deepest scars of sin have been dealt with.

The hands of God cannot be held down. And neither can his Kingdom.

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THE FINAL PITCH

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Look at all the bullet points again. Let’s recap the leader and government outlined.

A prime minister that rules with authority, justice and fairness. And yet, a leader that is down to earth and humble in every way. Fully understanding of the struggles and deepest sufferings of his people.

The biggest problem humanity faces he addresses and solves. All promises he makes are fulfilled. He ushers in a kingdom full of his people that humbly serve and care for one another. Everyone in his kingdom is included and important. And it starts from the top.

Now ask yourself: is this the sort of leadership and government I want out of office?

Jesus offers real hope, and real change for real life issues

That’s the sort of leader I want to follow. That’s the sort of people I want to be part of.

And if we believe Jesus is the top candidate, we naturally become his ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20). God uses us to tell the world how awesome his government is.

We are called to contain, proclaim and live by the values of this kingdom (Hebrews 10:23). To let the activity of the King be evident in our lives (Phillipians 2:13). To give the world just a snippet of what is (and is) to come.

All the forces of hell will try to overthrow it. The world will experience great turmoil and tremendous upheaval. Heck, we might even face an election with shocking candidates.

But through it all, we are not shaken (Psalm 16:8). We have intense confidence in our leader who put the forces of death to shame. God’s kingdom will never end. All people are welcome.

And that is reason to celebrate.

Jesus for President (Part 1)

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I’m officially sick of politics.

Lies. Deception. Failure to follow through on definite promises. The same old slogans. Selling hope but delivering the opposite. Outdated leaders that don’t understand the people. ‘The better of two evils’ is often how we describe the candidates.

And us Aussies don’t like any of our leaders. We’ve had something ridiculous like 6 prime minsters in the last 7 years (a new record mind you). We just can’t make our minds up. Nobody truly leads with authority. Nobody really makes us want to follow them. The real issues aren’t being properly addressed.

Can I hear an amen?

We just want a fair shake of the sauce bottle. But there’s certainly an aspect where we have to just put up with it. Attempting to overthrow all of the world’s governments is not a good idea. I repeat: not a good idea.

We should consider our government and authority with respect, praying they rule justly. Yet, their rule is just temporary. No government is lasting, secure or faultless.

“The kingdom of heaven is near” – Jesus (Mark 1:15)

Except this one.

Here we have Jesus putting in his ballot paper. Publicly declaring to everyone his full confidence in this kingdom. The line has been drawn.

And even more than that, Jesus promises nothing in this world can rival this kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:10-11). Not some cheap knock-off or temporary rule of a government with an average leader.

This is the real deal.

Now, we place a lot of different thoughts onto the word kingdom. Medieval stuff like castles, knights, and drawbridges with shark infested waters. But kingdom in its simplest form is just a shortened form of King’s Dominion. 

The activity and reign of the King.

So when Jesus said the kingdom of heaven is near, it can actually be taken literally. Jesus was physically with the people. Therefore, the kingdom was literally near. So if we want to find out what this kingdom is all about, we should look to the activity of the king. We should look to the works and words of Jesus.

Let’s find out how worthy a candidate this Jesus is.

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Jesus: Really Satisfies

 

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Snickers have an awesome marketing team.

In one of their ads, an old man is attempting to pull off a big jump on his motorbike. Yes you heard me right. But the old dude is super confident about his chances. He thinks he has the jump covered. However, in a twist of events, old dude starts to lose control of his bike. He takes off from the jump but, you guessed it, he fails miserably. He face-plants into the ground.

Eventually a mate walks over and hands the old man a Snickers bar, because he “becomes a cranky old man when he’s hungry.” The old man angrily takes the bar, and after taking a bite, instantly morphs into a young man. He has become a new man. No longer hungry – he is back to his normal self and ready to hit the jump again. The commercial ends with their simple catch-line:

“You’re not you when you’re hungry. Snickers really satisfies.”

I think a round of applause is in order. That’s the sort of advertising we turn the television on for. That’s the sort of commercial we all want in-between overs of the cricket. Inspirational stuff.

No I’m not a Snickers salesman in disguise. This is going somewhere. Stick with me here.

“I am the bread of life” – Jesus

Like the Snickers advert, Jesus claims to fill our deepest hunger. Jesus claims to be really satisfying. And Jesus used bread as his analogy of being satisfied.

I know. Disappointing stuff.

Of all the things to compare yourself with, Jesus calls himself bread. Boring old bread. Not the pizza of life. Not the cheeseburger of life. Not the snickers of life. The bread of life.

Shoutout to all you gluten free people out there. Sometimes I wonder what goes through your minds when Jesus calls himself the bread of life. You the real MVP.

The question remains: why did Jesus equate himself to bread?

Let’s get a roll on.

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FOOD FOR LIFE

“I am the living bread…anyone who eats of this bread will live forever, and this bread, which I offer so the world may live, is my flesh” – Jesus

Our basic human right.

When we’re talking the most basic rights, sufficient food and adequate water supply is deadly important (literally). Forget other social issues that the media like to give more weight to. Food and water is the most basic, necessary, vital human need.

Now we’ve got to understand some context. Bread was to the Jews what rice is to Asia. Their staple diet. The food most routinely eaten. It took up a dominant portion of their regular food consumption, providing the required energy needs to that certain group of people.

So by equating himself to bread, Jesus is saying he is essential for life. A basic human right that all people should have access to. Vital in growth and development.

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Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (pictured above) aims to understand what motivates people.

His theory was that people are motivated to achieve certain needs. When one need is fulfilled, a person seeks to fulfil the next one, and so on. The needs start at the very basic level (Physiological) and work up to the top (Self-Actualisation). Some pyramids add another level on top, Transcendence, which is essentially seeking to help others reach their potential.

Many people have often labelled life as The Pursuit of Happiness.

For the most part, I think it’s pretty spot on. We generally try to fill our lives with things we enjoy. I doubt many people leave home each day intentionally looking for ways to increase their sadness. We all have a deep need for belonging. Good friendships, relationships, family. We try to fill our lives with things we enjoy doing. Activities that are fun. Things that challenge us.

Essentially, we are up in the top three tiers of the pyramid. Satisfying the needs that only privileged people can reach. But these are all secondary issues

Jesus saw a people starving themselves spiritually. He saw a people that thought pretty highly of themselves, yet bypassing their most basic needs. Avoiding their basic need for him whilst trying to climb to the top of the pyramid.

I’ll say this once: we are never going to reach the top of the pyramid without a solid foundation (Matthew 7:24-27). All we have worked for, that pyramid we climb, will come crashing down at our final breath.

Death puts an end to all pursuits of happiness. Mankind has its fate sealed. Everything we enjoy now is just temporary. The wages of sin are death (Romans 6:23), and death separated us from God.

Morbid stuff.

But Jesus had intense compassion on the human situation (John 3:16). He saw a people doomed for death and chasing secondary issues. He loved the world so much that he provided the solution to our mess.

Himself. 

“Give us today our daily bread” – Jesus

This was pretty cheeky of Jesus.

The disciples had just asked Jesus how they should pray. He responded with what we affectionately know as The Lord’s Prayer, which includes the words “give us today our daily bread.”

Some might have (justifiably) thought Jesus was talking about actual, physical bread. But Jesus wasn’t talking about actual bread here. He was referring to himself.

Jesus was essentially rehashing the same awesome message: I am your staple diet – come to me regularly. I am your basic human right, let me grow and develop you into the person you were made to be. I am the provider of all the energy and motivation you could need. I am the solid foundation that your life needs to be built upon.

I am.

Jesus provided himself as the bread for all – that we could be completely satisfied through him. Whoever comes to him will never hunger again (John 6:35).

That through him we would have life, and have it to the full (John 10:10).

It is no coincidence that God uses bread as a symbol of his provision throughout history.

The feeding of the 5000. 

People have flocked from everywhere to see Jesus. To hear his teachings, talk or be healed by him. Everyone just can’t get enough of this Jesus. Time passes. The huge crowd eventually grow hungry. The disciples, seeing the obvious dilemma regarding the food-to-people ratio, suggest Jesus should send the people home so they can buy their own food.

Jesus, not known for following the rules of physics, feeds the thousands with just five loaves and two fish. Just another day at the office for the Son of God.

The disciples and the crowd are obviously amazed. Gobsmacked. Somehow Jesus managed to feed a huge crowd from an extremely little amount of food.

What was the creed behind Jesus doing this?

On this particular day, Jesus was providing for the people’s physical need for bread. But through this situation, Jesus calls all people to a type of bread that doesn’t perish (John 6:27). That doesn’t make them hungry again. He is the bread that gives life, that truly satisfies.

Jesus doesn’t just call himself the bread of life and then fail to provide bread. What a massive disappointment that would be.

Jesus demonstrates here that there are no limits to his provision. There are no limits to his power. Everyone can eat of his bread and be satisfied.

Heck, there are even leftovers.

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THE BIG PICTURE

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” – Jesus

Cast your minds back to the Snickers commercial.

We have a big jump ahead of us. Life. We try to satisfy our lives with all types of things. Relationships. Good times. Success. Everything is going great. We start revving our engines towards the ramp. Everything is cool. Everything is under control.

Until we actually hit the jump.

The jump proves too big for anyone to make. Humanity always falls short of the mark.

Forget climate change. Forget the economy. Forget equality. The biggest problem the world faces today is death. Nobody avoids death, everyone falls victim to it. None of us can build a ramp and jump over death. Everyone that tries ends up face-planting into the ground. Confused. Angry. Hurt. Dirty. Hopeless.

Enter Jesus.

He finds humanity in its mess. Caring so much for the world he comes and extends a hand to us. Offering life. Full of compassion he meets us in the dust. Expressing his deep longing that we stop filling ourselves with that which only he can satisfy.

And when we take up his offer, we become a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). We become like a new person. We take part in the greatest testimony anyone could ever have: that we are not saved from death, but through it.

That ramp which once limited us is now not even an obstacle. The gap has been bridged.

Jesus: eternally satisfying. 

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