Categories
Digging Deeper into the Word Featured Spiritual Development

The Manifesto of the Messiah

Author: Rachel Kidd

Just like Matthew tells us, Luke emphasizes that Jesus was a man on a mission. Jesus came to bring a message of good news to spiritually poor people, the blind, bound, broken-hearted and bruised people. He says that His message will make the blind see, set the bound free, and heal the broken.  

Luke is purposeful in the way in which he presents the message of Christ, making a clear argument for the gospel. Jesus proclaims this message in Luke chapter 4, proves it in chapter 5, and practices it throughout the rest of the book of Luke.  

Jesus continually extends an invitation to us to become a part of His manifesto, a participant in His mission. In a broken world, we are always interacting with the spiritually blind and bound.  

Today, the same Christ that walked the earth is within us. As the body of Christ, the church has the responsibility to fulfill Jesus’ mission on earth. 

We are called to walk with the broken and sick, to share with them the Good News of the Gospel, or to fulfill Jesus’ manifesto.  

Building Bonds 

Throughout Luke, we see Jesus reaching out to the spiritually broken over and over again. We witness the bonds He builds with fishermen, sinners, and tax collectors. 

Simon Peter was an ordinary fisherman from Nazareth, a working class man a bit rough around the edges. But Jesus called him. He gave him a nick-name Petra or Rocky, meaning stability. Peter was nothing but stable, but Jesus called out this quality in him.  

Jesus developed His relationship with Peter, calling him the ‘rock’ and encouraging him for three years. By the book of Acts, Peter became the rock, a cornerstone of the early church.  

Jesus exemplified what it means to encourage our friends, calling out good qualities in them and helping them become the best versions of themselves.  

When I feel encouraged, I am motivated to improve. Words of affirmation from friends, family, or especially from a person of authority, make me feel valued.  

Whatever you call people, they have a tendency of living up to it. It’s what it means to be a good friend, a good leader, and the living embodiment of the body of Christ.  

The Miracle of Fish 

Early one morning, Jesus is preaching to a crowd of people on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. Despite the crowds, Jesus’ attention is on a fisherman.  

This man is discouraged, he spent all night fishing and didn’t catch a single fish. Jesus knows that one day, this man will be a great church leader and preach to thousands, inciting revival on the day of Pentecost.  

But on this day, this man can’t even catch fish. How can someone who can’t catch fish become a fisher of men? Jesus saw Peter and who he could become.  

With the crowds growing around Him, Jesus has been pushed to the water’s edge and running out of room on dry land. He asks Peter to borrow his boat to use as a pulpit, giving Him more space to preach to the crowds from the water.  

Peter, probably reluctantly, agrees to share his boat. Peter continues to wash his fishing nets while Jesus finishes teaching from the boat. Afterwards, Jesus asks Peter to go out fishing with Him once more.  

Now Peter had been fishing all night and was already discouraged, having caught nothing. But, he goes with Jesus anyway. Reluctantly casting his nets once again, he says “Teacher, we’ve fished all night and caught nothing.”  

Jesus tells Peter to pull the nets in and check again. This time, the nets were overflowing with fish, requiring all hands on deck to pull them in. Both Peter’s and his brother’s boat were full of freshly caught fish, nearly sinking them both.  

Peter falls to Jesus’ feet and says “depart from me oh Lord, I’m a sinful man.” Why would Peter respond this way to the miracle Jesus just performed?  

Jesus is trying to recruit Peter to join Him on his mission, His manifesto. He is calling Peter to be a partner as they give sight to the blind, healing to the broken, and freedom to the spiritually bound.  

He is asking Peter to leave behind his simple fisherman’s life and pursue instead a life dedicated to fishing for men. Peter seems to feel unqualified for this role by Jesus’ side, an uneducated, impulsive sinner with a temper and a foul mouth.  

But, Jesus sees something more in Peter. He knows that this man who can’t even catch fish today, can become a great partner in the mission of the Gospel. He also knows that to get there, He must teach Peter a few things.  

Fishing Lessons 

Jesus teaches Peter and future readers of scripture, a few things about fishing for men as partners in His manifesto.  

  1. You are not the fisherman, Jesus is. You are not the deliverer, Jesus is.  

Without Him in the boat with us, we will return with empty nets.  

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” –Matthew 19:26 

When you try to go fishing for men, or lead someone to Christ, it is an impossible task without the power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the evangelist and Jesus is the fisherman.

You cannot catch men alone, but with Jesus, anything is possible. 

  1. Jesus has control over the boat.  

When Jesus gets on Peter’s fishing boat, Peter is no longer in charge. Jesus tells Peter when to cast the nets, when to pull them up, and when to return to shore.  

When we accept the Holy Spirit in our lives, we are surrendering control to Jesus. We are giving Him authority over our lives, trusting in His wisdom.  

  1. Forsake everything to follow Jesus.  

Peter was a career fisherman. He had spent his life learning his trade and earning a living. But, when Jesus calls him to leave it to follow Him, he does.  

Peter doesn’t bring his hard-earned boat with him, he doesn’t continue to hold on to his former life. He leaves it all behind to become a follower of Jesus, a full-time fisher of men.  

“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world yet loses his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?”-Matthew 16:24-26 

Like Peter, we are called to be partner’s in the fulfillment of Jesus’ manifesto. We are called to follow Him, pursue His word, and lead others to Him through the power of the Holy Spirit.  

Categories
Digging Deeper into the Word Spiritual Development

Peace Framework : Part II

Author: Rachel Kidd

In the first blog in this series, we talked about peace and what it really is. We also introduced the Peace Framework, a triangular model of the modes of peace.  

The first side of the triangle, place, is something we might not think of initially when we think of peace. But, it is a crucial piece that can really impact your overall feeling, whether peaceful or chaotic.  

What is Place? 

I don’t know if this is a universal experience, but in my family, nothing motivates us to clean the house from top to bottom like having company. Any time we host a party or get together, everyone pitches in, a frenzy of cleaning products and stashing clutter away. We always pull it together for a sparkling home, complete with scented candle, by the time people arrive.   

Why are we so motivated to make our place, our home, sparkle just for company? Why don’t we feel that drive to clean, to prepare, for ourselves? 

It comes down to asking yourself, how am I motivated?  

Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Motivation  

Intrinsic motivation is doing something for its inherent value and what it means to you, without outside influence. Extrinsic motivation is doing something for the outcome, whether that be a reward or to avoid punishment.  

Understanding what is compelling you or motivating you is a great way to get to know your needs better and how to better motivate yourself.  

How hopeful are you that your place will be peaceful for you?  

Place encompasses your environment and how it makes you feel. This could be your home, your city, your job/office, even your digital spaces like a desktop or phone. I like to include mental state here as well. 

When my mind is cluttered, my physical space often reflects that. I feel chaotic inside and so I let things like dishes and clutter pile up. It’s a vicious cycle, because the messier my apartment gets, the more overwhelmed I feel. It takes quite a bit of effort, and medication for me, to tackle the mess that has accumulated.  

But, once I do clean and declutter, I feel so relieved. I feel accomplished and proud of my clean space. I then find it much easier to focus on my work for the day, especially working from home.  

In fact, I’ve begun to find the act of cleaning to be meditative, a menial task with short-term payoff that doesn’t require much mental energy. Like a runner feels when they hit their stride, the rest of the mental clutter fades away and they can only feel the soles of their feet hitting the pavement.  

That’s how I feel when I get deep into cleaning mode, focused on my hands and my  

How hopeful are you that your place will be peaceful for you?  

Mary & Martha 

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” 

 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” –Luke 10:38-42 

The story of Mary and Martha is one of my personal favorites. Like me and my family, Martha is worried and focused on preparing the house for their guests.  

This may be her personality, perhaps she wants her home to be welcoming to Jesus (I can imagine we all would!) and His disciples. This could also be reflective of the gendered expectations placed on women of the day, who would have never been permitted to learn from the Torah with men.  

Martha becomes exasperated at doing all the housework alone, while her sister Mary sits with the men at Jesus’ feet. Perhaps Martha was worried for her sister, fearful of what might happen because of Mary’s flagrant disregard for the societal rules placed upon her.  

That’s why I love Jesus’ response here to Martha’s concern. In direct opposition to what is expected of Him, Jesus tells her that Mary has made the right choice in sitting and choosing to listen.  

Mary sought peace at the feet of Jesus, while Martha sought peace in preparing the home for their guests. I wonder if Martha might have felt more comfortable seeking the teachings of Jesus had the cultural norms of the time been more lenient? Or perhaps she might have joined Mary once everything was prepared, feeling at peace with a clean home and dinner on the table.  

Finding your Place 

Like me, like Mary and Martha, we all seek comfort and peace in place. Determining who you are and what you need out of your place is key as you seek peace within the peace framework.  

Maybe you’re a Martha, you have a hard time hearing from God when your home is cluttered or you prefer quiet time while you clean.  

Or maybe you’re a Mary, who seeks peace first at the feet of Jesus, regardless of the societal expectations placed upon you, because you need that peace first.  

Categories
Digging Deeper into the Word Prayer Spiritual Development

The Kingdom of Heaven : Part II

Author: Rachel Kidd

Both Matthew and John refer to the kingdom of heaven or the kingdom of God in their respective gospels. Are these kingdoms the same? Are they a physical place or a spiritual place?  

This second part of the series on the Kingdom of heaven will focus primarily on the kingdom as described by Matthew, centered on the Sermon on the Mount and the Beatitudes.  

Different theological perspectives have different understandings and varied beliefs in the application or ramification of this definition.  However, generally the Kingdom of God, or the Kingdom Of Heaven, refers to the “spiritual realm over which God reigns as king, or the fulfillment on Earth of God’s will.” 

It is what the world will look like when God’s will has been fulfilled on earth, making all things new. But, what does that look like exactly? This blog will delve into Matthew chapter 5 and his descriptions of the Kingdom, both what it is and what it is not.  

What the Kingdom is not 

Before defining what the kingdom of heaven is, it’s helpful to understand what it is not. Matthew is clear that the kingdom cannot be found through human righteousness alone.  

But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves. –Matt. 23:13–15 

The Pharisees followed the law of Moses, the Jewish law, to the letter. They believed themselves to be the only righteous ones, making themselves the arbiters of what is good and what is not. They bend over backwards to create followers, yet their hypocrisy makes their converts just as lost as they are.   

Jesus tells the Pharisees and scribes that they are not the decision makers in the kingdom. They are hypocrites of the highest order, not compelling others to righteousness as they so believed, but they are pulling them down and causing them to stumble.  

He also emphasizes the distinct differences between the condemnation espoused by the religious leaders of the time and the welcoming arms of the Heavenly Father.  

What is it? 

In Matthew chapters 5-7, Jesus describes the Kingdom in His Sermon on the Mount. He paints a picture, inviting the crowd into His vision of the kingdom. 

He begins by welcoming the persecuted Jews around Him, providing comfort for people who are experiencing the torment of the Roman empire. He blesses them, promising them the Kingdom. I can imagine His words were soothing to a hurting, persecuted people, seeking to preserve their community. Jesus says; 

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. –Mathew 5:3 

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. –Matthew 5:10 

Fulfillment of the Law 

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.  

Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. –Matthew 5:17-20 

Jesus tells His Jewish listeners that He has not come to abolish the law they have faithfully followed for generations, but rather to fulfill it. Jesus is the Messiah, the fulfillment of Jewish prophecy who promised to bring renewal to the law of Moses.  

The remainder of the sermon, Jesus walks the crowd through each of the commandments, explaining how the kingdom of heaven will change and renew these laws. He did not come to remove systems of accountability, instead He emphasizes their importance, reminding us that only the most righteous can enter the kingdom.  

The next blog in the series will delve deeper into the commandments, studying the specific changes Jesus proclaims, like plucking one’s own eye out if it causes you to stumble. He flipped the law on its head, calling into question the root ethos of each, asking the crowd to look deeper and understand the meaning behind their rules.  

Righteousness 

As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” –Romans 3:10-12 

Because the Jewish people were bound by a lengthy set of rules. The Jewish law, or the Halakhah, is an ordered way of life that includes rules about eating, drinking, bathing, dress, and how to observe Shabbat and other holidays. Many still live by this code today, observing centuries old tradition and living in a righteous manner.  

However, humans cannot be righteous enough for the kingdom by our works alone. The New Testament says that salvation then must come from Christ. Even the Pharisees, who follow the letter of the law, cannot enter into the kingdom without Jesus.  

Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. –Matthew 6:1 

Jesus warns us to avoid performing righteousness for the approval of others. While we may be doing good work, like volunteering with a ministry, if we’re doing it for Instagram likes, we’ve already received our reward.  

The kingdom of heaven is the eternal reward, something that cannot be earned or bought. Jesus shared the vision of the kingdom to His people that day, bringing them close with comfort and hope for an eternity with Him.