Jesus: Living Water

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Imagine it.

You have just turned on the TV when an advertisement pops up. In this advertisement, a man is selling a drink. Living Water. You sit up in your chair to listen.

The man begins by looking straight down the barrel of the camera. You notice his eyes are brimming with compassion. And without the aid of smoke machines or sound effects, he starts making his case. And with a voice of authority, yet unmistakable urgency, claims this drink he is selling will make you never thirst again. 

Questions start to flood your mind. Is this guy serious? Could this be the solution to poverty? You turn the volume up. His assurance in this living water is incredible. He guarantees it with his word: “Everyone who tries this living water will be totally satisfied.” Not just a select group of people. Not just a select group of tastebuds.

Everyone.

But he doesn’t stop there. This man puts his words into action. You are left absolutely stunned when he offers the greatest discount ever. Not 20% off. Not even 50% off. This living water is totally free of charge. He finishes with his final appeal: “Come and drink!”

His words speak for themselves. You are left in a state of shock. Either this drink is the real deal, or the man selling it is a nutcase. You are left with one burning question:

Who is this man? 

“Whoever drinks of the water I give them will never thirst again” – Jesus (John 4:14)

This man is Jesus.

Before televisions were a thing, Jesus ran this advertisement on the streets. On more than one occasion, Jesus advocated a kind of water that makes you never thirst again. To his friends, to his enemies, to the whole world. This was the campaign of his whole life.

Living water.

That might surprise some of you. For me, it brings some questions to mind. And it probably does for you too. So we are going to tackle three main questions together:

  1. What is this living water?
  2. What does this living water offer us?
  3. How much does this living water cost?

Let’s go with the flow.

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Jesus: No Ordinary Teacher (Part 3)

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I’m currently undergoing an education degree. Training to be a teacher. And throughout my first year, I learnt some of the qualities and disciplines required of a good teacher.

In looking back on 2016, I began a summary of the key qualities to a proficient teacher. Just jotted some bullet points onto paper. And being a Jesus follower, knowing his claim to be our teacher, I looked at the list and asked myself one question:

How would Jesus stack up to the list?

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CHECKING THE LIST

In Part 2 we covered three more bullet points. A good teacher sets clear classroom standards, becomes a role model of how to live within them, and then sacrifices time to help struggling students in the classroom.

Jesus aced the test. In fact, he far surpasses the standards of a good teacher. But now we turn our attention to three more qualities of a good teacher. So get your red pens out.

Because it’s time to give Jesus a grade.

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An Open Letter to John Piper

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John.

The reason for this letter is ultimately to thank you. Your words have had a profound impact and a solidifying effect on my faith. And yet, I have never met you. So it would make sense for me to outline how you fit into my story.

When I consider the people in the closest sphere of influence in my life, you do not sit among the parents, grandparents, pastors and friends that have come alongside me. Such people have, and will continue to have, a huge impact on my walk with Jesus.

My early life really set up the kindling. And a fire for God was definitely going by around Grade 10. But then a couple of years later, you waltzed into my life brandished with a flamethrower. And by the grace and power of God, began to ignite a passion in me.

It all started in early 2015. I listened to my first sermon by you – For His Sake and for Your Joy, Go Low. Soon after I found a series you preached on Job. From there I sourced a series on the Beatitudes. All of a sudden, the earphones were out at every opportunity.

All of a sudden, this Bible of mine was coming alive. 

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You taught me many things, for which I want to publicly appreciate.

Firstly, you taught me that the Bible is a feast. Not a snack we choose to ration, but a feast we are required to attend. The absolute centrality you place on God’s word in your public ministry is incredible. In preaching, debating, interviews, social media, blogs, books. What I notice in you is not a half heartedness to the word, but all-out saturation in it.

The way you labour over it. The way you aim to juice every bit out of the word, in order to pierce the heart with Biblical truth. The passion you present it with. I had never realised the Bible could be so interesting. You make obvious your aim to draw attention to God and away from yourself. I have grown to love that.

Secondly, you showed me that real men are totally flawed by the grace of God. Sometimes it makes me smile. Those times when you are preaching and absolutely lost for words. Arms extended, huge smile on your face, eyes brimming with joy as you find yourself passionately struggling to express the depths of the grace of God. I love that. 

I love your presentation of Christ as a wonderful crutch we (the poor in spirit) can rest in and find saving grace. I love strategies like APTAT, by which there is heavy reliance on the grace and promises of God. And so it became much clearer to me. The grace of God is not a once-off experience. The grace of God is radically life-changing stuff. 

Lastly, and ultimately, you taught me that Jesus is worth everything. Even my life. Especially my life. I love how you shine a light on the surpassing worth and supreme treasure that is Christ. The don’t waste your life sermons. The way you slam the prosperity gospel with actual gospel. The purpose behind all of your writing.

It is the echo of the call to magnify the LORD (Psalm 34:3). The rally cry to suffer for Jesus (Philippians 1:29). The longing that we would deny ourselves to a greater joy (Mark 8:34). To make much of Christ whether by life or death (Philippians 1:20-21).

To live a life rooted in the all-satisfying reward of being more close to Jesus.

____________________

John Piper.

In reflection, I think we both see something pretty clearly. What I love about you isn’t you. It is God working in and through you. And for that I will be forever grateful.

See you soon.

Jesus: No Ordinary Teacher (Part 2)

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I’m currently undergoing an education degree. Training to be a teacher. And throughout my first year, I learnt some of the qualities and disciplines required of a good teacher.

In looking back on 2016, I began a summary of the key qualities to a proficient teacher. Just jotted some bullet points onto paper. And being a Jesus follower, knowing his claim to be our teacher, I looked at the list and asked myself one question:

How would Jesus stack up to the list?

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CHECKING THE LIST

In Part 1 we covered three of the bullet points. A good teacher has proficient knowledge of the content, has a passion for the topic and students, and knows how to convey the content in relevant and understandable ways.

Jesus aced the test. In fact, he far surpasses the standards of a good teacher. But now we turn our attention to three more qualities of a good teacher. So get your red pens out.

Because it’s time to give Jesus a grade.

Continue reading

Jesus: No Ordinary Teacher (Part 1)

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Teaching.

We would all be dead without it. Consider this. Somewhere along the line, you were taught everything you know and do today.

We all go through a process of learning the bare essentials. The toilet training stage. Learning how to eat and drink. Walk and talk. Then as we walk through life, we begin to understand more complex lessons. Skills like how to read and write. How to tie your shoes. How to cook. How to apologise. How to interact with one another.

Some are still learning those lessons. But truth is, we all are. Anyone who claims to know everything is delusional. The fact that we are in the 21st century, part of society as we know it today, is thanks to our ongoing learning over hundreds of years.

You see, life is a great teacher.

Teaching is part of the fabric of life, and we are students to it

And Jesus claimed to be a great teacher (John 13:13).

Now, Jesus didn’t claim teacher status to get a job down the road. This wasn’t his little spoken resume. No, this Jesus claimed to be the Son of God (Matthew 16:15). The way to the truth and fullness of life (John 14:6). In light of this, we see something clearly.

When Jesus accepts claims to be a teacher, he claims to have incredible authority. Not just a teacher of maths or science. This is a teacher of life itself. Essential for the forward movement of the world. Essential for the continuation of society. Essential for life

And importantly, every teacher has students.

In claiming to be a teacher, Jesus invites us to come and learn. To be his students. Therefore, it is essential we assess his credentials. It is essential we understand what sort of a teacher he is. Hence this new 3-part blog series. So get your red pens out.

Because it’s time to give Jesus a grade.

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Just the rubber band

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Each day looks very different for me. Take a few weeks ago as an example.

I (just) finished 3 assignments and sat an exam for university. That took up most of my week. But I also worked in a fruit stall at my local markets. I helped lead at youth group. I caught up with my church. I worked as a dishy in a restaurant. I went for a few bike rides. I went hiking with one mate, had coffee with another friend, and saw another mate in hospital.

But it’s so easy to forget God in the chaos. With so much going on, I regularly need to be reminded and encouraged of my purpose here on earth. Each day looks vastly different, but I need the same reminder each day to keep me on track.

And I use a rubber band on my wrist as this reminder.

Why?

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Rubber bands hold and contain things. Often I find rubber bands lying at the foot of letterboxes. They are most often used to hold a bunch of letters, pamphlets or magazines together until they reach the destination (letterbox).

Breaking news, I know.

However, the rubber band has almost no value. Heck, a whole bag of these rubber bands only costs a couple of dollars. Once used, they’re discarded onto the ground. Most people walk past or on them without noticing. They’re pretty insignificant.

What makes the band significant is the message it helped deliver.

We as Christians are the rubber band. Like the rubber band, we hold and contain an awesome message to tell the world. We are called to share the awesome message of complete and utter forgiveness, unfailing love and ridiculous joy through Jesus. Eternity and perfect community with him and his people.

But like the rubber band, we aren’t very valuable in ourselves. Sure, you and I are OK at some things. But we aren’t hugely significant in the global context of things. In the history of the world, our lives aren’t exactly bookmarked.

However, we take on tremendous value because of the message we carry.

‘God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them…’ – 1 Corinthians 1:28

So when others point out our flaws and failings, we can confidently agree with them. In fact we can boast in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). The creator of the universe chose us, insignificant and flawed, to contain and proclaim to the world his message of hope. His strength where we are weak – now that’s something to boast about.

All glory to him.

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“I did not come with eloquence or wisdom… I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling” – Paul [1 Corinthians 2:1-3]

Paul understood being a rubber band well. He told everyone he wasn’t a crash-hot speaker. He let everyone know that he didn’t have amazing wisdom. In fact, he told the crowds that he was weak and scared.

Paul realised he wasn’t significant to the message he was giving.

All he really understood was that he had to deliver the message he possessed. Nothing would stop him. He understood the significance of what he contained, and despite knowing all his weaknesses and failings, put pride aside for its delivery. God worked through the flawed, weak, not particularly intelligent man that was Paul – and did amazing things through his life.

What a testimony.

Maybe we should take a leaf out of his booklet. Our identity with Christ and his message of hope is what gives our lives meaning beyond the grave. Nothing else. May we never lose sight of the significance to this message we contain.

I leave one challenge to all the rubber bands reading this:

In humility, stretch yourself

God’s Masterpiece

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When you look at the canvas of your life, what do you see?

Maybe you see it riddled with mistakes. The lines might not be straight. Parts of the drawing have gone outside of the lines. The paper is torn, dirty. Stains splattered across the painting serve as a constant reminder of past mistakes [1]. People in the painting are blurry, once good friends have become un-recognisable.

No form of eraser or glue can fix the mess which you’ve created.

What would you give to start again? How much money would you pay to have your messy, torn up canvas turned into a masterpiece?

For we are God’s masterpiece.’ – Ephesians 2:9

We don’t become God’s masterpiece after we have fixed up the canvas of our life. Not God’s masterpiece once we’ve sorted out those messy lines and torn edges.  We are God’s masterpiece. Not in a few weeks, months or years. We already are.

His prized possession.

Saying “we are God’s masterpiece” is one thing, believing it is a whole new beast. But living in knowledge of it, for many people, is one hill too many.

And it’s something I struggle to actually believe and live out too.

Surely we all see flaws in our character and faults we’ve made in life? Maybe it is just me. I can recall numerous times when I’ve taken a step back to look at my canvas and not been all that proud.

This struggle brings me to a few questions:

  • Considering my past, how can I still be called a masterpiece?
  • What does it mean to live knowing I am God’s prized possession?

Let’s paint a picture of what it looks like.

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THE ILLUSTRATION

mona-lisa

When I think of a masterpiece the Mona Lisa comes to mind, the world’s most famous painting, painted by Leonardo Da Vinci. So for the sake of discovering what being God’s masterpiece implies, we will use this as our analogy.

A painter or sculptor puts a lot of time into making a piece of art. Some sources say that the nose of the lady in the Mona Lisa took 12 years to paint, although I tend to question Leonardo’s potential procrastination tendencies. But you get the idea I’m sure – a masterpiece is not made overnight.

Often a painter will base their picture off an image of sorts, either through a small picture or a model sitting in front of them. Leonardo Da Vinci used a model in front of him – and his attempt to re-create the image of this person is depicted in the painting.

A painter develops a lot of pride for their painting. Once completed, many present their piece of art in public places. It brings joy to see the amount of time and effort put into the painting was all worth it.

The Mona Lisa is completely and utterly a reflection of Leonardo Da Vinci. When experts comment on the painting, they direct all praise to him, the painter.

A piece of art cannot boast of itself – it can only boast of its creator.

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DRAWING THE COMPARISON 

God put a lot of time and thought into creating us. God says even before he made the world he knew and loved us (Ephesians 1:4). I don’t know about you – but that’s really knowing your creation. That before he made us, we were known by him. He specially made us, knitted each of us together in our (respective) mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13).

God doesn’t mass produce his pieces of art – he isn’t required to meet a quota each day. Each piece of art he creates is special. We are all unique, known by him.

We are the workmanship of God himself, made in his image (Genesis 1:27). Essentially, God has created us to look and be like him. Let that sink in. God himself has created us to resemble him.

The Lord takes pleasure in us, his people and his creation (Psalm 149:4). Just like a painter takes pride in his piece of art, so too God genuinely loves and cares for his creation. How awesome that is!

Therefore, as the masterpieces of God, we cannot boast of our good aspects of character. We cannot boast of our good skills/characteristics in certain areas. As his masterpiece, all praise and glory should be directed to our great artist.

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SOMETHING TO BRUSH OVER

‘For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.’ – Ephesians 2:10

Through death and resurrection, Jesus claims to have carried all of our mistakes. He carried the collective, the whole world’s canvas – riddled with mistakes and errors – and provided for us a clean sheet. God has created us anew in Christ Jesus. Through him, we can claim the beginning of his work in us – to becoming his masterpiece.

But don’t hear me wrong in this. There is no doubt our mistakes have human consequences, and becoming a Christian doesn’t just wipe them all away from having happened in the first place. Stating the obvious I know, but important to say regardless.

Rather I believe we can suffer, recover and learn from our mistakes, whilst knowing we are completely forgiven of them through Jesus. My point, and what God has told us through scripture, is that we are already his masterpiece because of the image we were made in – and that was of God himself. Nothing we do can separate us from that.

Furthermore, as God’s masterpieces we were not made to just sit on a mantle and be admired (this is where the analogy gets a bit dodgy). As highlighted above in the bible verse, we have been made new so that we can do the good works he planned for us.

Therefore we are advocates for the living God (2 Corinthians 5:20). I’ve always hated the word responsibility – it usually implies me doing things I don’t want to do – clean my room, do the dishes, be an adult, etc. But this responsibility is different. What a massive privilege, yet huge responsibility we have to represent our awesome creator!

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Hawthorn Football Club’s motto is to ‘Play Your Role’. Everyone plays a different role and position on the field. Yet when each part is executed correctly, the whole team can (and has proven to) be successful.

It is the same for us as people scattered throughout the world. We are all placed in different situations. We serve different roles and positions – some of us may be pastors, others may be teachers. Some may work at their local shop, others may be homeless.

As individuals, we are just one piece. Yet we all play a part in God’s big jigsaw (plan) – in the workplace, sports, school and social arenas. One piece in a jigsaw is insignificant, somewhat useless. But together, have the potential to create an awesome picture.

Let God work out the puzzle – whilst we stay present in his house.

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THE FINISHING TOUCHES

‘They took the thirty pieces of silver – the price at which [Jesus] was valued by the people of Israel’- Matthew 27:9

30 pieces of silver was the same price used as compensation for a slave’s accidental death (Exodus 21:32). Significant however, is this payment for Jesus wasn’t made after the event of death, as compensation for some sort of accident. It was made prior to Jesus death. The people were signalling their intentions, essentially saying “this man is dead to us.” 

Here we have Jesus, the Son of God. His own people and creation valued him as nothing. To them Jesus was as good as a slave, dead to them (Mark 10:44-45).

But despite the world completely rejecting him and treating him as nothing, Jesus knew his value in God. That despite being whipped, spat upon and taunted by all, Jesus’ self-worth was not based on other people’s opinions.

His identity was found in God. 

When we find ourselves against the world, the subject of ‘persecution’ of sorts, we need to realise our worth in our Father’s eyes. When others point out the flaws and mistakes on the canvas of our life, we can confidently redirect them to the clean canvas that Jesus has given us access to. And in that, we can truly begin to become the masterpiece we were made to be.

“How deep the Father’s love for us, how vast beyond all measure. That he should give his only Son, to make a wretch his treasure”

So I’ll ask again: when you look at the canvas of your life, what do you see?

You may see a mess, nothing is even remotely close to perfect. You might only see the broken pieces of mistakes and flaws in your life.

But our broken pieces have been made a mosaic.

Re-assembled in him.

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REFERENCES

[1] Skit Guys, S 2015, Our Mess, God’s Masterpiece, online video, December 27, accessed 27 April 2016, <https://skitguys.com/videos/item/our-mess-gods-masterpiece&gt;.

[2] Gibson, T 2013, ‘God’s Masterpiece’, Image, 5 February, accessed 15 April 2016, <http://www.lightbearers.org/gods-masterpiece/&gt;.