Monday 31 March 2014

Bible Reading Thoughts for March 31st

Numbers 14:8
"If the LORD delight in us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it us; a land which floweth with milk and honey."

This is the same for us, may our Lord and master find delight in us in that day, when we stand before him.

We read in Psalms 147:10-11
"He delighteth not in the strength of the horse: he taketh not pleasure in the legs of a man.  The LORD taketh pleasure in them that fear him, in those that hope in his mercy."

The LORD God, our God delights in those that fear him (and manifest this in their lives), and who hope in his great mercy.

Interestingly the Septuagint uses a Greek word for "delight" in Nu 14:8, that is only used x1 in the New Testament, and is used to describe the Lord Jesus Christ in Matthews gospel:

Matt 12:18
"Behold my servant, whom I have CHOSEN; my beloved, in whom my soul is well pleased: I will put my spirit upon him, and he shall shew judgment to the Gentiles."

We who have been called out, from darkness into light, are to walk as children of light in our daily lives. Not seeking a captain for ourselves as the children of Israel did, but looking to and following the captain of our salvation who through suffering brings many sons to glory.

"YOU WILL BE WITH ME IN PARADISE"                                                                                                  

     What is paradise?  It is not a common word in scripture.  Jesus uses it in his last message, the book of Revelation, saying, “To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life , which is in the paradise of God.” [Ch. 2 v.7]  Primarily it means a park, a garden - and Adam was put out of the first paradise to stop him eating of the tree of life. 
    There is not the slightest indication that paradise means heaven. John’s Gospel states, “no one has ascended to heaven” [3 v.13]. In today’s 23rd chapter of Luke we read that oft quoted promise of Jesus to the repentant thief beside him on the cross that “you will be with me in paradise” [v.43]. It is important to realize Jesus is responding to the request the thief had made.  “Jesus,” he said, “remember me when you come in your kingdom” [v.42].
    What a tremendous testimony the words of the thief are to his belief in the future that lay before Jesus, in spite of what was happening,. Had he had been a follower but had gone astray? To the main disciples, all seemed lost in what had happened, but not to the thief, suddenly he had a perception of tremendous faith. Surely this was the reason Jesus made the promise, “Truly, I say to you todayyou will be with me in paradise” [v.43] You will have noticed that we put the comma after the word “today” – which then makes sense of what Jesus said. There are no commas in the original Greek.
    Those who think paradise means heaven ignore what Jesus said to Mary Magdalene when she met him on the resurrection morn, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father” [John 20 v.17] The death of Jesus was real, for 3 days he had ceased to exist!  Let us have the faith of the thief on the cross – maybe we need a personal crisis in our life to challenge us to prove whether our faith is real.   
     Today’s chapter in Proverbs 10 encourages us to think positively, “Whoever walks in integrity walks securely” [v.9] “The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life” [v.11]  “The wise lay-up knowledge” [v.14] “Whoever heeds instruction is on the path to life” [v.17]  Our daily reading of God’s word is an essential reminder and re-enforcement of God’s instructions so that we keep on the pathway that leads to the paradise to come on this earth when Jesus returns.,

Bible Reading Thoughts for March 30th

Luke 22:10 we read:
"And he said unto them, Behold, when ye are entered into the city, there shall a MAN meet you, BEARING A PITCHER OF WATER; follow him into the house where he entereth in.

We are probably aware that the carrying of water was usually the task of a woman. BUT, this also reminds us of the service of bondservants, through the Gibeonites (Josh 9,21,23,27). Where they for life, had to give up their own lives and worldly inheritance to be hewers of wood and DRAWERS (bearers) of WATER for the house of God.

Joshua's covenant with the Gibeonites foreshadows the conversion of the Gentiles to the Hope of Israel. Those who give up their worldly inheritance and become bondservants of the Joshua (Jesus) of the New Testament to be servants of the house of God.
“LIKE GRASSHOPPERS”                                                                                                                                              
     Can you imagine yourself as a member of the Israelites who miraculously escaped from Egypt?  After seeing all the remarkable plagues, the wonder of crossing the Red Sea, then camping beside Mt. Sinai with the earth quaking, the clouds, the fire and the voice from the mountain!  After that the miraculous provision of manna, also quails, and the water from the rock. Then, the teamwork to build the tabernacle as a centre of worship, with the divine presence indicated by fire and cloud!  Next the great celebration of a ‘Passover’, one year and one month after leaving Egypt.
     Surely, if we had been part of all that, our confidence and anticipation of God’s power to lead us to the promised land would be very great.  Well might we be astonished at what we read today in Numbers!  Why did 10 of the 12 spies sent to explore the land, come back in such a negative frame of mind?  Although they said the land ‘flows with milk and honey and this is its fruit.”[13 v.27] They spoke against the two other spies who came back and had said, “Let us go up at once and occupy the land for we are well able to overcome it.” [v.30] 
      But the 10 said “We are not able … for they are stronger than we are … all the people we saw in it are of great height … we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers” [v.31-33]
     We are going to read of God’s anger with them because of this failure of faith after all the evidence they had experienced of his power that had surrounded them to their benefit.
     Let us examine all the evidence for our own faith.  How strong are our convictions in serving God?  If serious difficulties arise will our faith falter?  Will we only follow in the way of faith, when all is readily provided and there are deliverances and blessings?   
     Recall that remarkable Psalm 139 we read recently, David wrote, “Search me, O God, and know my heartTry me … see if there be any grievous way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.” [v.23,24].   
     Next month we will read Moses’ final message to the people before he dies,  “and you shall remember the whole way that the LORD your God has led you these 40 years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not” [Deut.8 v.2]. 
     It was a message to the next generation, for their parents had died during the 40 year journey.  They had learnt their lesson the hard way!  Are we sure we have learnt ours?   If massive problems arise as this world falls apart – will we seem “like grasshoppers”?  Or will our faith be such as to give us “full assurance” -  Read Hebrews 10 v.22,23

Bible Readings Thoughts for March 29th

“DISTRESS OF NATIONS IN PERPLEXITY”                                                                                                       

     The perplexity among the nations today is remarkable.  A factor in this is that the USA has to some degree lost its power and strong influence.   Money has been king, the ability to influence others has been achieved by having plenty of money and strong military power.
   .  Today’s reading in Luke 21 tells us that Jesus said that his return to the earth would be at a time of “distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves.”[v.25]
      The threat of roaring seas, especially tsunamis, has caused great anxieties, The massive earthquake and tsunami off the coast of Japan caused very serious problems – and these continue.   Warning systems have now been put in place, but these will not stop the seas roaring – only just give a few minutes warning.
     However, we can see that the words of Jesus, as do several others things he said, reflect words written in the Old Testament and indicate even greater distresses are to come.  Look at the language in Psalm 46. “we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though the waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling … the nations rage, the kingdoms totter ; he utters his voice, the earth melts … Come, behold the works of the LORD, how he has wrought desolations on the earth.  He makes wars ceaseto the end of the earth … [v.2,3,6,8,9].
      Just as one is able to pick out the prophecies that were fulfilled at the first coming of Jesus, so we ponder those that we judge must apply to his second coming.  Jesus continued by speaking of “people fainting with fear and foreboding of what is coming on the world” [v.26].  But those who know the Bible will carefully read the words of Jesus that follow and take them to heart, “Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your headsbecause your redemption is drawing near” [v.28]  This  “redemption” of course, is for his committed followers.  Make sure that includes you..
       Returning to Psalm 46, take special note of the positive message in the last 2 verses, “Be still and know that I am God I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.”  Make sure that he is your fortress – remember how Jesus told the parable of those who knocked at the door – but it was too late – remember what you read in Luke 13 v.25.

Friday 28 March 2014

Bible Readings Thoughts for March 28th

   In one sense, no man or woman can be “considered worthy” by God to be in his kingdom “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” [Rom. 3 v.23] .  But we have that marvellous chapter on FAITH in Hebrews 11 , men and women who demonstrated their faith by what they did in serving God and doing his will.  
     Abraham and Moses are outstanding examples of this, but remember v.29 in that chapter; “By faith the people crossed the Red Sea as if on dry land” – what a remarkable foundation to their faith as they stepped out on the far shore after seeing the water towering on either side! This was their baptism, said Paul – see 1 Cor. 10 v.2
     But we are about to read in Numbers of how most of them failed to maintain their faith and “fell” in various ways in the wilderness.   Maintaining faith is essential to being considered worthy.”
      This brings us to what Jesus said to the Sadducees, as we read today in Luke 20.  They refused to believe in a resurrection. In some ways they were like the modern humanists. They posed to Jesus a story of a woman who had 7 husbands in succession who all died, so if there is a resurrection, they asked, who would be her husband “for the seven had her as wife.”
    “Jesus said to them, ‘The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage, for they cannot die anymore, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons (children) of the resurrection” [v.35,36] 
     We particularly noted his final words in correcting the Sadducees; he said God “is not the God of the dead but of the living, for all live to him” [v.38]   If we “live to him” as Abraham, Isaac and Jacob did, then we, like them, will not die, but sleep a timeless sleep to awake (instantly, not having sensed the passage of time) when we will become “equal unto the angels.”  So let us walk with an ever stronger faith as we travel through the wilderness that is the world scene today - conscious of the failure of those who “by faith … crossed the Red Sea” in baptism - but their wilderness destroyed their faith. Our daily reading and reflections on what we read is an essential part to maintaining our faith at we journey through today’s wilderness..    

Thursday 27 March 2014

Bible Reading Thoughts for March 27th


     We continue reading the blunt and challenging words of advice by Solomon in the Proverbs – how appropriate they are to counteract the values of life, or lack of them, that surround us today. “My son, be attentive to my wisdom,” writes Solomon, “incline your ear to my understanding, that you may keep discretion, and your lips may guard knowledge.” [5 v.1,2]
      In today’s chapter Solomon particularly warns about the “forbidden woman” whose “speech is smoother than oil” [v.3]  Such women abound in today’s world, less and less women (at least in Australia) desire to settle down to wholesome married life, some of course prefer a worthwhile business career. The type of woman Solomon is referring to is clear, “her steps follow the path to Sheol (the grave); she does not ponder the path of life; her ways wander …” [v.5,6] He advises, “Keep your way far from her, and do not go near the door of her house …”  [v.8]
     The climax to the lesson Solomon is teaching is the warning, that if you fail to follow his advice, “at the end of your life  you groan … and you say, ‘How I hated discipline and my heart despised reproof!  I did not listen to the voice of my teachers or incline my ear to my instructors.” [v.12,13]
     Today, the instruction from God we can all easily possess - in God’s word – the Bible.  “At the end of your life”  may it be, that you will not groan – and this will be because you have read and listened and acted upon the words’ God caused to be written and preserved. 
     Our final thought is rather parallel to this, it is in our chapter 19 in Luke.  It tells us that when Jesus “drew near and saw the city (Jerusalem) he wept over it, saying, ‘Would that you, even you,had known on this day the things that make for peace!  But now they are hidden from your eyes.” [v.41,42] 
     It is not just an association with the wrong sort of woman that can ‘destroy’ our lives, but our wilful ignoring of the teaching of Jesus – what a terrible end came upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem.  And as our Luke chapter for Saturday makes very plan, a disastrous end faces our world today – and when that happens may that not be “the end of your life.”   You make the answer NOW.

Wednesday 26 March 2014

Bible Reading Thoughts for March 26th


     We “hear” by reading what God has caused to be written preserved and translated – the challenge to all of us is to read and then “accept” into our hearts what we read, so that they become a real influence on the principles by which we guide our lives..
     Solomon writes (Proverbs ch. 4)  “Let your heart hold fast my words” - this is the vital next stage after we accept them.   The first verse tells us that these are “a father’s instruction”  on what the acceptance of his words should lead to - “Keep my commandments and live” [v.4] “and whatever you get, get insight” [v.7]    We must develop inward vision  so that we can reflect on what we have accepted, comparing scripture with scripture so that our understanding becomes increasingly greater.  
      After saying, “Get insight” Solomon adds, “Prize her highly, and she will exalt you; she will honour you, if you embrace her.  She will place on your head a graceful garland; she will bestow on you a beautiful crown” [v.8,9] This poetic language has substantial literal meaning!  Recall the thoughts we developed 2 days ago on “the eyes of our hearts.”
      In our Luke (ch. 18) reading, Jesus makes the point that his followers must have the attitude of children – for when his disciples tried to stop adults bringing children too him “that he might touch them,” Jesus said, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.  Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” [v.15-17]
     As we read God’s word we must have a child-like attitude to “hear” and then “accept” (the) words” we read and then “we will have treasure in heaven” Jesus told a ruler, adding, “and come,follow me.” [v.18,22] The very last chapter in the Bible, the final message of Jesus, tells us that, when Jesus returns, this treasure will be revealed, for I will be “bringing my reward (or recompense)with me to repay everyone for what he has done” [Rev.22 v.12]
     So we start by hearing (through reading), then we “accept”  and then we “do” what God desires in the way we live using our individual abilities and opportunities to serve God and his Son, our Saviour every day – and then the wonder of the time to come – which is getting ever closer – the time of divine repayment with life in his kingdom on earth , for “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” [Matt. 5 v.5]  Will you be there?  You make the answer now!

Prov 3:18 we read:
"She (wisdom) is a tree of life to them that LAY HOLD upon her: and happy is every one that RETAINETH her"

Wisdom is a tree of life to those who lay hold upon her.  "Lay hold" lit means to be strong, to hold fast, and when we consider the tree of life looking forward to eternal life, our minds are taken to Paul's words, which show this being strong is not passive but active:

"Fight the good fight of faith, LAY HOLD on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses" (1 Tim 6:12)

Prov 3:18 exhorts that happy is everyone who retaineth her (wisdom).  The Heb for "retaineth" means to hold fast / uphold. It is also used in the acc in Ex 17 where Moses held his arms up for the children of Israel to prevail over Amalek, and Aaron and Hur "STAYED UP (same Heb)" (supported his arms) his arms.

We must never forget that sometimes we need to support our Brothers and Sisters (and sometimes we need help) to overcome, and to keep hold of wisdom, that by God's grace and mercy she truly is a tree of life to us.

Tuesday 25 March 2014

Bible Reading Thoughts for March 24th


     It could be we are too familiar with the prophecies about events at the climax of the present process of human life upon this earth – could the words of Jesus which we read today in Luke ch. 17 become uncertain in our minds – too dramatic to be taken literally?
     Jesus says, “For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will it be in his day.” [v.24]   He adds, “Just as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the daysof the Son of Man.  They were eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all.  Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot … but on the day when Lot went out from Sodom … so will it be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed.” [v.26-30]  
     Our world is in a mess, uncertainties about the future increase every year, indeed, every month! .   Our world has, to some degree, got used to living with uncertainties about the future – so much so nearly all plan for the present, for this year and maybe next, especially if they have children.
     The king of the promised kingdom was “in the midst of you” {v.21] Jesus told the Pharisees, but they were blind to this challenging fact.  Similarly, the words of Jesus, and those written by the Apostles in their letters, are today available in every language, but how few are ‘awake’ to the message they contain about today!
     It is not just a message about today!  It is not just a message about the coming climax, but, but just as important, it is  about the attitude of heart we must develop if we are to have total trust in God.  We read in Proverbs today, “Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you … write them on the tablet of your heart … in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make straight your paths.”  [ch.3 v.3,5,6]

There are x3 diff Heb words translated "separated" in our Numbers ch6 reading today.

We have these words which start the outline of how the common people could separate themselves unto God, as the priests.

"Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When either man or woman shall separate themselves to vow a vow of a Nazarite, to separate themselves unto the LORD" (v2)

What is interesting, where is says "either man or woman shall separate themselves", that occ of "separate" is the only time that Heb is used in the chapter. And it lit means a wonder / a marvel, and majority of times is translated as such. The foundation on this vow of separation starts when a man or woman wanted to separate themselves to God and indeed what a wonderful and marvellous provision this is. One which we are able to also do through baptism.

With this in mind, it brings out wonderfully the words of Peter:

"But ye (we) are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light" (1 Pet 2:9)

Monday 24 March 2014

"THEN YOU WILL UNDERSTAND .... " Bible Reading Thoughts for March 24th


     What leads to a truly understanding mind – one of which God approves?  We have a marvelous chapter (2) in Proverbs today which shows us the right way to “find the knowledge of God” [v.5] and shows us that this is far more than what we might call ‘head knowledge’ – developed purely by intellectual investigation and deduction.
     We especially notice the significant little word ‘if’.  The chapter starts , “My son, If you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom andinclining your heart to understanding …” [v.1,2]
    That is the start of it, that is laying the foundation – what follows?  “ If you call out for insight, and raise your voice for understanding” [v.3}  How do you do that?  It seems to us this is the earnestness and intensity of private prayer in seeking a full awareness of God.  
     Solomon further emphasizes the complete dedication that is needed – another “if” follows.  “If you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear (awe) of the LORD and find the knowledge of God” [v.5]  This is the ‘knowing’ of God surely – the establishing of a real relationship through prayer and the actions and experiences that then flow.
     The verses which follow indicate the wonder of that relationship, how the LORD (and subsequently his Son) “is a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justice and watching over the way of his saints” [v.7.8]
     What depth of perception then results, it is far more than intellectual knowledge  for “then you will understanding righteousness and justice  and equity, every good path; for wisdom will come into your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.” [v.9,10] 
     Consider the final perceptions of Job, he confesses to God, “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear; but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself …” [ch.42 v5,6 – note v.3]  Thoughts which parallel Paul’s appeal to the Ephesians that God “may give you a spirit of wisdom … in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened.” [1 v.17,18]
     May our hearts increasingly develop this kind of wisdom, “then you (and I) will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge (knowing) of God.”  

"FOOLS DESPISE WISDOM AND INSTRUCTION" Bible Reading Thoughts for March 23rd

"FOOLS DESPISE WISDOM & INSTRUCTION"                                                                                         
     Today we start reading “the proverbs of Solomon” [v.1] and the key verse that jumps out into our eyes is “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” [v.7]. 
    Our minds should be filled with awe as to all that God must be!! It  is the beginning or foundation of wise thinkingThe plea of Solomon is, “”Hear my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching.” [v.8]  The acceptance and absorption into our minds of such teaching and instruction is like wearing “a graceful garland” – yet today how many parents are able and willing to teach true wisdom to their children?  If they are able and willing – their children are surrounded by counter influences – but the need for “wisdom and instruction” has never been greater.
     The message contains a strong warning about the ‘opposite’ to true wisdom, the attitude of those who have no time for God – so the blunt warning is made, “if sinners entice you do not consent” [v.10]. 
     Virtually no one thinks of themselves as being a ‘sinner’ these days, sin is an obsolete word!  But there is no middle course; the book of Proverbs makes this plain, if you are not on God’s side seeking his will and guidance in making your pathway in life, you are against him.  
    Wisdom is personified and “cries aloud” – at the same time “scoffers delight in their scoffing.” [v.20,22]  But ‘wisdom’ says, “If you turn at my reproof, behold I will pour out my spirit to you; I will make my words known to you” [v.23] and we can see that God’s Spirit has led to the Bible being written and preserved and our daily feeding on God’s word will guide our lives.
    The chapter fittingly concludes, “the complacency of fools destroys them, but whoever listens to me will dwell secure and will be at ease, without dread of disaster.” May we help each other to have ears ready to listen.

"AND DOES NOT HATE ..." Bible Reading Thoughts for March 22nd


     There are no grey areas in the teaching of Jesus, yet life today contains many grey areas, human legislation in most countries appears to us in many ways to bend over backwards to allow all kinds of behavior; you can live and behave as you like as long as you do not tread on anyone else’s toes, as the saying is.
     These thoughts entered our minds as we read the teaching of Jesus in Luke ch. 14.  It tells us “Now great crowds accompanied him.” [v.25].  Imagine the scene, how popular he had become, but it was not of the same order of popularity that many ‘stars’ achieve today.   But, suddenly he is very challenging in a personal sense!  “He turned and said to them, ‘If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” [v,25,26]
      What are we to make of the word “hate”?   The Greek word occurs 42 times in the New Testament and is always translated as hate, hateful, hated, etc in the A.V.  What we learn is that, from the Divine perspective there are no grey areas, if one does not love – then one is counted as ‘hating’.
      But the words of Jesus demand that we put them into a scriptural perspective. Nowhere in the New Testament do we find the word “opinion” – yet our world today uses it abundantly!  The context in which Jesus uses the word hate implies he counts some things, many things, as of no importance.  In following in his footsteps to “come after” Christ, we must see life’s values (or lack of them) as he sees them.  We need to each ask ourselves, ‘What is of first importance in my life?’   If we are really following Christ and putting his principles into practice in the way we live - then this will direct the decisions we make, this will totally push to one side all other things we think of and do, they will have no priority in our planning.
         Look at the parable Jesus tells immediately after giving this challenging teaching (in v.27 to 33).  What kind of “tower” are we building?  Is your life, is mine, like building a ‘tower’?  As we build, using the material Jesus and his father supplies, we get to see the meaning of life from the divine perspective with greater and greater clarity?  We must each ask ourselves today – how is my building going?  What sort of view am I now getting of life?  

Friday 21 March 2014

"THE LORD IS NEAR TO ALL WHO ..." Bible Reading Thoughts for March 21st

    All three Psalms (145-147) and our chapter in Luke (12) today were greatly thought provoking; a great number of verses were very challenging – personally – to read.  Some people are sceptical of the statement, “the LORD is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works” [Psa.145 v.17] cynically saying that if there is such a God who is all powerful, he should stop bad things from happening, especially to good people.
    The verses which follow help us to correct our thinking from such ‘tunnel vision.’  They tell us, “The LORD is near to all who call upon him, to all who call upon him in truth.  He fulfils the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them.  The LORD preserves all who love him …” [v.18-20] Look at the lives of those who really served God such as Paul, how true are these words of his life after he was converted.
    Some only call on God when circumstances in their life are getting desperate; but they have no ‘rock’ established in their minds as a firm foundation for an unshakeable belief in God.  They have not been calling “upon him in truth”?   How many do?  The next Psalm (146) tells us, “put not your trust in princes, in … man in whom there is no salvation.  When his breath departs he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans (thoughts) perish” [v.3,4] Yet how many are trying to find “princes,” leaders, they hope they can have confidence in!  They soon lose confidence in the leaders they elect.
    Only those who genuinely love God and show that love in how they live their lives have a future beyond the grave.  In Luke we saw how Jesus told his disciples “do not be anxious about your life … what you will eat …nor be worried … instead seek his kingdom, and all these things will be added to you.” [v.22,29,31] They will be wonderfully “added” when his kingdom comes.  Finally, we noticed a special verse in the 147th Psalm, “the LORD takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love.” [v.11]  May we all live so that our Lord takes pleasure

Thursday 20 March 2014

"BLESSED RATHER ARE THOSE WHO ..." Bible Reading Thoughts for March 20th


     We have a particularly challenging chapter in Luke’s gospel today.  It is full of challenges by Jesus – contrasting normal human attitudes with what their attitude and aims and actions in life should be – IF they are truly following divine principles.  We read “ … a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, ‘Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!’  But he said, ‘Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it.’” [11 v.27,28]  . Today we can say, “Blessed rather are those who read the word of God and make what they read part of their thinking and doing.
      In v. 24-26 there is a short parable about an “unclean spirit” – we can interpret that today as a dirty state of mind.  Jesus said, “When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and finding none it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds the house swept and put in order.  Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself and they enter and dwell there.  And the last state (of mind) of that person is worse than the first.”
     We see this as teaching the lesson that when you get rid of a bad attitude of mind, distorted ways of thinking and therefore of acting – it is vital to replace them with good ways of thinking and therefore of doing.  For us, daily feeding on God’s word and living by God’s principles are essential – for “blessed rather are those who” read the words God caused to be written and preservedand “keep” them.
     Then we can make the words of David’s Psalm 143 we read today our own, “Hear my prayer O LORD… In your faithfulness answer me … Enter not into judgment with your servant for no one living is righteous before you … I meditate on all you have done … my soul thirsts for you like a parched land (thirsts for water).  Answer me quickly. O LORD!  … Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust.  Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.”   May we lift up our hearts and minds in this way.

Wednesday 19 March 2014

"WILL YOU BE EXALTED TO HEAVEN?" Bible Reading Thoughtsd for March 19th


      Jesus spoke in parables, stories that were not necessarily factual because their purpose was to drive home some principle about the spiritual meaning of life, he also uses some forms of speech, the meaning of which may not be immediately apparent.  In Luke 10 today we encounter  some good examples of this.  He did many miracles in Capernaum and other cities. He challenges them, “If the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon they would have repented long ago ..” [v.13]
      Capernaum had been the scene of many miracles, but it did not spark a spirit of repentance! They pursued Christ for more mass feeding of loaves and fishes – and the Master lamented, when they found him on the other side of the lake, “you are seeking me … because you ate the fill of the loaves.” [John 6 v.26]
      This attitude leads Jesus to say, “… you Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven?  You shall be brought down to Hades” [Luke 10 v.15]    The city experienced seeing heavenly powers, they marvelled, yet it did not touch them personally to listen and seek to understand his teaching but they really got excited about his miracles.  
     The ‘reward’ of Capernaum for this failure would be by going “down to Hades”   That’s “Hell” in the old A V Bible, the grave, in many modern versions. And Capernaum was buried for about 1800 years - until archaeologists uncovered its ruins; so Jesus words were fulfilled, it was “brought down to Hades,”
      In Luke 12 we will read how Jesus makes a significant point, “Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required.” [v.48]  The people of Capernaum failed on this important principle.  Can we fail in this way today?  God’s word is readily available to all, in all languages, it is an abundant witness to us, but are we taking any real notice of it?
     Jesus’ disciples are sent out on a successful preaching and healing mission and when they return Jesus says, “I saw Satan like lightning fall from heaven” [10 v.18]. Again, obviously not to be understood literally!  We have seen the symbolic meaning of heaven!  We can see that these words means that the enemies of Jesus, those seeking his destruction, were “disarmed” by the demonstrations of heaven’s power and these self-important priests and lawyers lost their position as heaven’s representatives.  We will see in Ch. 11 how Jesus ridicules their attempts to deny his heavenly powers [v.15-23]; notice how he ends by saying, “Whoever is not with me is against me..”  We can take no neutral position when it comes to our personal relationship with Jesus.   It is vital we all remember that!  

Tuesday 18 March 2014

Bible Reading Thoughts for March 18the Reading Thoughts for March 18th

Lev 26 - we read of what God had done for Israel in breaking the yoke of bondage in Egypt and bringing them out to bring them to the promised land.

Verse 13: "I am the LORD your God, which brought you forth out of the land of Egypt, that ye should not be their bondmen; and I have broken (lit = crush) the bands of your yoke, and made you go upright"

This echoes to what God has done for us, through the Lord Jesus Christ:

"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy (lit = useful), and my burden is light" (Matt 11:28-30)

As we are now are people who have had our bondage broken, and have been lifted up from that burden.  Let us indeed in our daily lives be an upright people, seeking to serve our God with all our heart, mind and soul.

     Do you, do I, want God to really “know my heart”? The concluding words of David’s Psalm 139 are some of the most challenging in Scripture.  It seems obvious that David wrote it when he had formed a most intimate relationship with God, he declares, “How precious to me are your thoughts O God!  How vast is the sum of them!  If I would count them, they are more than the sand.  I awake, and I am still with you.” [v.17,18]
     David’s meditations in this Psalm are most meaningful, he had a sense of really being “with God” and God, with him.  How intensely personal is his closing appeal to the Almighty, “Search me, O God, and know my heart!  Try me and know my thoughts!  And see if there is any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!”   But that leading by God comes at a price – the surrender of self, of our human inclinations - to God’s leading.
     David surely knew what Moses wrote at God’s direction, we read it today in Leviticus ch. 26.  The first 13 verses list all the blessings to come on the nation if they will truly serve their God who has delivered them from slavery in Egypt. “I will make my dwelling among you,” says God, “I will walk among you and will be your God, and you shall be my people.” [v.11,12] 
     David was leading the people to do this – he would have fallen asleep in death  convinced that his son Solomon would complete what he had begun in making the nation, God’s people.  His Psalm explains a vital underlying factor in serving God, that, observing God’s laws, must be followed by an attitude of heart and mind that achieves a personal relationship with God.  Sadly, the rest of Leviticus 26, which details the actions of God when there is a failure to obey his laws, came terribly true for most who journeyed to the promised land under Moses..
     Our awareness - of the white and black of the paths of life – is vital for our eternal health: they are excellently summed up in the words of Jesus in the last verse of our Luke (ch.9) reading.  “No one who puts his hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”  Our innermost thoughts as we prayerfully read God’s word each day will keep us looking forward.

“Fearfully and wonderfully made”

(March 18)

I remember searchlights as a boy. Beams of light would sweep across the sky from near where I lived. They were searching for enemy planes, if they found one they would lock on to it and the gunners would try to shoot it down. My wife Fran had gunners right near her house.
We were reminded of this by our reading of Psalm 139 today. “Oh LORD you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up … you search out my path” (Psalm 139:1-3). But David realizes that God’s power to “see” extends far beyond what we do physically. We read, “you discern my thoughts from afar … even before a word is on my tongue …” (Psalm 139:4).
In the language young people use today, they would describe as ‘awesome’ the thought that God knows our thoughts before we even put them into words. That really is a searchlight on the mind. We cannot limit the meaning to David personally.
BUT there is even more than this in what he writes, a wonderful inspiration by God! We read, “For you formed my inward parts, you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made … your eyes saw my unformed substance” (Psalm 139:13,14,16).
Today, clever men have unravelled some of the secrets of DNA and the human genome. David was inspired to write 3,000 years ago of his “unformed substance”, i.e DNA.
Finally, the word ‘SEARCH’ occurs again at the climax of the Psalm, “Search me O God, and know my heart, try me and know my thoughts … and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23,24). Would I, would you, want to sense God’s searchlight on your thoughts? If the answer is “No” then should it not also be ‘No’ to the question as to whether we want to led by God in the way everlasting?

Monday 17 March 2014

"SOMEONE TOUCHED ME" Thoughts from Today's Bible Readings - March 17th


     The great majority, until the last generation or two, have had contact with Jesus Christ in the sense that they have heard and read about him, although sometimes in a distorted sense.  Sadly today there is less and less contact with him, with 7 billion + people in the world how few know anything about his teaching, we conclude an awareness of God and his Son now “has gone out to all the earth” [Rom.10 v.18] as was predicted (Matt. 24 v14)
     Our thoughts flowed along these lines as we read Luke’s account of the healing of a woman who had been suffering for 12 years with a “discharge of blood” [ch.8 v.43] and had spent all her money in trying to be healed.  She came in “the crowds” that “were surrounding him”, how keen they were to hear him, a contrast to today. This woman came “in the crowds” and had a remarkable notion that it would be good to at least touch him.  When “Jesus said, ‘Who was it that touched me?’” Peter responds, “Master, the crowds surround you and are pressing in on you”  Jesus responded, “Someone touched me, for I perceive that power has gone out from me.” [v.46]
     It is how you “touch” Jesus that makes all the difference; equally, we conclude, it is how you reach out with your mind, the urgency of your need to know and have a relationship with him, that makes all the difference in your life.  It is more, much more, than gaining an intellectual understanding.  It is vital to reach out and “touch” Jesus with a real sense of how vital it is to do this.
     Those who do this establish an ongoing relationship that will lead to an eternal relationship.  Such become one of “his people” – they take on “his name” and the verses in the Psalm we read today become fully meaningful and true for them. “Your name O LORD, endures forever , your renown, O LORD, throughout all ages.  For the LORD will vindicate his people and have compassion on his servants.” [Psa. 135 v.13,14]
     Let us take on his name, and live up to the privilege and responsibility of bearing his name, then when Jesus returns our lives will be vindicated (i.e. assessed as righteous) and we will “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever

"UNTIL I FIND A PLACE FOR ...." Thoughts from Today's Bible Readings - March 16th

“UNTIL I FIND A PLACE FOR …”           

     “Remember O LORD in David’s favour, all the hardships he endured, how he swore to the LORD and vowed … “ [Psalm 132 v.1-2]  The prayer and petition in that Psalm, one of the four we read today has a very significant lesson for us.  What particular thing did David vow to do that he should be favourably remembered for?  
     Was it some great thing? He did many great things starting with the killing of Goliath, not counting the killing of the wild animals that sought to attack the sheep he was caring for.   But his vow is not something that human nature sees as great – but today’s Psalm is a plea about it!  It is a particular vow that he asks, should be counted in his favour!  Is it a vow we should consider making?
     He vowed “I will not enter my house or get into my bed, I will not give sleep to my eyes or slumber to my eyelids, until I find a place for the LORD, a dwelling place for the Mighty One of Jacob” [v.3-5]
     David cannot mean he is going to build a literal temple for the Almighty. Nor can he mean the Tabernacle, for the LORD had had a dwelling place there for centuries.   The answer is to be found in Isaiah Ch. 57, as well as other places.  There we read “For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and humble spirit” [v.15]
     So the dwelling place that David vowed to find for the LORD was in his own heart. To do that he had to mentally prostrate himself before the Lord!  How to do that?  We suggest a factor in this is getting yourself to imagine ….the unimaginable!  But we have to try to comprehend God’s immeasurable greatness and how he desires to dwell in the hearts of the humble.
     Remember how Jesus said, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” [John 14 v.23]  Our heart becomes a Temple if we really carry out the first commandment to the full!  At the end of each day, we need to take stock, and repair any damage or make good any loss the events of the day has brought to the Father’s spiritual temple in our heart.  

Friday 14 March 2014

"A HERITAGE FROM THE LORD" Bible Reading Thoughts for March 14th


     No one despises an inheritance, they are usually a cause of joy!  But what we inherit is often a challenge too!  A challenge to our wisdom, how to use it wisely.    How many are conscious of our Lord’s all seeing eyes and knowledge of all the decisions we make in this – and, of course, all the other decisions we make.  However, receiving an inheritance leads to especially challenging decisions.  
     One very important situation is clearly alluded to in Psalm 127 which we read this morning yet we may often pass over it without really thinking.  We read, “Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward” [v.3]  A heritage?  Do those who have children see them as an inheritance the Lord has provided?   We should – and in seeing them that way, surely we should make use of the inheritance with the utmost care and wisdom.  But do we?
     The Psalmist enlarges on this theme in the next Psalm, “Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table.  Behold, thus shall the man be blessed who fears the LORD” [128 v.3,4]    
     Let’s give careful thought to the very first words that God spoke to Adam and Eve about their inheritance?  They still apply. “Be fruitful and multiply and subdue it and have dominion over … Behold I have given you …” [Gen. 1 v.28,29] What blessings surrounded them in the garden, what an inheritance.
      The foolishness of humans has often abused God’s blessings, they take for granted their “heritage from the LORD.”  In contrast all those who have a real relationship with the one who has provided all, a relationship which is experienced in various ways every day, will value all the aspects of the results that flow from that relationship, it is far more than a case of whether we have children or not.   
      Next week we will come to the passage in Luke where it says Jesus “rejoiced”!  What did he rejoice over – he was praying to his Father saying, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes Father, for such was your gracious will.” [ch. 10 v.21]  Let us become as “little children” and then we will know how to use our inheritance.

Thursday 13 March 2014

"FROM WHERE DOES MY HELP COME?" Bible Readings Thoughts for March 13th

     Psalm 121 today begins with a question – and sometimes this is not recognised.   The Psalmist is lifting up his eyes to the hills and asking, “from where does my help come?”   Does it come from the hills, the high places?
     The pagan people around and all too often the Jewish people were attracted to do the same, they looked to high places where they felt they would be nearer where their God’s dwelt.  When travelling in India one frequently sees hill tops crowned with Hindu temples.
    The 2nd verse answers the question, stating, “My help comes from the LORD who made heaven and earth.”  That is just as true today!  But what sort of help can seekers expect?  Well this Psalm is the second of 5 short Psalms to be read today which are called ‘A SONG OF ASCENTS’ 
    Among the Jews these, and the ten Psalms which follow, are generally understood to be the songs that were sung as they went up to Jerusalem to worship in the Temple.  In some cases they would be coming from distant lands – remember the man from Ethiopia that Philip was sent by the Spirit to meet?  “he had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning” [Acts 8 v.27]. Recall Isaiah’s vision!  “It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established as the highest of the mountains … and many people shall come and say,let us go up to the mountain of the LORD” [Isaiah 2 v.2,3]
    So what did the pilgrims going up to Jerusalem sing about?  Do these Psalms foreshadow our going up to Jerusalem in the future?  The first one (120) is, “In my distress I cried to the LORD and he answered me.  Deliver me O LORD, from lying lips, from a deceitful tongue” [v.1,2]   This illustrates the kind of help that was sought – and given - to genuine worshippers of God like David. It also shows the frame of mind of those who do not know God that those going up to Jerusalem leave behind! 
     Psalm 121 ends, “The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and for evermore.” The Lord watches over all the ways in which we travel, if we firmly believe our help comes from the Lord.  The verse will find its complete fulfilment when Jesus returns and the kingdom is established – and what a wonderful atmosphere then as we “go up to the mountain of the LORD.”.