Wednesday 30 April 2014

"HE SHALL WRITE FOR HIMSELF" Thoughts from today's Bible readings - 30/4/14


            We continue to read with great interest the final instructions Moses gave to the new nation before he died.  God had raised up Moses to play the major role in creating his nation, he was a prototype of Jesus.  We read yesterday how Stephen highlighted the role of Moses in his address to the council, that “he was mighty in his words and his deeds” [v.22] before God called him from the burning bush for a special role of service in leading his people.  In today’s chapter in Deuteronomy we noted Moses’ words to the people allowing them to “set a king” over themselves, but only one “whom the LORD your God will choose” [ch. 17 v.15], David and Solomon are the outstanding examples of God’s choice.
            Now note Moses’ rather remarkable instructions about one of the duties of such a “when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, approved by the Levitical priests. And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his lifethat he may learn to fear the LORD his God” [v.18,19]   What are we learning as we read?
I have never thought of writing my own copy of at least one of the Gospels, have you?  How well would we start to get to know them if we did.  Think of how often Jesus quoted from the Old Testament, remember how he refuted the temptations in the wilderness, using 3 different quotations, “it is written …”
And then in today’s reading in Acts ch. 8 we read of the Ethiopian travelled home after worshipping in Jerusalem.  He was reading a scroll of the prophet Isaiah and Philip was caused by God’s Spirit to join him and explain it to him – how it was all about the work of Christ.  This led to his baptism, after he asked, “What prevents me from being baptised?” [v.37]
            If you are not yet baptised, ask yourself the same question? If you are reluctant, it may well be because you have not read God’s word with sufficient attention, let alone writing out parts of it for yourself. Solomon in today’s chapter 9 in Ecclesiastes begins by observing, “how the righteous and the wise and their deeds are in the hand of God.”  We should all want to be “in the hand of God.”
We have just come to the throne of Israel. We are filled with many feelings, excitement, trepidation, concern, happiness? Where do we start, so many different competing priorities of varying degrees of importance and urgency?

Would this be on our priority list, where would it be on our priority list?
"And it shall be, when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book out of that which is before the priests the Levites" (Deut 17:18)

Just think how long it would take the king to write out. And the effort it would take, careful not to make a mistake, probably having to re-write if he made a mistake.

This was not an exercise in itself:
"And it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life:that he may learn to fear the LORD his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them" (Deut 17:19)

Where is making the Word of God personal to us, in our priority list?

Making it personal by reading it every day, meditating upon it every day, that we learn every day, and to do it every day.

Do we consider how privileged we are to be able to purchase a Bible and read a Bible at very little cost to us?  We don't have to save up for months and months and go without things in our lives to gain a Bible. We haven't had to give our lives to get a Bible and read it like some have. Because it doesn't cost very much in effort and expensive to have and read our Bibles, do we treat it as a thing of great price and very precious, and the time we can spend with it?

Tuesday 29 April 2014

"... FULLY SET TO DO EVIL" Bible Reading Thoughts for April 29th

Deuteronomy 16:1
"...the LORD thy God brought thee forth out of Egypt by night"

This reminds us that when Israel were brought out unto salvation and judgement came, the rest of Egypt was sleeping. We have been called out from a world which is asleep to the ways of God, and the signs of Gods impending judgement. We are exhorted not to drift off into spiritual sleep, but to be always awake and watching:

"Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh...Lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping. And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch" (Mar 13:35-37)

"But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober" (1 Thess 5:4-11)


That is not an inviting heading for our thoughts, is it!  Solomon observes in today’s chapter in Ecclesiastes that “the heart … of man is fully set to do evil …” because the “sentence against an evil deed is not executed speedily” [8 v.11]  It made us think of the protracted system of so called justice today in this country.  As  each year passes the hearts of humans are more and more focussed on  self-centred ways of living with any thought of there being a God vanishing out of their minds.  How true it now is that “man’s trouble lies heavy upon him” [v.6] – and it’s going to get heavier.
            Written near the end of his life, Solomon appears to be in a depressed, but totally honest, state of mind.  Despite all his wise sayings and wisdom in ruling, the nation is not in a good state – and disaster will soon follow after his death.  How does this compare with today – as genuine study and belief in the Bible is nearly dead?
There are some comparisons of thought with the history lesson Stephen gave the religious leaders in Jerusalem after they arrested him.  We read this today in Acts ch. 7and saw how they totally missed his point – and stoned him to death.  His lesson was about the actions of God in interfering at different times in past events in Israel – so as to bring about his purpose.  The hearts of his hearers had been “fully set to do evil” – and so they crucified their Messiah – and now they stone Stephen to death.
Now consider how God always acts to bring good out of human evil!  Think of the events that followed. Even more, we need to think of our own troubled times, evil, godless times.  We are on the threshold of God’s ultimate dramatic act – to deal with evil – and shock a world that is more “fully set to do evil” than ever before. How blind our world has become – few consider the possibility that there is a God, especially a God who sees all and knows all.
We have no Apostles to challenge us – only Bibles – but most of these are simply gathering dust!  Does yours?   There is no point in reading them – unless they provoke us to action to set our feet on the narrow way – for, said Jesus, “the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction …” [Matt. 6 v.13] – and the time of destruction appears to be fearfully close.    

Monday 28 April 2014

"COUNTED WORTHY TO SUFFER DISHONOUR" Bible Readings thoughts for April 28th


            We continue reading the account by Luke in the ACTS of the way believers in Christ multiplied rapidly.  The pouring out of God’s Spirit on the day of Pentecost was being manifested in dramatic ways.  Jesus had said he would be with them through the Spirit “that will guide you into all the truth” (see John 16 v.12-14.)  So the Apostles are enabled to preach with all boldness, and we see how the converts are awed by the miracles they perform [ch. 5 v.12] .
The pathway, however, is not all smooth sailing, but we grow by overcoming obstacles, and that is even more true when we are striving to serve Christ.  In Acts 5 we read of the tragedy of Ananias and Sapphira, a telling lesson that those belonging to Jesus need to be totally honest in their dealings, for their Lord sees and knows all hearts and minds, and in those days the disciples were also able to do this – at least to some extent..
 They become ever stronger in their commitment to the work of their Lord and overcome all challenges so that “the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem.” [ch.6 v.7]  The religious authorities are alarmed, many are enraged “and wanted to kill them” [5 v.33], but there is at least one wise man (Gamaliel) who counsels them not to be too extreme, so they only “beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonour for the name.” [v.40,41]  
It has been ever thus – sadly in the last generation or two, the willingness to “contend” for the original gospel has grown less and less, especially in affluent countries – for most, this world has too many things to offer to occupy their minds, few see it necessary “ to suffer dishonour” – but how are we to be “counted worthy” if we do not truly face up to the challenges life offers.  The New Testament is full of examples of those who did so – and remember also the worthies in the Old Testament. 
A final thought is from the Epistle of Jude, he was “the brother of James” and he wrote, “I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation … appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” [v.1,3]  Let us “contend” for the original faith, for the Lord will be with us and strengthen us, especially if we should suffer dishonour” as a result.  

"GREATLY ANNOYED" Bible reading Thoughts for April 27th

“GREATLY ANNOYED”                                                                                                             

Have you ever been greatly annoyed?  Of course you have!  It’s human nature.  Sometimes such feelings are justified; usually they are not.  We read today in Acts Ch 4 of a group of people who were greatly annoyed.  Why? 
Ch. 3  tells us of a most remarkable healing, a man over 40 years of age who had been lame from birth and had to be carried around. All the people knew him because his friends brought him to the gate of the temple every day.  There he received alms from generous hearted people, he was someone everyone knew.
Peter and John go up to the temple at the hour of prayer (3pm) and cause a remarkable healing to occur to this man: this creates a great stir and they have a tremendous opportunity to preach.  The rest of the chapter summarises what was preached and the message has lost none of its power as we read it today! Chapter 4 starts, “As they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple came upon them.”   They are “greatly annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead and they arrested them and put them in custody”[v.1,2] “It was already evening” (at least 6pm) so what a remarkable 3 hours that had been in the temple precincts.
Why were these ‘high powered’ men so greatly annoyed?  They were “astonished” the next day at their “boldness” [v.13].   Not just those who arrested them but all the other high powered figures who came together (elders, rulers & scribes and the whole high priestly family, v.5-6) to seek a way to deal with Peter and John.  
Their boldness is in total contrast to about 2 months previously at the time Jesus was arrested.   The great annoyance of the ‘authorities’ was because of the way they had captured the attention of 1,000s of people, worse still it took place in their domain of prestige – the Temple. 
The ‘powerhouse’ of Christ’s message had now been launched on the world, and the world has never been the same since. It seems that each Century has had equivalents of these annoyed people who have tried to dim that powerhouse: equally as bad, others have corrupted its true force and preached a misleading message – such as saying people go to heaven when they die. But the Bible is now in every language for all to read and, depending how they read, to feel stirred to the heart, as happened then.  People are either stirred, think it is rather interesting, annoyed, or just indifferent.  How does it affect you? How should it affect you?

"SO THOSE WHO RECEIVED HIS WORD WERE ..." Thoughts from the Bible Readings for April 26th


What is it to “receive” God’s word?  It is different to just ‘hearing’ or ‘reading’! The words God caused to be written and then to be preserved are very special.  Today we read in Acts ch. 2 Peter’s speech on the day of Pentecost.  What an impact its climax had, for many present had been among those who had called out, ‘Crucify him’- they were led by the religious leaders jealous of Jesus’ popularity; these leaders had been particularly provoked by his accusations against them.
            Imagine being in that situation – how would you have reacted to Peter’s final words?  “Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified” [v.36]  Such is human nature – dare we claim that we would not have been similarly provoked?  Or at least have abandoned Jesus?  Denied being a supporter?   
With what intensity of feeling did they call out to Peter and the Apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”  Peter tells them, “Repent and be baptised … so those who received his word werebaptised …” [v.38,41]  
What is it to “receive his word”?   It implies that his word became part of their thinking – it is far more than ‘hearing’ or today – just reading.  It changed the lives of those who “received his words … they devoted themselves to the apostles, teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” [v.42]
Whether we have truly “received” God’s divinely inspired word, which is now so readily available to us, is proved – to God – by our actions, how we live our lives, the priorities we set ourselves.   Consider carefully and prayerfully the final part of the quotation from the prophet Joel Peter made in his speech, “You have made known to me the paths of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence”[v.28]   What paths are we walking in?  Do we have the prospect of utterly remarkable “gladness”?    

Friday 25 April 2014

"THEREFORE LAY UP THESE WORDS" Bible Reading Thoughts for April 25th


            We continue to read the earnest words of Moses to the people, he is imploring them to remain faithful to the eternal God, their LORD.  “For the LORD your God,” he says, “is God of gods and LORD of lords, the great and mighty and awesome God … you shall serve him and hold fast to him … he is your praise” [Deut. ch 10, v. 17,20,21]
            When we praise God, sing praises to him, we must make sure there is a genuine spirit of praise in our hearts.  Moses reminds the elders, who were teenagers when they came out of Egypt and witnessed the awesome events at Sinai, saying, your eyes have seen all the great work of the
LORD,  that he did.” [11 v.7]  And us? 
            We have the whole of God’s word to read and absorb its’ message – and to be inspired by that message in its many parts – realizing how those parts combine and relate together in a multi-dimensional picture. He warns them that when they come into the land and prosper to “take care lest your hearts be deceived, and you turn aside … then the anger of the LORD will be kindled against you …” [v.16]
            Now apply this picture of God’s blessings and warning to today.  What a transformation came over the world when God’s was available in every language – and largely read and preached!   We all know what the scene in the world is like today.  How long before God acts to punish the world for turning so totally away from him? 
              We read today in Acts 1 the final words of Jesus before he ascended to heaven, “It is not for you to know the time and seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority … but you will be my witnesses … to the end of the earth.” [v.7,8]  The witnessing has continued through the words they wrote and the other words God inspired men of God to write.  The “times” are nearly up – and only those who have “laid up God’s words in their hearts” will rejoice in that time.  Make sure you are among them.  

"KNOW THEN IN YOUR HEART THAT ..." Thoughts from Today's Bible Readings 24/4/13


            All 5 chapters today challenge us – in our hearts: reading God’s word should, indeed must, cause a valuable degree of conscience searching!   Moses final exhortation is dynamic!  BUT, only if we read it in the right frame of mind.  It includes the words Jesus quoted when he was tempted (read this as ‘tested’ in the wilderness)  “ … that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD … Know then in your heart that …”  [Deut. 8 v.3]
            Moses earnestly counsels that when they have reached and settled in the promised land to “beware lest you say in your heart, ‘my power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.  You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth … if you forget the LORD your God …. I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish.” [v.17-19]
            It is essential that we all reflect on our situation – and that all our trials and our blessings  have – and will – come from God, recognising that he (and now also his Son, our mediator)  oversee our lives as he did the lives of his nation as they travelled through the wilderness.
            Our final chapter in John includes Jesus’ words to Peter ”to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God” [v.19]  He now had a strong mind and was ready to “be faithful unto death.”  In ch. 20 we have Jesus’ words to Thomas who had been absent when Jesus appeared to the other disciples and is often called ‘doubting Thomas’ because he would not believe the excited testimony of his fellow disciples that “we have seen the Lord.” [v.25]
Jesus tells Thomas to “put your finger here, and see my hands; and put your hand, and place it in my side.  Do not disbelieve, but believe” [v.27].  “Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me?  Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”[v.29]    .
This 20th chapter ends with some very telling verses, ”Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book, but these are written so that you may believe … and that by believing you may have life in his name.”  This gives  us a purposeful and meaningful life and will, when Jesus returns, lead to an existence for eternity in his kingdom, which is far beyond our ability at present to comprehend..
As we read Deuteronomy ch8 we read:
"(the LORD) who FED THEE in the wilderness with manna, which thy fathers knew not, that He might HUMBLE THEE, and that he might PROVE THEE, to DO GOOD at the latter end".

The writer to the Hebrews (ch12:11) picks up on this:
"Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it YIELDETH the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby"

The writer continues, because this in the purpose of God, we must help our brothers and sisters as they go through these things. Picking up the hands that hang down and the feeble knees. HOW? Through prayer and practical help. BUT to be able to do this, the first thing is we need to be aware of how our brothers and sisters are, do we really give the time, thought and care, to understand how our brothers and sisters are doing, and then from this to give them help in time of need?  When we ask "how are you doing?", are we really wanting to know?

Let us stoop down and pick up and carry the burdens our brother or sister may have at the moment. And as it continues in Hebrews, let's roll up our sleeves, get the pick axes and shovels out and get levelling and making straight the path in front of them, because we know Christ will strengthen us in our work.

Sometimes we struggle to understand of see how we can help, let us pray that our Heavenly Father will open our eyes and show us, gives us the opportunity.

Wednesday 23 April 2014

"THIS WAS MY REWARD" Thoughts from Bible Readings for April 23rd

“THIS WAS MY REWARD”                                                                                                         
 The wisest of kings, Solomon, reflects on what his life had really achieved.   In reading Ecclesiastes, we perceive his remarkable insight into the meaning and purpose, from a human perspective, of all that we do and all that we possess in our lives.  What does Solomon’s insight reveal? He sees he has used his wisdom to accomplish everything possible.
 His second chapter details this, “ … my heart still guiding me with wisdom … I made great works, I built houses and planted vineyards … made myself gardens and parks and planted in them all kinds of fruit trees.  I made myself pools … had slaves … also great possessions of herds … also gathered for myself silver and gold … I got singers … many concubines … so I became great and surpassed all who were before me … whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them.  I kept my heart from no pleasure … this was my reward for all my toil” [v.3-11]
 Consider carefully his conclusion!  “this was my reward”  - but we noted even more his next comment, “then I considered all that I had done and the toil I had expended.”   And what does he see as the outcome of his considerations?
“Behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind.”   Other versions have, “I saw everything was emptiness and chasing the wind” (NEB) “meaningless” (NIV).  Solomon saw that life has no lasting substance, yet we all strive after things we can possess and experience, but at the end of the day there is nothing ‘eternal’ in what we have achieved!  Solomon then declares “so I hated life”  [v.17]
            It seems evident he wrote Ecclesiastes near the end of his life. He lacked the vision that his father David possessed. David wrote a Psalm and commented about “men of the world whose portion is in this life” but in the next verse stated, “As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness; when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness.” [Psa. 17 v.14,15] What will we be satisfied with? Ecclesiastes makes humans look in the mirror of their minds and consider what they are accomplishing in life. Do you have a ‘mirror’ in your mind?  What do you see when you look in it?   It makes many read and reflect on God’s word more fervently.

"TO GIVE ETERNAL LIFE ..." Bible Reading Thoughts for April 22nd


Today we read the conclusion to – what we see as a sort of ‘Bible School’ Jesus gave his disciples in the hours before his arrest.  John, his most intimate disciple, records it in wonderful, thought provoking detail.  It began with the washing of the disciples feet (ch. 13), to the end of ch.17 – for ch. 18 starts with “When Jesus has spoken these words he went out with his disciples … where there was a garden.”
            Ch. 17 contains the climax to his teachings, it is actually his prayer to the Father which John obviously heard.  Christ’s teaching had included the wonderful promise that “the Holy Spirit” described as a “Helper … even the Spirit of Truth” [14 v.16,17]  would be given to them and this “Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” [v.26]
            By this means John was able to write down in great detail the teaching at this ‘Bible School’ that took place that evening, probably till after midnight.  Jesus is praying for the unity of his disciples for at times there had been dispute among them as to who would be the greatest (Luke 9 v.36).  Jesus says in his prayer, “ … Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are  one.” [v.11 & 22].  This shows us that there is a perfect unity (not a Trinity, its’ not a Bible word) between Jesus and God, which true followers must also strive to have.  
            Our Saviour’s prayer to God also acknowledges the “authority” he has been  given “to give eternal life to all whom you have given him” [v.2]  He then says, “this is eternal lifethat they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” [v.3] This is to “know” in the sense of developing a real living relationship with Jesus and his Father, developed from a heart-felt ‘knowing’ of his word.
            Finally, the prayer of Jesus is also – “I do not ask for these (the disciples) only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they all may be one … so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” [v.21,22] And so the disciples became Apostles (which developed the meaning ‘sent forth’ – see Acts 1 v.25) and they were a team, there was no further dissension from jealousies between.  May we fully follow their example as we share the original gospel with others. Sadly the increasing spiritual darkness in our world is obscuring the light – so look at the challenging, but inspiring words of John in his 1st Epistle, ch. 1 v.5 - 7.
As we near the end of Jesus' powerful exhortation to his disciples recorded by John (ch 13-16). Where he lays out agape love, how the world treats the disciple of Christ, and glorifying God.

Ch15 we read the continued exhortation of agape love, great words of encouragement for us (9-10):
"as the Father has loved me, so have I loved you, continue (abide) ye in my love"
"IF ye keep my commandments, ye SHALL abide in my love, even as I have kept my Fathers commandments and abide in His love"

What does this love shown to us, mean to us?
"This is my commandment, that ye love one another, as I have loved you".

How can we show this?
"Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends"

We are powerfully reminded of this love by David's words and the example of Jonathan (2 Sam 1:26) "thy love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women", that is agape love, a love that surpasses and is stronger than the love of a woman. Jonathan gave up his worldly rights and inheritance for David (Christ), we are to show the same love to Christ and each other, esteeming each other greater than ourself.

MESSAGE TO TEENAGERS Thoughts from Bible Readings for April 21st

MESSAGE TO TEENAGERS!                                                                                                               

We are now getting to the heart of Moses final message as we reach Chapter 4 of Deuteronomy.  He is about to die, this is his urgent last exhortation; very shortly this nation which he had agonised over for 40 years as he led them closer and closer to the promised land – but  they will cross the Jordan without him.  Moses’ words are a powerful message to believers of every age.
The leaders (elders) of the nation are now those who had been teenagers when they escaped from Egypt, they had seen all their parents and older relatives die. As teenagers they had witnessed the wondrous evidence of divine power and presence.  They had seen the astonishing lack of faith in parents and relatives leading to their untimely deaths in the wilderness.  
Moses reminds them, “I have taught you statutes and rules as the LORD your God commanded me that you should do them in the land that you are entering … “ [Ch.4 v.5] “Keep them and do them for that will be your wisdom and understanding in the sight of the people … who will say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people” [v.6]. Later he says, “know therefore today, and lay it to heart, that the LORD is God in heaven above and on earth beneath: there is no other.” [v.39] 
This is the key point, not to simply “know” a matter, but to lay it to heart!!  So these leaders who had been teenagers 40 years previously went across the Jordan with Joshua as their leader and successfully took possession of most of the land.  We are going to read next month that, after Joshua died the people “served the LORD … all the days of the elders who had outlived Joshua who had seen all the great work the LORD had done” [Judges 2 v.7].
Then came disaster; those who had been teenagers at the time Moses had spoken what we are reading in Deuteronomy, failed to take his message fully to heart! We read in Judges, in the final verse “everyone did what was right in his own eyes” [21 v.25]: just as bad, they failed to properly teach their children to follow in their footsteps.
The spirit in the world today is even worse than this, especially among the young – and many of the not so young!   This is the key question for today - does the word of God guide our lives – or do you do that which is right in your own eyes?  When you read God’s word – do you lay it to heart? We must, it is the only way to please God and His Son and we are reading most meaningful words in John’s Gospel which we aim to comment on tomorrow.

Deuteronomy 4 has huge amounts of exhortation for us as we live and journey at the very borders of the promised land:

"But ye that did CLEAVE unto the Lord your God are alive every one of you this day" (v4)

"cleave" lit = to adhere to/ to stick to, it's only used elsewhere in Prov 18:24:
"A man of friends may be broken up, but there is a Lover who STICKS CLOSER than a brother". (Greens lit translation)

This CLEAVE is such as the strength of bond of someone who is in love.

When in love, what does it mean - can't stop thinking about them, want to always be with them, spend time with them, wanting to do things for them, of one mind, subservient to them, consumed by them.

This is the relationship we are to have with YAHWEH, our Heavenly Father, that we be truly alive.

Reminds of Jesus' words (John 15:14-16):
"Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you. Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain:that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you".

"LOVE ONE ANOTHER JUST AS i HAVE LOVED YOU" Bible Reading Thoughts for Sunday Sunday 20/4/14

“LOVE ONE ANOTHER JUST AS I HAVE LOVED YOU”                                                                                    Apr 20                                                                                                                                           
    Love is probably the most common word in both Christian and non-Christian literature.  It is used in a wide range of situations with many different meanings.  It is usually used in common speech today in a very casual way!  Are those who read God’s word influenced by this? If we are - it will undermine our appreciation of what this word means in Scripture?  In the Greek there are two different words and the one we focus on is ‘agape’ which occurs so much in the Gospel of John; he uses it 27 times; 9 times in today’s chapters (13 &14).  
    Chapter 13 today contains a key statement of the Master, “A new commandment I have given you, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” [v.34]. So how did Jesus love them? How did he set an example?  What events and words show this?  He had just washed their feet and he used this as an example of how to serve one another; however to make a ritual of this would destroy the lesson.  It is an example of love and humility toward one another. Jesus said, “I have given you an example that you also should do as I have done to you.” [v.15].  Not many hours later he would tell them of the ultimate act of  “love” soon to occur – saying “greater love has no man than this” [15 v.13]
        Jesus asked, “Who is the greater, one who reclines at table, or one who serves? I am among you as one who serves” [Luke 22 v.27]   So the love that Jesus showed was one of serving, he came as a servant – but will return as a King.  
     In serving Jesus, we must ourselves seek to show love by what we do.  There will be times when we need to be gentle as he was with his disciples when they faltered, and he said “O you of little faith” [Luke 12 v28]; but read v.22-31].  We might think of what we want, but our heavenly Father knows what we need.
    He did not send anyone away, they went away themselves when they found his sayings “hard” [John 6 v.60,66]  When John, years later, wrote his epistles he made one particular point which echoed these words of Jesus, “let us not love in word or talk, but in deed and in truth” [1 John 3 v.18] or as the NEB puts it, “love must be genuine and show itself by actions.”  

"EVEN THE AUTHORITIES BELIEVED" Thoughts from Bible Readings for April 19th


            What is it to believe in Jesus?  Are there different kinds of belief?  There are verses in today’s 12th chapter of John that challenge and open up our understanding of this.  It is a question it is vital we ask ourselves.  We read, “many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they lovedthe glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.” [v.42,43]
            So in what sense did many of the authorities believe?  Could yours or mine be similar? The first 8 verses in our chapter indicate the belief that Judas Iscariot had – and think of all the many and different miracles Judas must have witnessed!  Judas was one of the 12 and when Jesus sent them out he would have performed healings, &c see Matt. 10 v.5-8.
            We read today that at Bethany, 6 days before the Passover  (v.1) when Jesus was there, “Mary … took a pound of expensive ointment and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair.  The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume” [v.3]  Judas Iscariot reacted by asking, ‘Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii (300 days pay for a .labourer) and given to the poor, he said this … because … having charge of the money bag  he used to help himself to what was put into it”   [v.5,6]
            What kind of “heart” did Judas have as a result of all he had experienced?  No doubt there are similar hearts today who diligently read and know God’s word – but who try to serve both God and money, but Jesus bluntly warns of the impossibility of doing this, see Luke 16 v.13.   To “serve” God and His Son in this way – is not service at all.
            Our ultimate thought on Judas is that, as he witnessed Jesus escape on several previous occasions, for e.g. Luke 4 v.29,30 when the Nazarene’s in the “synagogue were filled with wrath … and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill … so they could throw him down the cliff.  But passing through their midst he went away”   so, when Judas was offered 30 pieces of silver he accepted agreeing to betray him in the darkness and quietness of the night, but he fully expected Jesus would escape again.  Such illustrates ways in which the minds of those work who believe, “even as the authorities believed” but, for whom there is no depth to their belief, it has no genuine foundation!  Make sure yours has!  
            Finally, note and deeply meditate on v.48 in today’s chapter,  “the word that I have spoken” said Jesus, “will judge him (us) on the last day”  We must more and more take the fullness of his word into our hearts and let it guide our thoughts and actions.

18 April 2014 - Thoughts from Today's Bible Readings

18 April 2014

Deuteronomy 1
Proverbs 28
John 11


What is "the Glory of God" ? Is it something utterly wonderful such as the awesome temple that Solomon built? Will it only be seen in the future when Jesus returns to set up God's kingdom?

Jesus uses this phrase in a wonderful and challenging way in today's reading in John 11. Jesus had returned to Bethany and the home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus, but Lazarus had died ­ and there was very much grief. We read, "now when Mary came to where Jesus was and she saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, 'Lord, if you had been here my brother would not have died.' When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled." [John 11:32-33]

Jesus was truly human, as we read in Hebrews 4 he was "one who in every respect has been tempted as we are" [Hebrews 4:15]. Jesus says to Mary, "'Where have you laid him?'  They said to him, 'Lord, come and see.' Jesus wept."  [John 11:34-35] It is good to try to imagine the scene, they come to the tomb, a stone lay against it.  "Jesus said, 'Take away the stone,' Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, 'Lord, by this time there will be an odour; for he has been dead four days.' Jesus said to her, 'Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God.'"  [John 11:39-40]

God's glory is in his power, and Jesus had been given "The spirit without measure"  [John 3:34]. At the tomb Jesus "lifted up his eyes and said, 'Father I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.' When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, 'Lazarus, come out'."  [John 11:41-43]

Imagine the situation, if you had been in the audience! We cannot conceive the wonder of the glory to come!  How near at hand is that time? Some are saying, "Very soon". Martha is confident in her belief about what will happen, let us share her confidence, for she said before Lazarus was raised, "'I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day'."  [John 11:24]  How utterly great will be the glory of God then for "the dead in Christ will rise first" (see 1 Thessalonians 4:16) Live now ­ so that you will be there.
- DC

Thought for the Day

18 April 2014

"The saint ... is a man of peace; he thinks peace, he lives peace, he preaches the glad message of peace, and in its embrace he waits for the coming of the one who gave it to him: The Prince of Peace. A saint who is truly of this spirit has no need to argue about "peace at any price", for he is of the same spirit as his Master, and follows him in the way he met the problems that arise from the spirit of the flesh."

- John Marshall
Portrait of the Saint

Thursday 17 April 2014

"I AM MY FATHER ARE ONE" Bible Reading Thoughts for April 17th

"I AND MY FATHER ARE ONE"                                                                                                                 

    In his Gospel John records several challenging sayings of Jesus.  How are we to understand, I and my Father are one” in today’s chapter 10 (v.30)?  In what sense are they “one”?  We know he prayed to his father all night on at least one occasion. (Luke 6 v.12) and in his prayer in the garden of Gethsemane he said, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” [Matt.26 v.39]  So we ask, in what sense was Jesus “one” with his Father when they had separate ‘wills’?  We will soon read [Ch. 14] and his words, “I am going to the Father for the Father is greater than I” [v.28]. 
    The solution to this conundrum unfolds in Ch. 17 in his final prayer before his betrayal. He is praying for his disciples and says, “I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me” [v.10].  It was after his all night prayer (in Luke 6) that Jesus chose his 12 disciples (v.12-16).  Now note the verses which follow in John 17. Our Lord prays, “I am coming to you Holy Father, keep them in your name … that they may be one, even as we are one.” [v.11]    His prayer for his disciples is that they may have unity of mind, a unity of understanding creating a harmonious team in carrying on his work after he ascended to heaven. Up until this stage there had been times of jealousy, a competition “among them as to which of them was the greatest” [Luke 9 v.46] 
    Jesus, and God his Father, had a unique oneness – and this was to be the disciple’s role model. But Jesus extends his vision of oneness further, he prays, “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be one in us …” [v.20,21]
    All those who believe the original gospel as established by the disciples’ preaching should aim to be “one” in this wonderful way.  Those who have achieved and maintained this wonderful oneness will be the ones to reign with him when he returns to set up his world-wide kingdom.  Paul was very conscious of this and stressed this.  He counselled the Ephesians to “maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace … just as you were called in the one hope … one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all” [Ch.4 v. 3-6]

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Bible Reading Thoughts for April 16th

John 8 - 'the word'

If we follow the usage of 'the word' in this chapter:
v31 - If ye continue/abide in my word, then you are really my disciples, true believers.
v37 - if Christ's word does not have a place in us (to affect us), then we are in danger of killing him.
v43 - if we do not hear Christ's word, we will not understand/know his speech.
v51 - if a man KEEP my WORD, he shall never see death.
v55 - I (Christ) know him, and KEEP his WORD.

With keeping Christ's word in mind, the last words of Christ to his servants who hear is voice:
"Blessed is he that readeth, and they that HEAR the WORDS of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein (within this prophecy of Revelation), for the time is at hand"


     John’s gospel records in greater detail the sayings of Jesus.  Sometimes Jesus did not speak in a straightforward manner, especially to those who were jealous of his popularity and who were trying to challenge him; often he uses figures of speech: these were beyond their ability to understand.  Our chapter 8 today is full of this kind of language.  His opponents claim, “Abraham is our Father” causing Jesus to say ‘If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing what Abraham did … you cannot bear to hear my word.  You are of your father the devil … He was a murderer from the beginning….” [v.39, 43, 44]
     The way Jesus uses the word ‘devil’ challenges our understanding, it becomes clearer when recall that in ch. 6 we read, “Did I not choose you, the Twelve?  And yet one of you is a devil”[v.70] clearly referring to Judas Iscariot.
     There is no neutral position in Bible language. The first murderer was Cain, he was the first to make himself an ‘enemy’ of God – even before he murdered his brother, he wanted to set his own standards in approaching God.  It has been so ever since!  We show our genuineness in acknowledging God in the way we live.  In those early centuries, the acknowledging of God descended to virtual nothingness by Noah’s day.  And today?
      Let’s give more thought to the word “devil”!  Sometimes the translators do not render the Gk word ‘diabolos’ as devil. Remember Paul’s description of attitudes in “the last days …(when) people will be lovers of self, lovers of money … unholy … slanderous … lovers of pleasure …” [2 Tim. 3 v. 1-4].  The word ‘diabolos’ occurs in the Gk., but the translators choose use the word ‘slanderous’ to translate it  – the A V has “false accusers” – those whose heart is “false” – as Judas’s became. How many today have ‘true’ hearts?
      We sense more and more that we are living “in the last days”  and the world seems to have many “devils”  But the vital point we grasp is that we must think and live as “children of God” – a greater vision still than the Jews wanted to have as “children of Abraham.”  Let us strive to succeed, where they failed,
     Do you remember what we read in Luke’s Gospel last month?  Jesus said, “Whoever is not with me is against me, and who ever does not gather with me scatters.”  [ch.11 v.23]  The place to “gather” is in God’s word, notice how often Jesus quoted from it, let us do the same and show that we are children of our heavenly Father. 

Tuesday 15 April 2014

"HAVE YOU ALSO BEEN DECEIVED?" Bible Reading Thoughts for April 15th


     This was the question, the comment, the Pharisees made when the officers they sent to arrest Jesus returned without him.  They reply, “No one ever spoke like this man!”  [John 7 v46,47]
     John, the most intimate of the disciples of Jesus (John 21 v7,20) records his teaching in great detail, one often needs to reflect and meditate deeply about the points he records Jesus as making.
     There was a 7 day feast in Jerusalem, many were looking for Jesus, but it was only “about the middle of the feast (that) Jesus went up into the temple and began teaching.” [v.14] They marvel at his words ; then Jesus says, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me.  If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God …” [v.16,17]  And that is equally true today as we read his words and the other words God inspired men to write. Paul was later to declare, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness …” [2 Tim. 3 v.16]  The Proverbs we are presently reading are an outstanding example of this.
     If our hearts are genuinely operating on a spiritual wavelength we will accept the point Jesus makes, “The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory, but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood.” [v.18]
     Ever since the days of Jesus the existence of human self-seeking among those claiming to follow him can be observed: Jesus sums up this part of his message by stating, “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”[v.24]
     The religious leaders, dismayed at the popularity of Jesus were blinded by jealousy, there was no humility in their make-up, this is why they said to those who failed to arrest Jesus, “Have you also been deceived?” [v.47]
     Every generation since has had those who are self-deceived – it is the kind of pride that so easily springs from human nature.  Our careful and prayerful reading of God’s word is the antidote.  John made an essential point in his first letter, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” [1 v.8] Let is make sure the “truth is …in us” and read and meditate on God’s word every day and come closer to him and his Son who came to give real meaning and purpose to our lives.