“God, Can You Call Back Later?”

God sure knows how to pick the worst timing to call.

Jesus called a few fishermen to become his disciples. They had their fishing business and hired men working for them. Fishermen weren’t illiterate people as we often think. In all likelihood, they had literacy skills. That’s how they wrote the gospels.

One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living. Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!”

Mark 1:16 -17 NLT

Jesus met them at their workplace one day. They were hard at work fishing or mending their nets when he called them to follow him. The Gospels record that there were multiple times that Jesus called them. Can you imagine a pastor showing up at your office one day and calling you to follow him at once for a healing rally? What would you do? If you’re like me, a million thoughts course through your mind – “I’m working can’t you see? My boss will fire me! Can you call back me at 5 pm when I’m off work?”

That’s the thing about Jesus. Jesus doesn’t call people when they’re most free. He calls them when they’re most occupied. He doesn’t call people when they’ve nothing to lose. He calls people when they’ve everything to lose. You see, God often calls at the worst time to see whether we would step out in faith in spite of the challenges. That’s true faith.

The fishermen had to choose their business or Jesus. Apparently, they weren’t too serious at first. Just following Jesus for kicks. Seeing his miracles firsthand were pretty amazing. But Jesus, wanted more from them. He wanted them to give up fishing fish totally.

And they left their nets at once and followed him. A little farther up the shore Jesus saw Zebedee’s sons, James and John, in a boat repairing their nets. He called them at once, and they also followed him, leaving their father, Zebedee, in the boat with the hired men.

Mark 1:18-20 NLT

You have a choice to make. Will you give up your job, your family, your business, your security to follow Jesus? Maybe the sacrifice seems too great. Even Peter felt that way after following Jesus for awhile.

Then Peter said to [Jesus], “We’ve given up everything to follow you. What will we get?”

Matthew 19:27 NLT

Jesus’ answer is comforting to us all.

And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or property, for my sake, will receive a hundred times as much in return and will inherit eternal life. But many who are the greatest now will be least important then, and those who seem least important now will be the greatest.
Matthew 19:29-30 NLT

A hundred times return! You will not be shortchanged by God. He is the best boss and master to work for. Though you may seem to be last by this world’s standards, you’re rich in God’s eyes. Are you willing to respond in faith to God’s call even in the midst of uncertainty?

Breaking Our Alabaster Jar

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While [Jesus] was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.

Mark 14:3

It was nearing Jesus’ crucifixion and burial. He had told his disciples numerous times about his impending suffering, death and resurrection (Mk 8:31; 9:31; 10:33-34). But they somehow didn’t get it. They still thought that Jesus was going to be King of the Jews by conquering the Roman government. They still argued about seats in the future kingdom (10:35-44) and who was the greatest (9:33-37).

But this woman got it. She understood that Jesus was going to die soon. Knowing that Jesus was going to leave them, she sacrificed her expensive alabaster jar filled with pure nard. If you have a friend who was migrating overseas, wouldn’t you give him a good treat before he leaves? She broke her jar and poured it all on Jesus’ head.

While some said it was a waste of perfume, Jesus defended her actions and called it “a beautiful thing” (14:6). Jesus explained that “she poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial” (14:8). She was the only one in the room that believed Jesus’ words – he was going to be killed and buried. As a result, her actions have been immortalised in the gospel for all to remember.

Jesus also sacrificed an alabaster jar: Himself.

Immediately after this passage, Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper in the upper room. During the meal, he broke the bread (14:22) and poured the wine (14:24). Do you notice the words used? Broke and poured. Exactly the same two words were used earlier to describe the woman who broke and poured the perfume on Jesus (14:3). Jesus’ body was broken and his blood poured out for us on the cross. His alabaster jar was himself. He suffered for you and me. The most expensive gift, more than the pure nard, was sacrificed to reconcile God and man. That’s love.

Just as some people rebuked the woman for wasting the perfume, some have said that Jesus’ death was a waste too. He had a ministry of three years, not a long time. He had so much potential to preach, teach and do miracles. Why did he not serve for 40 years and then die at 70? What a waste to die so young at 33 years old! But Jesus’ death was not a waste. It was “a beautiful thing”.

I’ve frequently met friends and church members who say, “Why are you giving up a career and joining bible school at such a young age? What a waste of your prior education!” It seems like a waste in the eyes of the world, but to Jesus, when we give our lives, it is “a beautiful thing”.

The woman broke and poured her alabaster jar for Jesus.

Jesus broke and poured his alabaster jar when he died for you and me.

Are you willing to break and pour out your alabaster jar for Jesus?

 

 

God-conomics: God’s Strange Economics

 

stack-of-sliver-ingots-and-pile-of-coinsGod’s economics are strange. Let me point out to a common issue and then relate it to a larger picture that can irreversibly alter how you view your life.

We often don’t pray or read the Bible when we’re pressed for time. We want to rush off to school or work to get more things done. The funny thing is that when you neglect spending time with God, you don’t gain time. You lose time. How is that possible? God-conomics.

You assume that by spending an hour with God, you lose time for other things. Well, wrong! God can bless the remaining hours of your day such that no time is lost, or that the time is even more productive.

Conversely, when you skip time with God, God can remove his blessings on the rest of the day and make you even more unproductive. Martin Luther, the great reformist, said:

“I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.” – Martin Luther

That’s mind-boggling! The busier Luther’s day was, the more he had to pray for God’s blessing and help. What about you? Are you too busy to pray? Or like Luther, too busy not to pray? Make an appointment with God everyday.

This leads me to my second point. God-conomics as I’ve stated, works on a whole different set of principles. It is essentially, a paradox. God can bless and multiply whatever you have given up. Remember the five loaves and two fishes? In Jesus’ hands, it multiplied and fed more than five thousand people. God-conomics was in action. This has deep implications for each one of us.

Many people cling on to their lives, their careers, their dreams, their family, their possessions and refuse to give it up. They think that giving up their lives for God’s use is a waste. Imagine if that little boy had refused to give Jesus his bread and fish. No miracle could have taken place. In God-conomics, only when the life is given up for him, can it be blessed, broken, and multiplied far beyond what you try to do in your own strength.

Jesus spoke clearly about the gain in the midst of loss:

Mark 8:35 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.

And that everything we give up will be amply returned:

Matthew 19:29
And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.

Do you want God to bless your life? You need to lose all control over your life. Everything you cling to must be released. The world may call you a failure or a waste of talent, but in God’s eyes, you’re a success.

“Shadow of the good things to come”

Have you ever wondered what the law of Moses was for? Hebrews stated the function of it clearly.

Hebrews 10:1
The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship.

Did you see it? The law is a shadow of the good things that are coming.

That’s an interesting word: Shadow

Well, how is the law a shadow? Take a look at this picture.

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Notice the shadow casted by the man? We see the shape of the shadow and we can guess what the original object is like. The shadow is not the actual person, just a hint or preview of things to come – in this case, a man.

Similarly, the law is a shadow of the good things to come. It is a hint, a preview. It isn’t the actual thing or as the verse says “not the realities themselves”. What does that mean?

The author gives the example animal sacrifices. The animal sacrifices as stipulated by the law of God was commanded for the forgiveness of sins but in reality, could never take away sins. Why not? Because it is only a shadow, not a reality.

What then was the reality?

The reality came in the form of Jesus Christ. The lamb of God who gave the ultimate sacrifice on the cross, fulfilling the law. And this time, his shed blood could take away sins. Why?

Because Jesus is the reality. Only his sacrifice could fulfill the law. The law merely anticipated his sacrifice, but could never take away sins. It was a preview.

Jesus died for us and fulfilled the law of God so that we might live in him forever. The shadow disappeared when the light of God stepped into awesome reality.