‘Money can’t buy life’ were reportedly the last words of the musician Bob Marley.

How can we prepare for life in the hereafter – assuming such a thing exists?

In a 6th Coffee Conversation let me suggest you explore with your friend(s) the question that a young magistrate who lived twenty-eight life spans ago (a life-span being seventy years) put to Jesus: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 18:18).

This young man seemingly had everything – status and success. Matthew and Mark also add that the man was wealthy. If the car you own, the property you hold, or the view that others have of you, have anything to do with life now and in the hereafter, this man had it.

He also had religion. When Jesus quizzed him about keeping the commandments, “…Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother,” the man responded he had done so from boyhood.

Furthermore, he showed respect to Jesus. He called him, ‘Good Teacher.’ It would have taken courage for a young ruler to ask someone like Jesus publicly about life matters. Jesus was a nobody: he had no social standing and no formal education. Yet despite the differences, this impressive, self-possessed young man asked Jesus a significant question.

Consider Jesus’ response. ‘You know the law,’ he says. ‘Do you keep God’s rules of neighbor love? Do you respect other people’s marriages, their property, their reputation and, do you truly respect your parents?’ ‘I do all that,’ the young man replied.

Significantly, without commenting on that, Jesus pushes further. This time, drawing on the essence of the first commandment, he says: “One thing you lack. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me” (Luke 18:22).

When we look carefully at Jesus’ words here we see that the key verb is not ‘sell’ or ‘give’, it is ‘follow’. Jesus does not command everyone to sell their property or cash in their shares, but he does demand discipleship. In the young man’s case discipleship meant selling everything. Money dominated his life. He couldn’t follow Jesus as long as he was entangled in his wealth.

Jesus is brutally frank: ‘You really want to love your neighbor as yourself? Sell what you have and give to the poor. How can you say that you love your neighbors while they go in rags and you live in prosperity? Do you really love the Lord your God, with all your heart, mind and soul? Let’s see if you are willing to give up your idolatry of wealth that has gripped your greedy heart.’

Money not only couldn’t buy him life, but ironically it could prevent him from obtaining life.

As the man turned away, Jesus’s comment is graphic: “How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for the rich to enter the kingdom of God” (Luke 18:24f).

‘Who then can be saved?’ the disciples asked. And we must ask the same for, generally speaking, most people in our western world have riches that exceed those of the disciples. “What is impossible with men and women is possible with God”, Jesus replies (Luke 18:27).

We need to remember the young man’s question: ‘What must I do to inherit eternal life?’ ‘Do,’ Jesus says. ‘You can’t do anything to inherit eternal life through your own efforts. You simply don’t come near God’s just requirements’.

But there’s another verb in the original question we usually overlook. It’s the verb, to inherit. We usually inherit something through the death of someone with whom we had a relationship.

When we understand this we can begin understand why Jesus says, ‘What is impossible for men and women, is possible with God.’ We can’t inherit eternal life because of what we have or what we have done. The good news is that life is a gift from God. But to become beneficiaries we need to form a relationship with Jesus while we have life now. It means turning to him in repentance and faith, committing to follow him as our only Lord all our days.

C.S. Lewis once observed: ‘All your life an unattainable ecstasy has hovered just beyond the grasp of your consciousness. The day is coming when you will wake to find, beyond all hope, that you have attained it…  or else, that it was within your reach and you have lost it forever.’

PS: You may want to suggest that your friend(s) read Luke 21-24 for a 7thCoffee Conversation.

© John G. Mason –



In his article in The Weekend Australian (Dec 23-24), ‘2017: West Challenged in a Spinning World’, political commentator Paul Kelly observes, ‘People now assert their rights against established norms and institutions. They seek more control. Their distrust of institutions has escalated’.

He notes the Gallup poll in the USA in June 2016, “confidence in institutions”. The poll revealed that in the 30 years from 1985 to 2016, ‘confidence in big business fell from 32 to 18 percent, in newspapers from 32 to 18 percent, … in banks from 51 to 27 percent, in the church and organized religion from 66 to 41 percent, and in the Congress from 39 to 9 percent.’

Kelly sums up, ‘In short, the Western establishment is being eroded from within due to lack of confidence and respect in the ability of leaders and institutions to discharge their responsibilities to the wider community. The causes are complex, multifaceted and not easily resolved…’

He further notes ‘the rise of a cult of individualism that threatens to entrench unhappiness at the heart of the democratic project…  Rules and norms,’ he observes, ‘must be modified to meet the latest claims of individual rights and self-realization. The needs of the individual are being enshrined as paramount, and this recognition becomes the new morality.’

As we conclude one calendar year, what New Year resolutions might we adopt? Let me depart this week from my 7 Coffee Conversations with some suggestions for the New Year.

Changed hearts. Too often our lives reflect the narcissism of the culture. Like lost sheep, we go astray, following the devices and desires of our hearts rather than heeding the voice of God. We fail to be ‘the salt of the earth’ and ‘the light of the world’. Let’s plan to confess our sins to God daily with truly repentant hearts and, knowing the Lord’s forgiveness, resolve by his grace to press on in the new life he has given us. “Father, forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who have sinned against us.”

Heartfelt prayer. Too often we go soft, thinking that, apart from the Neros, the Hitlers and the Stalins of the world, God will welcome everyone. Not so. In Acts 17:30f we read: While God has overlooked the times of human ignorance, he now commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will have the world judged in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.

C.S. Lewis wrote, ‘It’s probably truer to say that God invented both prayer and work for that purpose. God gave us, small creatures that we are, the dignity of being able to contribute to the course of events in two different ways’.

Revival is always accompanied by bold, persistent prayer. If we have a passion for the lost, we will pray that God whose nature is to be merciful will, through his Spirit, open blind eyes, unstop deaf ears and soften hard hearts – turning hearts towards their true home in the Lord.

New LifestyleConduct yourselves wisely toward outsiders, making the most of the time (Colossians 4:5). All of us are called upon to act wisely and graciously towards people we live and work with.

It’s important to recall the world in which Christianity was born. 1 Peter is addressed to people who were experiencing intolerable oppression. They had no opportunities in life. Yet in 1 Peter 2:11-12 we read: Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.  

Though Peter speaks of his readers, both slaves and free, as ‘resident aliens’ in this world, their lifestyle can draw others to God’s truth.

Abstain from the sinful desires which wage war against your soul, he writes. This is a reference to the desires of our hearts that are out of step with the Ten Commandments and Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount – lies, false-witness, anger, greed, theft, the lustful look, the adulterous relationship – anything that stands against the mind of God.

WordsLet your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer everyone, we read in Colossians 4: 6.

Paul expects us to cultivate conversations that are kind and gracious but seasoned with salt – a metaphor for sparkling and interesting conversations that trigger questions about life. It’s worth working on ways to use news items, opinion columns, and films to spark such conversations.

In our changing world, let’s resolve, by God’s grace, to play our part in his unfinished task of searching for and rescuing the lost.

In the New Year the Anglican Connection is planning half-day meetings for ministers, church leaders and members to explore ways to promote more effective gospel outreach.

May the Lord richly bless you in the New Year!



‘Christmas…’ – December 20, 2017

‘Christmas is all very nice’, people tell us. ‘We love the lights and the festivities, and even the music. But we know it isn’t true.’

In a fourth coffee conversation, and over Christmas, it’s worth praying for opportunities to take family and friends to Luke chapter 2:1ff: In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered.

Like a good newspaper reporter or historian, Luke identifies his narrative in the context of contemporary events – when Augustus was Emperor. It was the time when Augustus had ordered a census to be taken, when Quirinius was governor of Syria.

Here we encounter a problem. Mary gave birth to her baby during the reign of Herod the Great (Matthew 2:1). Herod died in 4BC and the Roman historian Josephus, tells us that Quirinius conducted a census in AD6 when he was governor of Syria.

That said, an inscription in Antioch indicates that Quirinius was a senior military official in the previous decade. Dr Earle Ellis says Quirinius was ‘virtually the Emperor’s viceroy’ (Luke: 1974, p.80). Significantly, Luke doesn’t use the normal word for governor to describe Quirinius’s office.

It may be some time before we completely grasp all the details of Luke’s account, but we can say that when Quirinius was Augustus’ viceroy in Syria – which he was for many years, he commenced a census registration process requiring everyone to return to their family home. And that is what Joseph did, as we read in Luke 2:5.

All this is important. We learn why Joseph and Mary had to travel some eighty miles from the region of Galilee in the north to Bethlehem in the south. That the birth occurred in Bethlehem is also most significant. About a millennium before Jesus was born, David, Israel’s great king had also been born there, and Samuel, one of Israel’s great prophets, had spoken of the way God would raise up a descendant of David to be the greatest of all kings. Micah, another prophet, had predicted that this king would be born in Bethlehem (5:2).

Augustus’s decision to require a census of all the world (2:1) had brought about a conjunction of events that resulted in the fulfillment of God’s promises. God works out his purposes in the course of human affairs: God’s king, the Messiah, would be born in Bethlehem.

In Luke 2:6b, 7 we read: …The time came for her (Mary) to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

The birth of Jesus took place in humble circumstances. There is irony here. The title Augustus that Caesar Octavian had taken to himself, signified greatness and divinity. Jesus’ birth seemed insignificant. How could Mary’s baby be the long promised Messiah? Yet the angel had told Mary that her baby would one day be far greater than any emperor or monarch, president or ruler (Luke 1:32f).

Consider the angel’s words to the shepherds: “Be not afraid, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the town of David a Savior; he is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10f).

Can it be true? The world doesn’t seem to be getting any better. Was the announcement that Jesus is the Savior, the Christ just another false hope? GK Chesterton once remarked, ‘Truth must necessarily be stranger than history; for fiction is the creation of the human mind and therefore congenial to it’.

Jesus’ biographers, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, are agreed: Jesus consistently displayed the kind of authority we would expect of God’s king. At a word he healed the sick, the lepers and the paralyzed. He overcame the powers of evil and declared forgiveness of sins. He even raised the dead. No matter what was thrown at him, he showed he was in control.

But while he clearly wielded the kind of power that could have smashed the might of Rome, he didn’t. He so gave himself for others that his feet and hands were bloodied as they were nailed to a cross. And he tells us he did this for us.

Throughout his public life he made it clear that what men and women needed was not a law-maker or a social-worker. We all need someone to deal with our deepest problem: our broken relationships – broken relationships with God and with one another. He knew there was only one remedy: a cross where a sacrifice to address our broken relationships would be made once and for all. The cross of Jesus is the only way our relationship with God, and in turn with one another, can be restored – and so bring us peace.

No wonder the angels sang that night: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, ‘shalom’, ‘peace’.

Significantly, the shepherds didn’t sit around asking if they were dreaming, or debating the possibility of miracles. Rather, they went to investigate: “Let’s go and see this baby for ourselves,” they said (Luke 2:15).

Their response sets a challenge for us. We weren’t there that night, but we do have the record of eyewitnesses. Like the shepherds we need to be assured that that baby is the Christ, our Savior. It means carrying out our own investigation and encouraging our family and friends to do the same. It is only when we turn to Jesus with changed minds and hearts that we can truly sing, Joy to the world, the Lord has come…!

May you know the deep joy and the rich blessing of the Lord Jesus Christ this Christmas.

© John G. Mason –



Back in the sixties, Burt Bacharach sang: “What the world needs now is love sweet love …” The problem is, as the 60s generation discovered, it’s one thing to sing about love but quite another to live it. Yet love and its true practice lie at the very heart of genuine Christianity.

On one occasion a lawyer asked Jesus: ‘What must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 10:25) It was a great question, but Luke tells us that the lawyer’s intention was to test Jesus. It was a ‘Gotcha’ question. Jesus knew this, but didn’t miss a beat and responded with his own question: “You know the law. How do you read it?”

In reply, the lawyer quoted: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart mind soul and strength (Deuteronomy 6:4) and “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18).

The rabbis of Jesus’ day rightly understood that these two commands distill the law of love. And indeed Jesus’ responded with: ‘CorrectDo this and you will live.’ There the conversation could have concluded.

Which brings me to a third coffee conversation with your friend(s).

Having touched on questions of ‘authenticity’ and ‘greatness’ over two coffee sessions, it’s worth focusing on this fascinating conversation between a lawyer and Jesus (Luke 10:25-37). But first, don’t forget to ask your friend(s) if they have any questions about Luke chapters 5-9.

Hearing Jesus’ commendation: “Do this and you will live,” the lawyer wasn’t happy. His plan to upstage Jesus hadn’t worked. So, lawyer-like he asked him to define ‘neighbor’.

The story that unfolded that day and the flow of the questions around it are important today; for most people, if they believe there is an afterlife, think they can achieve it by their own efforts.

Knowing that he needed to puncture the mask of the lawyer’s self-satisfaction, Jesus told a story: “A certain man was traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead…”

These opening lines would have drawn Jesus’ hearers into a scene they understood – a hapless traveler on a road notorious for bandits. And the unfolding story would have resonated – a priest and a Levite seeing the unconscious man and asking themselves whether the man was a ‘neighbor’, requiring their attention.

But the priest and the Levite didn’t feel the need to stop and help. They may have thought, ‘I didn’t beat up this man and leave him for dead. It’s nothing to do with me.’

Many react the same way today, turning God’s positive command to love our neighbor into a passive form: ‘I haven’t done anyone any harm; I haven’t killed or defrauded anyone; I haven’t cheated on my spouse. I must have kept the law of love’.

“Who is my neighbor?” the lawyer had asked. Jesus’ hearers would have expected him to introduce a godly Jewish layman. Instead, a Samaritan is brought in – not only an unexpected figure but a hated one (10:33-35).

Yet it was the Samaritan who showed compassion, applying first aid and sacrificing a month’s wages to cover the cost of the man’s recovery. He did everything in his power to aid this unknown, unidentifiable, possibly Jewish man. “Which of these three,” Jesus asked, “proved to be a neighbor to the man in need?” (10:36)

By turning the lawyer’s question around, Jesus invited him to put himself in the place of the victim. It was brilliant. Jesus was challenging the lawyer to reconsider his definition and his practice of love.

“The one who showed mercy,” he responded. He couldn’t bring himself to say, ‘the Samaritan’. Yet by focusing on mercy Jesus may have achieved the aim of altering the lawyer’s understanding. He should look at ‘need’ from the perspective of the victim.

“You go and you do likewise” – ‘if you can’, Jesus commanded (10:37b). The you is singular making his words personal and challenging. God’s law of neighbor love means we need to care for anyone in need when it is in our power and wise to do so.

Over the centuries the model of the Good Samaritan has set a pattern for compassion and care. God’s people especially have become involved, positively, sacrificially, even joyfully, assisting people in pain – the hungry, the lonely and the elderly, the victims of abuse and of injustice, unemployment, and poverty.

But this was not the primary reason Jesus told this story. “Who is my neighbor?” was the lawyer’s second question, refining his first: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?

‘Do?’ Jesus is saying, ‘you can’t do anything about your eternal state because you don’t keep God’s law. Your life is not good enough.’ The parable of the Good Samaritan reveals how morally bankrupt we all are. If we truly kept God’s law the gates into eternal life would be open to us. But we all fall short.

Consider the lawyer’s first question, “What must I do to inherit… ?” We inherit something, not usually because of what we have done, but because of a relationship we had with someone who has subsequently died.

As Luke’s Gospel unfolds we see that Jesus is not only greathe is also wonderfully good. For he is the ‘Good Samaritan’ who through his neighbor love has stepped out of his story and done everything necessary to rescue and restore us. When we form a loving relationship with him, we become his beneficiaries.

© John G. Mason –



Some years ago I was chatting with an acquaintance about Christianity over coffee in one of New York’s coffee shops when I noticed two women sitting in a darkened corner of the room. As the window blind had been drawn I thought it strange that one of them was wearing dark glasses. It was not until they rose to leave that I realized that she was a famous film-star. I had been sitting a table away from movie greatness – but I didn’t know it.

It’s easy to miss the opportunities of meeting greatness. I say this because many today have only eaten a diet of secular progressivism when it comes to the subject of Jesus. People don’t even bother to check out the primary documents of the New Testament.

This brings me to the second coffee conversation you might schedule with people you know.

Having touched on questions of the authenticity of the New Testament over coffee conversation #1, and having encouraged your friend(s) to read Luke chapters 1-4, you might ask if they have any questions. During coffee #2, let me suggest you focus on the drama of the scene in Luke 5:17-26.

You might point out that people were so keen to hear Jesus that they spilled out of the doors of a house where he was onto the street. Draw attention to the ingenuity of four men trying to get a friend who was paralyzed inside to see Jesus. In their desperation, they carried him up to the roof of the house, removed the tiles and lowered him on his stretcher-bed into Jesus’ presence.

The unexpected. Notice that instead of simply saying, ‘Rise and walk’, to the paralyzed man, Jesus astounded everyone by saying, Man, your sins are forgiven you (5:20).

His unexpected words suggest the man’s sickness was linked to sin. Jesus didn’t always make this equation. On another occasion when the disciples asked him why a man was blind, he comments, ‘It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be manifest in him” (John 9:3).

To return to the scene of Luke 5, medical science has long understood the link between mental attitude and physical well-being. Furthermore, there are times when there is a link between depression and a sense of unresolved guilt.

 In Luke 5:17ff, Jesus is telling us that the paralyzed man’s primary issue was that of unresolved guilt. “Your sins are forgiven,” Jesus said. ‘Forgiven by whom?’ we ask: ‘His family or his friends? His neighbors or God?’ ‘Who is this who has that kind of authority?’ we ask.

 Who is this? This was the question the religious leaders asked: “Why does this man speak like this?” they asked. “Who can forgive sins but God alone?” 

Their complaint centered on Jesus’ claim to have the authority to forgive sins. God is the one who is wronged by us. It’s his prerogative alone to forgive. Their theology was right, but they were unwilling to think outside their prejudices to form another conclusion: ‘Could this man have God’s authority?’

An unanswerable response: So that you may know that the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins,… I say to you, rise, pick up your bed and go home” (Luke 5:24).

We can only imagine the heightened tension and excitement as the drama unfolds.

Jesus’ commands are forceful and clear: Rise, pick up, go. We’re left in no doubt that the man is completely healed. The miracle is a sign of both Jesus’ power and authority – power to heal and authority to forgive.

Why didn’t Jesus cut to the chase and simply heal the man? Why didn’t he avoid conflict with the leaders? He deliberately used the occasion to provoke a reaction, because he wanted his audience then, and us today, to feel the cumulative impact of his words and his action. He wants us to know that sin is serious and, importantly for us, that God has given him his authority to forgive sins.

Greatness. Luke tells us that everyone who heard and saw what Jesus did that day realized they were in the presence of greatness – “We have seen extraordinary things today”, they said (Luke 5:26).

Indeed, as Luke’s narrative unfolds we see that the kind of authority Jesus displayed that day was not a freakish event. Again and again, he revealed his greatness and his power – over the forces of nature and evil, over sickness and even death. Jesus’ greatness prompted CS Lewis to write: Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.

We all need to recover an awareness of Jesus’ greatness – deepening our trust in him and enabling us to introduce him to others so that they too can meet with ultimate ‘greatness’.

You might want to encourage your friend(s) to read Luke 5-9 and set up a time for coffee conversation #3.

© John G. Mason –