4. The Rich Fool

Meditating on the Parables of Luke: 4. The Rich Fool

Luke 12:13-21 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”  Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?”  Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”  And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’   “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain.  And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’  “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’  “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”

Purpose: The purpose of this parable is very straight forward: be careful to have right values in life and don’t trust in wealth, but in God.

Context: Our quote above starts with someone in the crowd calling out to Jesus to get his brother to share their inheritance. Jesus questions whether he is there to be an arbiter of such things, and then tells this parable to put desire, greed, life goals in perspective. It is then followed by extensive teaching about trusting God.

The Facts of the Parable:

  • there was a rich man whose grounds produced a great harvest.
  • he decided he needed more store-houses to cope with this abundance
  • his goal became to just sit back and take life easy
  • yet God said that he would lose his life that very night.

The Ordinariness of the Story: What initially strikes me is that what the rich man initially plans to do is wisdom – build more space to house the abundant grain. There is nothing wrong in that. The wrong has to be in what follows. His attitude is that by building bigger barns he can hold on to this abundant harvest and will not have to work for a long time. What is missing? Thanks to God for the abundance. No thought of giving to the poor out of his abundance. His response is entirely self-centred – note all the ‘I’s and ‘my’s and ‘myself’. He is entirely godless.

The Punchline: “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”   How do you get rich towards God? By being God-centred, God-focused, God-thankful, God-praising and God-caring for others. Seeking God regularly in His word, seeking Him regularly in prayer, giving thanks to Him regularly, seeking His wisdom and direction regularly, these are all things that make a person ‘rich towards God’.

The Following Teaching: See what Jesus goes on to say: Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes …..25 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? 26 Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest? …. 29 And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. 30 For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well….. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Lk 12:22-34)

Setting your Heart: How can we do these things, how in this materialistic world can we counter the pressures of modern advertising creating false expectations? May I suggest just a few things

  • First, work on your relationship with God. Put Him first, make time to spend with Him each day, determine to seek Him for decisions you need to make in life.
  • Second, if God calls you to be a businessman, never step over the moral boundaries and never say or do anything that you would be ashamed about if it became public.
  • Third, hold your money lightly and always be available to God to be a resource to the needy when He places them before you, be generous in the face of need.
  • Fourth, limit the amount of borrowing you do to that which you know you can pay back without great effort and great risk, pay off your plastic each month, don’t let debt pile up, live within your means.
  • Fifth, don’t let your life become imprisoned by the debts you have and the work hours you will have to put in to pay them off; make your family of greater priority – and your church.
  • Sixth, maintain a thankful and grateful heart for all the good things in life that God has given you and let rejoicing in that be a measure of where you are with God.

Seventh, finally, consult Him for all financial decisions. Hold money lightly and don’t let it become the major issue in your life.  Enough!

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3. The Good Friend

Meditating on the Parables of Luke:  3. The Good Friend

Luke 11:5-8  Then Jesus said to them, “Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’ And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.

Purpose: The purpose of this parable is apparently to motivate us to pray, if for no other reason, than just do it to get results. I’ll open up on this shortly.

Context: The chapter starts with, “One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” (Lk 11:1) which is followed by the teaching we often refer to as ‘The Lord’s Prayer’. That perhaps doesn’t help us a great deal but what follows the parable certainly does: So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Lk 11:9,10) Note that word ‘So’ at the beginning which links it to the parable before it. It is all about prayer – the disciples’ desire to pray, the prayer outline given by Jesus, and then the direct teaching to ask and keep on asking (as the verb tense indicates)

Facts of the Parable: The story or illustration includes the following:

  • there is a person in need of bread (quite a lot actually!).
  • he has a friend who he feels might be able to help out.
  • he goes to him at the middle of the night, knocks on his door and explains his need.
  • his friend, put out by the time of night, replies, ‘Don’t bother me.’
  • he explains that the house is locked and the family asleep; it is inconvenient.
  • yet (implied) the original person continues to ask.
  • the friend inside, to keep the peace, opens up and gives him what he wants.

The Teaching: Jesus explains the following:

  • friendship was not enough to get him to open up,
  • however shear audacity, keeping on asking in the middle of the night, did.

A Picture of God? If this is about asking in prayer, doesn’t the home-owner / friend appear as God? And doesn’t this put God in a poor light? The answer to this comes in verses further on: “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Lk 11:11-13) In other words, these verses should be read with the parable to conclude, ‘If the home-owner will respond because of his friend’s audacity, how much more will God respond to His children calling out to Him. We thus have a parable that gets its full meaning only by being read in the light of the surrounding teaching.

Repeated Teaching: First of all there is the repeated asking. In the parable the first man asks and asks, and eventually gets. In the teaching of v.9,10 the tense of the verbs indicates it should be, ask and keep on asking, seek and keep on seeking, and knock and keep on knocking. But then there is the repetition of the teaching itself: the parable says keep on asking, the verbs say keep on asking and the conclusion that the Father will give good gifts to His children implies keep on asking. (Later on in chapter 18 there is the parable of the unrighteous judge which teaches the same thing – keep asking).

Why the Need? We often have to ask, why would Jesus tell a parable like this, and the answer has to be to meet a specific need. The need in this case, I suggest, is that prayers don’t always get immediate answers. I have several reasons for this, I believe. First, sometimes constant and continual prayer is an indicator of the urgency and reality of the person praying and the Bible indicates that God looks for such reality (Deut 4:29). Second, I believe spending time in God’s presence deepens our relationship with the Lord and so He holds back a while to ensure this happens.  Third, I believe sometimes we have to pray and pray before we get to the point of realising what God’s will really is and we ask for it (and then get it) in his name (Jn 14:13). Fourth, there is clearly spiritual opposition sometimes (see Dan 10:13) and we don’t always get what we want (see 1 Thess 2:18)

The Encouragement: For these reasons above, we find we need that encouragement to keep on praying. This particular parable seems to suggest, don’t go on logic, but just keep on praying even if (and especially if) you think God is getting fed up with it. There are times in scripture when God says don’t pray, but until you hear Him say that to you – keep at it!

12. Light – again

Short Meditations in John 8:  12. Light – again

Part 2: All about Testimony

Jn 8:12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Some would say this is a continuation from the end of chapter 7 and occurred when, in this part of the feast, on the evening of the first day, four massive candelabra are brought out and lit, lighting up the whole area. It is in the face of this great light that that Jesus makes this second ‘I am’ assertion.  It is of course possible that Jesus waited until later in the week to do this because perhaps otherwise his words would get lost in the dancing and celebrations that accompanied the lighting of the candelabra. In which case he would be saying, “You’ve seen the great light that lit up Jerusalem earlier in the feast – I am a greater light than that.”

Isaiah had prophesied about a great light coming to Galilee (Isa 9:1,2, Mt 4:15) and clearly the land had been ‘lit up’ by Jesus’ miracles and teaching, but here he makes a claim that covers far more than just Galilee, the whole world – “the light of the world”. Later in John he says, “I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness,” (Jn 12:46) but that has the feel of the effect of hearing, believing and therefore, as a consequence of being brought out of darkness, to live in the light.  Here in this present verse he simply presents a more general, “If you follow me you will be walking in my light.”

Do you see the power of that picture?  Jesus is THE source of light and so if you walk alongside him you will be bathed in this light and darkness will be banished from your experience.

But of course Jesus speaks about spiritual or moral darkness, the darkness that limits the lives of so many people. Where he is, that spiritual or moral darkness is banished, because from him flows such spiritual and moral goodness darkness cannot exist in its presence.

The ‘light of life’? Well, without light life cannot exist. Plants cannot grow without light. Without light we cannot see to live. Light shows what is all around it, light shows the reality of the world, light shows the way, light enables plant life to grow and food to be grown. Without light life cannot exist.

Without Jesus, men and women live in a blind world where they fail to see reality, where they totter through life with little understanding of this world made by God, provided for our blessing. Yes, they encounter it, more by feeling than by sight and fail to comprehend the wonder of it, and thus are not thankful (Rom 1:21) and became inward looking, self-centred and godless. Let Jesus’ light transform your world.

Application: Because I think there is a danger in the coming discussions that we simply become intellectual and academic, I want to check us in each study to ask, “What does this say to me?” So now, do I see my life as one that lives in the light of Jesus and which sheds and shares his light?

7. Loved

Studies in Isaiah 54: 7. Loved

Isa 54: 10  “Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you.

 Grace Prevailing over Justice: In the previous study we saw how the Lord was using the analogy of Noah and the Flood to explain His faithfulness, we should say, in respect of Israel. Even as Noah had moved His heart and brought a promise of grace prevailing over justice, so that same grace would prevail today so that, although He had indeed cast them away for a moment because of their disobedience, now He would come to them and restore that previous relationship. We did go into verse 10 as we mentioned the covenant of peace, but there is something even more wonderful there that we must take hold of.

In a Shaken World: The first phrase of this present verse may be skimmed over by many (me included often) but it is highly significant: “Though the mountains be shaken and the hills removed.” In other words it doesn’t matter how disastrous the world seems, God’s love is going to be there. Now don’t take this casually because very often (along with Chicken Licken) we feel the sky is falling down as things around us seem to deteriorate. At the time I write, the political landscapes of the UK and USA have been transformed and in the UK in particular (although some in the USA say they feel the same) chaos seems to ensue. For many this has created a world-weariness, almost a mental and emotional exhaustion that is only helped by turning off and ignoring the news.

But it is more than just than the political landscape. Older generations feel lost in a world that has been utterly transformed in their lifetime. The world has been shaken for them by technology. Younger generations complain that because of the self-centred carelessness of older generations they have been put into a situation where financially they are disadvantaged; their world has been shaken.  But this ‘shaking’ can be much more personal; when illness strikes or downsizing comes to your workplace and the job you have held for thirty years is suddenly gone, it comes like an earth-shattering loss. In many ways it feels like the earth is being shaken and things we have taken for granted for so long (the hills) are removed from our lives, and it makes us feel very vulnerable.

Need of Security: It is at such times that we desperately feel we need security. When the ‘ground is shaking’ and when ‘the hills are being removed’ we suddenly start thinking about these things. While everything was going along fine, we just took life for granted.  There was food on the table, the sun shone and day followed day without a worry or care in sight. And then the ground shook. We felt it but it would pass quickly. But then it continued shaking and then ‘the hills were removed’ and suddenly everything was different. It happens all the time in the Fallen World, especially this modern world where change is the name of the game every day it seems. It can be highly disconcerting but such shaking can wake us up to the realities of our life – we have taken so much for granted, we had become complacent with our relationship with the Lord, almost superficial if we are honest. Then comes the shaking – usually a loss, of a job, of health or of a loved one – and we start praying, we start crying out, “Are you there?” Of course He is but we had become things-focused instead of God-focused and so lost that sense.

The Word Comes: Then comes the word of the Lord: my unfailing love for you will not be shaken.” The psalmist says the same thing: “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.” (Psa 46:1,2) He doesn’t mention the word ‘love’ there but that is what it is all about and why he does not need to fear. The earth may be shaken but God’s love will not be shaken. David knew this same love: “save me because of your unfailing love.” (Psa 6:4) Whatever else might change, God’s love would not. All other resources might run out, but God’s love will never fail, will never be exhausted. Jeremiah was prophesying against the same thing when he declared, “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.” (Jer 2:13) Not only had the people turned away from God who was an everlasting source of life and love, but they had tried to manufacture their own forms of provision and security and those always failed! No, God’s love is unfailing, that is why He is so often referred to as ‘faithful’ because He is unchanging.

Beware Appearances: I often teach on the fact that Jesus is seated at the Father’s right hand ruling in the midst of his enemies, and will continue to reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet, and it is at such times that I sense that readers or listeners have the same query as Gideon had that we considered in the previous study. It is so common we need to repeat it here: if God is around, why are all these things happening? In another context recently I wrote the following:

Point One: we live in a Fallen World where, because of sin, things go wrong and people say and do nasty things because they have free will.

Point Two: God does not override our free will and so permits the world to proceed as it does with things going wrong and people acting badly BUT He does expect us, His children, to act as His representatives and to be salt and light in it.

Point Three: He a) expects us to change the circumstances and b) be changed by the circumstances. We are to be one of His means of bringing change in this world while being changed into Jesus’ likeness as we do it.

That is the ‘big picture’ that we need to remember. Jesus IS ruling but he doesn’t do it with a heavy hand; he uses us (yes, he does sometimes move sovereignly without us as well) and sometimes waits for us to catch on to that, but the Father’s love IS always there, it is unfailing and it does not change because we are slow to understand or slow to act. It is still there despite whatever we do. “God is love” (1 Jn 4:8,16) the apostle John declared. Hold that truth firmly, never let it go, despite the appearances of what is going on around you. He IS there for us at all times, every day. Hold that, rejoice in it and be at peace in whatever is going on.

Snapshots: Day 43

Snapshots: Day 43

The Snapshot: “God said, “I will be with you.”  (Ex 3:12a) Having a friend or a loved one alongside you has to be one of the surest ways of feeling secure in this unsure world. To be alone in the trials and tribulations of this fallen world is an anguish the Lord wants us to avoid. But if there are no other people, there is always Him. Even if that friend or loved one says nothing, it is just good to have them there. But is God a ‘friend’ who is just there? The thing about the friend’s presence is that we can always turn to talk to them and trust them in their counsel. With God it is so obvious because we are always talking about prayer. But dare I believe He is actually here in this place? Whether I sense it or not, it is true and that must be the starting place for my security.

Further Consideration: There is something strange about being a Christian that I have found over the years. There is comfort in the truth of His word, the Bible, there is comfort in being one of God’s people and having other believers around me who are like me and are for me.  If is comforting to learn the truth about the attributes and ways of God and the wonder of the Gospel, of what Jesus did and has done for us. Yes, all of these things are reassuring and comforting; it is good to know about God and who He has made us.

But the strange thing that I have found is that the greatest comfort comes either when He speaks personally or when I catch a sense of His presence – “He is here!” I have lost count of the number of times when He has spoken a personal word to me. It doesn’t happen all the time, it doesn’t happen when I want it to, but when it does happen, I find that even if it is just a single short sentence, somehow, having heard from my Lord is immensely comforting.  And then there have been those times when I have been waiting upon him, a relatively few times, sometimes with others, and then comes that awareness that He was there, making His presence felt in a way that really denies further description. And it always comes with an amazing sense of peace.

I’ve pondered on why it should be, and it is only when I think of His attributes do I understand. When you are infinite and without origin, you have no need to worry about your past or prove yourself in the future. When you are immutable or self-sufficient, you have no need to rely on others. When you are all-powerful you have no need to feel defensive. When you are all-knowing, you need have no doubts. When you are everywhere, you will see everything and miss nothing.  When you are all-wise, you have no need to feel confused. God IS at total peace because of this, and in His presence we too sense and feel that peace. How wonderful.

Snapshots: Day 24

Snapshots: Day 24

The Snapshot: “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac.” You are a God like all the other gods who demand child sacrifice? No I am not. Then why do you want me to kill Isaac? I don’t. But you said….  I simply said take him. But you said sacrifice him? I want you to be willing to give him up. But isn’t that the same as killing him? No, I simply want you to learn to trust me. And you will raise him from the dead? If that’s how you want to see it. Very well, here he is. Stop. But you said…. No, I said learn to trust me with those most precious to you. Then you don’t want me to kill him? Of course not, I said that. But…. Don’t you realize I love him more than you do? But…. Hold all my gifts to you lightly, don’t make them more than me, otherwise you will cheapen them. What?

Further Consideration: Our problem, so often, is that we don’t realize how much God loves us and our loved ones. A good number of years ago, when our three children were young (they are now in their late thirties) my wife had an accident. I will spare her blushes by not telling you what happened but she was bleeding – badly. We put a towel against the cut and rushed her to hospital. In the Accident and Emergency dept they instantly saw there was a big problem and immediately started work on her while I was asked to wait outside. Their problem was that they could not stop her bleeding. She had cut an artery and nothing they could do would stop it.

In a semi-unconscious state she heard their desperate urgency and realized she could be dying. Lying there while they sought to stop the bleeding she prayed and said, “But Lord, what about my three children, who will look after them?” (I could have felt offended about this except that I was passed it at that point and anyway didn’t know until afterwards what she had prayed). But as she prayed, asking for help, she very clearly heard the Lord who said, “Don’t you realize that I love them and care for them even more than you do?” And that was it. The bleeding stopped, crisis over, but a changed wife.

God did NOT want Isaac dead; He just wanted Abraham (and us) to learn something. At the end of it, Abraham named the place, “The Lord will provide.” (Gen 22:14) Here’s the thing, Mount Moriah where this happened (v.2) is according to 2 Chron 3:1, Jerusalem, the vicinity of Calvary where another son was sacrificed – for you and me. God doesn’t want your death or mine, Jesus has already given himself in our place, to carry our sin, so that we can carry on living – for ever! Some are revolted by the picture of Jesus dying for them but it is only pride that keeps us from facing our need and our hopelessness and then, as a drowning person grabbing a straw, we accept the Cross.

53. Awareness

The Wonder of the Church:  Part 8 – Counter Attack

53. Awareness

Mt 16:18  I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.

1 Pet 2:9,10  But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.  Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

More? I thought we had finished this series, at the end of the last Part, but  woke one morning with such clarity of something more, so we have to go on at least one more Part which is all about NOT being a passive, ineffectual bunch of religious people who are increasingly marginalized in this modern world. No this is about standing up and saying, “Enough! It is time to become who we were called to become.”  The studies you will find as we go through this Part are as follows:

  1. Awareness
  2. A Time to Regain Identity
  3. A Time to go on the Offensive
  4. Are we ready to fight?
  5. About ‘Attitude’
  6. Finally, regain Perspective

It starts with this verse from Matt 16 that the gates of Hades (or Hell) will not overcome the church. In such context the phrase “the gates of Hades” can be taken to mean Satan and all his forces, as one commentator puts it, “storming out of the hell’s gates in order to attack and destroy the church.” Now as C.S.Lewis sought to show in his “Screwtape Letters”, he seeks to do that in various ways and they are clearly observable today. Thus our starting point in this final Part must be to identify the ways the enemy works to seek to undermine and bring down the Church. Sometimes that is by big, all-embracing strategies that affect many at a time (usually the weak of faith) and sometimes it is by personal and individual attack. His end objective is to weaken, disarm, disable and dismantle the Church and to eventually destroy it. As we will see, a hopeless task!

The Ways of the Enemy: In a variety of ways, Satan strategizes to undermine and bring down the Church. First, on one hand, he seeks to encourage the atheistic crusaders of the twenty-first century who sought to rubbish the truth of the Bible, successfully in those who were weak in faith, but unsuccessfully for others as the Lord raised up His intellectual warriors to show the folly of the attacks.  (This is the ‘roaring lion’ attack – see 1 Pet 5:8).

Second, he seeks to encourage what is often referred to as the liberal wing of the church who downplay the veracity of the Bible and unwittingly undermine faith. This is the approach of ‘reasonableness’ and ‘logic’ which demeans the divinely supernatural and denies the truth that God speaks and acts into His world. (The is the ‘angel of light’ attack – 2 Cor 11:14).

Third, he seeks to make The Faith seem outdated and irrelevant in the face of the tidal waves of knowledge and science and technology. Fourth, in another deceptive strategy, he seeks to suggest that the modern world is so civilised and wise and all-knowing, that we no longer need these ‘outdated and superstitious folk tales from the past’. Unfortunately for him, the Bible truth still remains, “A man reaps what he sows,” (Gal 6:7) and so the fruit of this folly is observable in every area of life where men and women abandon God’s ways and God’s laws, and this is clearly visible for those who have eyes to see.

Fifth, especially in affluent Western societies, he seeks to make people so comfortable and secure in their affluence and tells them that they have been successful and so, again, don’t need these outdates rituals or beliefs. They can get by quite happily without them. He fails to remind them of Jesus’ parable of the two house builders in Matt 7 where we are reminded that temporary security is illusory without Christ, so when the crises of life hit – and they will – downfall will follow.

Futility of his efforts: History, ancient and modern shows that even though persecution comes, His Church remains strong and even thrives. The history of the church in China in the past hundred years is a classic example of that. While numbers in the church in the West decline, numbers of the church in China have spiralled, making it greater in number than the Communist Party of that country. In the West, leaders are qualified by education; in China they are qualified by having been in prison! Scripturally Jesus taught that God’s kingdom would grow and grow and grow and be the largest of all the ‘plants’ (Mt 13:32, Mk 4:32). In the West, while traditional denominations decline ‘new shoots’ thrive and increase in numbers. In that sense it is difficult to discern the exact truth of what is happening to the church.

Assessing the Reality: We have maintained throughout these studies that whatever the numbers, the overall signs are of a Church that a) so often is more concerned to maintain the status quo rather than constantly be pushing to expand the boundaries of the kingdom, b) so often is more concerned with managing buildings and institutions than putting much effort in reaching the lost, c) so often retreats into social work to appease a guilty conscience rather than train and send disciples to go out preaching the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, d) so often is more concerned with comfort and ease and constantly seeking personal well-being rather than sacrificially living out lives that reveal the wonder of the Servant-King, e) so often are more concerned with speaking carefully crafted words rather than moving in the power and anointing of the Holy Spirit so that, f) so often there is little fruitfulness in the reality of transformed lives that now reveal the light and the life of their risen Lord and move on in service in the power of the Spirit. .

And Yet: Yes, this is the truth, God still looks to us to play our part. Yes, Scripture does appear to show that the powers of darkness may yet have a field-day but despite that we are called to display the resurrected Christ in and through the life of the Church. If there is any truth in these assessments of the place and the state of the Church in these different places, the end call has to be the same. Are those right who suggest that the picture of the church at Laodicea in Rev 3 applies to this time? Are we lukewarm, neither hot nor cold? (3:15,16)  Are we deceived into believing we are rich while all the time (spiritually at least) we are “wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked”? Is Jesus writing off the Church in the West? Will the Church in China, or from other severely persecuted countries, be the light that the Lord will use to shine to the rest of the world in the end-time darkness?

A word of hope. One thing I notice about Jesus with his disciples, is that he often chided his disciples for their little faith (e.g. Mt 8:26, 14:31, 16:8, 17:20) but he never wrote them off. When Jesus scolded the disciples for having ‘little faith’, it was not to put them down but to challenge them to rise up in it – he continued giving them opportunities to minister and become more and more like him. May that be true of us in these days, and that I will be examining in the remaining studies.