Thursday 29 May 2014

"I REMEMBER YOU IN MY PRAYERS" Thoughts from Today's Bible Readings - 29/5/14


            The short letter of Paul to Philemon has some valuable lessons for us in the area of spiritual relationships of believers with one another.  Paul is writing as “a prisoner of Christ Jesus” [v.1] and Timothy is with him – and other visitors support him, “Mark, Aristarchus, Demas and Luke” [v.24]. He tells Philemon, “I remember you in my prayers.” (v.4)
            We meditate on what filled Paul’s hours and days in his imprisonment, his mind was very much occupied with thoughts about the believers he knew and the news he hears about them. We  remember the dramatic night when he and Silas sang hymns while in prison, and we surely imagine him singing hymns with “Epaphras my fellow prisoner” [v.23].
            How do we compare, we who are free to do as we please – does how we spend our time help or hinder our spiritual life?  We have to admit that, unless we are at some spiritual gathering, the events of our daily lives rarely help us spiritually; it is vital that we ask ourselves – do they hinderdo they undermine
Paul is pleased with Philemon “because I hear of your love and the faith that you have toward the Lord Jesus and all the saints (fellow believers), and I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective …” [v.5,6]
            Would others hear the same sort of thing about us?  If not, what would they hear?  Would it have any effect on them in the sense of a good (or bad) example we set them? Paul is able to say to Philemon, “I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you.”
 Do we shed abroad a spirit that refreshes the hearts of other believers – so that we are a light that really shines in the increasing spiritual darkness of this world – the effect of that light being so good that even some unbelievers will notice?    Let us live so that we do this, it maybe that we do it unconsciously, only realizing the effect we have had as we look back on events.  And in communicating with fellow believers – and those who do not yet believe, which may include some of our children, we can state, “I remember you in my prayers.”

Philemon 1:4
"I thank my God, making mention of thee always in my prayers"

Paul gives thanks in his prayers for his brethren's love and faith they have towards the Lord Jesus and the saints.

When was the last time we gave thanks in our prayers for our brother of our sister.

Paul gives thanks in his prayers for his brothers and sisters:
- love they show unto all their brothers and sisters
- unceasing work of faith in the truth
- labour of love, and patience of hope in the Lord Jesus Christ
- their fellowship he is able/has been able to have with them
- and asks God give them wisdom and the unveiling of knowledge in the Lord Jesus Christ

Let us remember to be aware of of brothers and our sisters works of faith in their discipleship, and give thanks for them in our prayers unto our Heavenly Father.

And let us strive to be like those brothers and sisters who Paul felt compelled to give thanks unto God for.

Tuesday 27 May 2014

" ... BUT DENYING ITS' POWER" Thoughts from Today'ds Bible Readings - May 27th


            Today we completed Paul’s 2nd letter to his “son in the faith” Timothy. He deplores what he sees the future is going to hold for believers; a serious decline of faith and a Christ-like way of living.  As Paul looks into the future  “the Spirit” gives him a ‘picture’ of what is going to develop in “the last days.” [3 v.1]  
Paul of course has no idea as to how far off this future time is. But the description of this ‘time’ that is revealed to him has a specific focus on the condition of believers: they “will be lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness but denying its power” [v.4,5].
            The word “power” is the Gk word dunamis, it does not necessarily refer to something miraculous, earlier this month we saw Paul use it twice in his first chapter in writing to the Colossians, ”may you be strengthened with all power” [v.11]  “… I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me” [v.29]
Believers need real energy of mind – and the real pursuit of godliness generates such power – spiritual strength of mind.   Paul told the Corinthians that the Lord said to him as he struggled with a divinely given “thorn in the flesh”, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” [2 Cor. 12 v.9] 
Paul then adds, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me”   This is not power in the sense of miracle working, but inner strength developed through the reality of our relationship with our Lord and the Father.  We read 2 days ago how Paul told Timothy,  “God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” [ch. 1 v.7]
Back to chapter 3; we are aware how true Paul’s prediction has been throughout history that “all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and imposters will go from bad to worse.  But as for you (and us!) continue in what you have learned and firmly believed … how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred scriptures … breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness” [v.12-14,16]  May we  increase our zeal for the Holy Scriptures and develop a greater “spirit .. ofpower and love and self-control” as we complete our “training in righteousness”.

"IF WE ENDURE ..." Thoughts from Today's Bible Readings - 26/5/14


            We continue with our reading and reflections on the final epistle that Paul wrote: our chapter (2) begins with his encouragement to Timothy, “my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ …” He encourages him to “share in the suffering as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” [v.3]
            Paul is “bound with chains as a criminal”, but says, “the word of God is not bound.” [v.9]  Today, with widespread translation and printing and websites, the word of God is more unbound than ever before, but how few are taking notice of it, especially in western countries which are overflowing with fleshly distractions and “the love of money.”  Paul and Timothy are examples to us; Paul declares, “I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.” [v.10]
            Before his conversion Paul served himself, developing his ego as a Pharisee, blind to “the way” – the way of Christ; the human ambitions he then had, in a sense, “died” outside Damascus.  Among the early believers inspirational sayings began to circulate and Paul includes one in this letter, “The saying is trustworthy, for: ‘If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endurewe will also reign with him.” [v.11.12]  
            This saying remains totally true today, have we “died with” him?  Our thoughts immediately go to Paul’s words to the Colossians, “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness … for on account of these the wrath of God is coming” [ch. 3 v.5,6]
            As the moral restraints on our world totally disintegrate, even more endurance will be required – and our endurance will need to include the confession of our faith in Christ for v.12 in today’s chapter concludes Paul’s quotation of the ‘saying’ – “if we deny him, he also will deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful …” to his promise that “if we endure, we will also reign with him.” 

Sunday 25 May 2014

Bible Readings Thoughts for May 25th

"YOUR SINCERE FAITH, A FAITH THAT DWELT ... "                                                                              

    The final letter of the Apostle Paul was his second letter to Timothy.  His opening verses after his usual greeting is to write of Timothy’s faith.  Note how he expresses it, “I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well.” [Ch.1 v.5]  We know nothing of his father, except he was a Greek, although his mother was a Jewess (Acts 16 v.1).
    What a lesson this is of the valuable role of women in their commitment to Christ and the inspiration they can give to children and grandchildren, we know well the commitment that was obviously in the women who went to the tomb on the morning of the resurrection.  In the next verse Paul writes, “For this reason (your faith) I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands” [v.6]. 
“sincere faith” is an essential ingredient in any natural abilities and talents we have.  In those days abilities or gifts were given by Apostles such as Paul.  His first letter to the Corinthians illustrates the range of such abilities, many of which we would see as “natural” – such as wisdom and knowledge (1 Cor. 12 v.8] Paul desires “especially that you may prophesy.” [14 v.1] which means, to reveal  God’s attitude and purpose, not necessarily to predict the future – this is evident in the Old Testament prophets such as Jeremiah.  Today God’s word should “fan into flame” our desire to use our various abilities to do as much work as we can for our Lord.
    Back in the letter to Timothy we noted the next 2 verses (7 & 8) “for God gave us a spirit not of fear, but of power and love and self control.  Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord …”  In so many countries in the world the message of Christ is now held in low regard, so it is now more necessary than ever to develop this spirit of strength of mind to enhance our “sincere faith” and follow in the footsteps of Timothy. 
    How would someone who knows you well write about your faith? 

tftd 24th May

We read in Joshua 10 of the cry for help from the Gibeonites, because the five kings of the land who sought to destroy them. The Gibeonites, and Joshua's treatment of them (in ch 9), foreshadowed the conversion of the Gentiles to the Hope of Israel. And the offer of grace through service as bondservants of Jesus in the temple (ecclesia) of God.

Chapter 10:6:
"And the men of Gibeon sent unto Joshua to the camp to Gilgal, saying, SLACK NOT thy hand from thy servants; come up to us quickly, and save us, and help us"

Joshua heeded to their call, and he and his men travelled through the night some 20miles in total darkness. Also consider that to get from Gilgal to Gibeon, they had to ascend up and over the backbone of the mountain ridge that runs down Israel, which would mean they had to ascend around 4,000 feet as they journeyed to help the Gibeonites. And this all before they then had to fight a battle!

The Hebrew "slack not" is to faint, they certainly didn't faint. The Septuagint uses the Greek of the same meaning which is used in Galatians, and has great exhortation for us.

To what effort and discomfort to ourselves do we go to, to help and to save our brethren in times of trouble?

Gal 6:9
"And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we FAINT NOT. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith"

Thursday 22 May 2014

"I WILL PUNISH THE WORLD FOR ITS EVIL" Bible Readings Thoughts for May 23rd


            Isaiah ch. 13, todays’ reading, appears to have a double application: it tells us [v.1] it is an “oracle concerning Babylon,” but much of its content is remarkably parallel to the ‘Babylon’ described in the book of Revelation.  It is enlightening to note that the word ‘Babylon’ in the Hebrew is actually ‘Babel’; part of this chapter appears to be about the ‘Babel’ of the last days.
            In the days of Isaiah Assyria was the enemy Israel feared, Babylon was not yet a nation to be feared. Isaiah is caused to write of “The sound of the uproar of kingdoms, of nations gathering together! The LORD of hosts is mustering a host for battle … the weapons of his indignation to destroy the whole land”  [v.4,5]  What “land” is to be destroyed?     The same Hebrew word (eretz) is translated as “earth” in v13, “the earth will be shaken out of its place, at the wrath of the LORD of hosts in the day of his fierce anger”.  To our way of thinking it should be understood as “earth” in both places.
            We note the context, look at v.9 -11, “Behold, the day of the LORD comes, cruel, with wrath and fierce anger …the sun will be dark at its rising and the moon will not shed its lightI will punish the world for its evil, and the wicked for their iniquity”   This describes a far greater calamity than when Babylon destroyed Jerusalem and brought to an end the kingdom established under David and Solomon. We must seriously consider how it describes the world today, with its’ world-wide ungodliness when “every way of man is right in his own eyes” [Prov, 21 v.2] and there is no thought that an all-seeing Creator even exists.
              Are we to expect physical signs – will the sun “be dark” and “the moon will not shed its light”?  There has been talk about the fact that ‘blood moons’ (eclipses) are occurring twice this year and again next – remarkably coinciding with the Jewish Holy Days of the Passover and  Feast of Tabernacles.   Jesus made some awesome prophecies, that “there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences and there will be terrors and great signs from heaven” [Luke 21 v.11]  But he also said, “there will be such tribulation as has not been from the beginning of the creation  … if the Lord had not cut short the days, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect, whom he chose …”  [Mark v.19,20]
            Make sure you are among the elect – for “he will send out the angels and gather his elect … from the ends of the earth” [v.27]  An utterly awesome divine forecast of events – we close our eyes to it – at our peril.

"YO WILL SAY ON THAT DAY" Today's Bible Reading Thoughts - May 22nd


            We usually have a reasonable idea of what we are going to talk about as today progresses, also some of the things that are likely to be part of our thoughts and conversations tomorrow – but it is invaluable to meditate on what the 6 verses that make up the entire 12th chapter of Isaiah told Israel and tells us of what “you will say on that day.”  
            How utterly wonderful to be among those who will say, “Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the LORD God is my strength …” [v.2]   Of course, believing in God and his Son should always be the foundation on which our “strength” rests – it is not physical strength is it!  What strength of mind do you have?  How much does your mind meditate on the ultimate future?
            In v.3 we read “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation”. This takes our thoughts to what Jesus said to the Samaritan woman at the well, “… whoever drinks of the water that I will give him …(it) … will become in him (or her) a spring of water welling up to eternal life” [John 4 v.14] We link this saying with his words “on the last day of the feast” that the one “who believes in me … out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” [7 v.38]    After Jesus left them, “the Spirit” [v.39] was to flow out of the heart of the disciples to produce more of the words of God – on which we can (and must) feed our minds.
            Now back to Isaiah, the last 2 verses vividly picture the time when the redeemed will “Sing praises to the LORD, for he has done gloriously … Shout and sing for joy. O inhabitant of Zion. For great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.”  These words take us to “the song of the Lamb” in Revelation 15.  Let us live so that, by the grace of God we will be there to experience and sing this “in that day
            “Great and amazing are your deeds O Lord God the Almighty!  Just and true are your ways, O King of the nations!  … For you alone are holy.  All nations will come and worship you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.” [v3,4]   At the moment they have been concealed – except to those who read and mediate on God’s word and prepare themselves for what they “will say (and sing) in that day

"MAY THE LORD DIRECT YOUR HEARTS TO ..." Thoughts from Today's Bible Readings 21/5/14


            As Paul concludes his 2nd letter to the Thessalonians he tells them, “May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.” [3 v.5] It is evident that the Lord cannot “direct” this – unless our hearts are already “looking” toward our Saviour.  Paul told the Hebrews, they needed to be looking to Jesus, the founder and perfector of our faith” [Heb 12 v.2] and the Gk. For “looking” refers to a fixed direction of ‘looking.’
            It is evident that this cannot happen unless our attitude of heart is already desiring this. We read today in Joshua of the judgements of God that affected the whole nation because one man coveted some of the spoil of Jericho when it was destroyed.  It is evident it was a deliberate calculated act because when Achan is identified, under the direction of God, he admits, he took them, including silver and gold and “they are hidden in the earth inside my tent” [ch. 7 v.21].
            The words Joshua addressed to Achan are significant, “My son, give glory to the LORD God of Israel and give praise to him.  And tell me what you have done.” [v.21] Honest confession to God, gives him a form of “glory” because it acknowledges the total supremacy of an all knowing Creator.  But Achan’s sin was a calculated deception and “all Israel stoned him with stones” [v.25] and our thoughts turn to the words of Paul in Hebrews that “if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of Judgment …” [12 v.26]  
 Thankfully for our human weaknesses  and failures, the grace of our Lord is readily extended to us, but let us never forget the lesson of Achan, who should have felt an awed humility when he saw the walls of Jericho fall without any human effort.  What of us, when God destroys the “walls” of the remarkable ‘civilisation’(?) human beings have now created in this modern world?
            Finally, the inspiring chapter we read in Isaiah today (11) gives us such a wonderful vision of the future God has planned for our world and for those faithful to him and his Son; in reading them we should feel spiritually motivated to live our lives more and more to reflect that we really are his spiritual sons and daughters looking forward to the time when “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.” [v.9]   Is your motivation increasing? Are you seeking more and more earnestly for “the Lord to direct your heart”?  Remember what he is directing it toward – read again the opening quote from Paul’s letter.

Tuesday 20 May 2014

"YOUTH FAITH IS GROWING ABUNDANTLY" Thoughts from today's Bible Readings 20/5/14


            Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians shows he now has greater confidence in them, in their faith and love, this causes him “to give thanks to God … because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing.” [1 v.3]
He commends their “steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions”  [v.4]  We are aware that there are true believers in some countries of whom this can be said today – and this is true of every generation.  As Jesus said in his message to Smyrna, “I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich) … Be faithful unto death, and I will give you a crown of life.” [Rev.2 v.9,10]   Let us all be “rich in faith.”
            Ukraine is much in the news these days – and there are true believers there today and we pray specially for them and for those in Iran  - and we know that Stalin wiped out our community of believers in Ukraine in the 1930s.   
            We ponder the reference in the 2nd chapter  to a particular “man of lawlessness” and that there will be a “rebellion”.  We see just about everyone, in a sense, rebelling against any meaningful belief in their being a God. The “day of the Lord” then occurs.  The leader of this rebellion is “against every so-called god or object of worship” [v.4]   In a sense the ‘doctrine’ of evolution fulfils this, being against any concept of their being a God, a Creator whom humans should worship and serve.
            Humans are also worshipping money – and Jesus said, no one “can serve two Masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.  You cannot serve God and money.” [Luke 16 v.13]  Nearly everyone is devoted to the things money can buy today.
            Finally we note Paul’s warning that “those who are perishing” will do so because “they refused to love the truth and so be saved.” [v.10]   James wrote [2 v.5], “has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which he has promised to those who love him”  Let us are “rich” in the things our Master approves making sure we truly “love him” and that our “faith is growing abundantly”.

Sunday 18 May 2014

"GOD HAS NOT DESTINED US FOR WRATH" Bible Readings thoughts for today 19/5/14


            We follow on from our thoughts yesterday about our “our hearts being established blameless in holiness” with Paul’s conclusion to his first letter to the Thessalonians where he stresses very strongly to them that “having put on the breastplate of faith  … God has not destined us for wrathbut to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ who died for us …” [ch. 3 v.8-10]
            The wonder of that salvation which those who truly serve God will experience is illustrated for us in today’s chapter in Isaiah (ch. 9) where there are words which have found a prominent place in the famous Oratorio ‘The Messiah.’
For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given and the government shall be upon his shoulder … of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and uphold it  with justice and with righteousness …” [v.6,7]
            We took particular notice of the phrase, “the increase of his government”  which implies the spread of his control – and noted Paul’s words today – that when “people are saying , ‘There is peace and ‘security’ then sudden destruction will come upon them” [v.3]  People everywhere will feel a more urgent need than today for peace and security, and when they think they are achieving it, then – disaster!  
But then, wonderfully,  the child who was born, the “Son” of God, returns to rebuild life on earth on divine principles; a complete rebuilding will be necessary.  “The increase of his government” indicates this as the general population recovers from the terrible experience of the “sudden destruction.”  As we read on in Isaiah we will come across passages such as in ch. 34, of the time coming when “the LORD is enraged against all the nations and furious against all their host (armies); he has devoted them to destruction …”[v.2]
            May we all live our lives so that we are among those of whom it will be true to say and experience that, “God has not destined us for wrath,” but to obtain salvation.

"ESTABLISH YOUR HEARTS BLAMELESS IN HOLINESS" Thoughts from our readings for today - May 18th


            The last 2 verses of today’s 3rd chapter in 1st Thessalonians is specially thought provoking. “… may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus …”   Read that again slowly!   Can you imagine your heart being “blameless in holiness?”
            What is the process by which he will establish our hearts in this way?  One thing Paul is telling us is that this establishing of our hearts is the result of the way we “increase and abound in love for one another.” Love comes, as Paul sees it, in different qualities and quantities!   Paul did not know when the Lord would return, just as we do not, but the expectation has grown increasingly high in recent years.  We take note also that the establishing of our hearts “blameless in holiness” is “before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord…”  It is what the Lord is looking to see at this wondrous time!
            At the beginning of his Epistle Paul commends them for their “work of faith and labour of love and steadfastness of hope” [1.v.3]   But note what we read in ch. 3 today!  After being encouraged by “the good news” of their “faith and love”  that Timothy [v.6] brought to him, Paul writes, “we pray earnestly night and day that we may see you face to face” – and there is a particular reason for this earnest prayer! It is so that he could then “supply what is lacking in your faith” [v.19] 
            From what we had previously read we would have thought they had demonstrated a really good faith!  Let us remember the emphasis in James’ epistle on this vital quality believers must possess. “You know,” James writes, “that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” [ch. 1 v.3,4] 
            It seems that what was “lacking” in their faith was some testing!  They had done works of faith, but Paul knew it needed testing to make sure it would remain “steadfast” – a vital factor in establishing our “hearts blameless in holiness  before our God” A vital lesson for us today! A faith testing time is coming on this world – there is no doubt about that – but is your heart established blameless and strong ready for that time of testing? We need to do a lot of heart searching: remember and reflect on our thoughts yesterday.

"IF YOU ARE NOT FIRM IN FAITH" Bible Reading Thoughts for today - 17/5/14


            All 3 of our readings today provoke serious meditation about human reactions to God. We started reading Joshua and saw God’s challenge to him to take his people over the Jordan.  He is told, “Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you.  I will not leave you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land … [1 v.5,6]
            In Isaiah (ch. 7] the prophet is told to “Go and meet (king) Asa” [v.3] and encourage him to face the threats from the north.  He is to tell him, “Be careful, do not fear, and do not let your heart in faint …” [v.4]  Then the king is bluntly warned, “If you are not firm in faith, you will not be firm at all.” [v.9]  It is not possible to have a sort of half-faith! 
            Ahaz feels he is putting God to the test if he asks with a full expectation God will preserve him, he says, “I will not ask, I will not put the Lord to the test” [v.12]  Because of his lack of faith the LORD then gives, through Isaiah, messages to him of bad times to come when, among other things, “all the land will be briers and thorns” [v.24]
            In the New Testament we started to read Paul’s 1st letter to the Thessalonians and saw how he is commending them on “how you turned … to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.” [v.9,10]
These words as so meaningful for us today; let us be “firm in faith” that God means what he caused his servants such as Paul to write.   May we, with full conviction in the word of God, “wait for his son from heaven’ sensing that “wrath” will soon be coming on our world because it has reached the stage of near total godlessness. Let us not neglect our regular Bible reading as it lays the foundation to being “firm in faith” and to “be strong and courageous” both now – and even more – when the promised “wrath to come” actually happens and the dramas we will read of tomorrow in Paul’s words actually takes place.

"IF YOU ARE NOT FIRM IN FAITH" Bible Reading Thoughts for today - 17/5/14


            All 3 of our readings today provoke serious meditation about human reactions to God. We started reading Joshua and saw God’s challenge to him to take his people over the Jordan.  He is told, “Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you.  I will not leave you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land … [1 v.5,6]
            In Isaiah (ch. 7] the prophet is told to “Go and meet (king) Asa” [v.3] and encourage him to face the threats from the north.  He is to tell him, “Be careful, do not fear, and do not let your heart in faint …” [v.4]  Then the king is bluntly warned, “If you are not firm in faith, you will not be firm at all.” [v.9]  It is not possible to have a sort of half-faith! 
            Ahaz feels he is putting God to the test if he asks with a full expectation God will preserve him, he says, “I will not ask, I will not put the Lord to the test” [v.12]  Because of his lack of faith the LORD then gives, through Isaiah, messages to him of bad times to come when, among other things, “all the land will be briers and thorns” [v.24]
            In the New Testament we started to read Paul’s 1st letter to the Thessalonians and saw how he is commending them on “how you turned … to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.” [v.9,10]
These words as so meaningful for us today; let us be “firm in faith” that God means what he caused his servants such as Paul to write.   May we, with full conviction in the word of God, “wait for his son from heaven’ sensing that “wrath” will soon be coming on our world because it has reached the stage of near total godlessness. Let us not neglect our regular Bible reading as it lays the foundation to being “firm in faith” and to “be strong and courageous” both now – and even more – when the promised “wrath to come” actually happens and the dramas we will read of tomorrow in Paul’s words actually takes place.

Friday 16 May 2014

"YOUR LIFE IS HIDDEN" Thoughts from today's Bible Readings - 16/5/14


            Paul told the Colossians that ”you have died and your life is hidden …”  What does he mean?  Are we clear in understanding the sense in which they had died – and how their life was nowhidden?  If we meditate on the first 4 verses of the 3rd chapter of Paul’s letter to the Colossians we will be richly repaid, but first we look back at ch. 2 and its reference to believers “having been buried with him in baptism” [v.12] and the equally significant next words, “in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God …”
            We are now ready to more fully see the significance of the opening words of ch. 4;  “If then you have been raised with Christ …”  Do we tend to omit the word “if”?  Do we have any doubt we have been “raised” – in a spiritual sense?  Re-born is another way of putting it – remember the conversation Jesus had with Nicodemus in the night! (see John 3 from v. 3) You “cannot see the kingdom of God” unless you have been born again.
            Coming back to Paul, he makes the point that those “raised with Christ seek the things that are above where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.”  And in seeking them they (and ourselves) must, “set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.”  If we fully “set” our “minds” in this way we will realize we “have died and (y)our life is hidden with Christ inGod”  - and the outcome will be wonderful, for “When Christ who is your life appears then you also will appear with him in glory."
            If our life is not hidden in this sense – then we will not “appear with him in glory”   Paul tells the Colossians that they “once walked” [v.7] in the wrong way, and so did we; but now, we pray, we have put on, or are in the process of putting on the character of Christ. Paul describes this, among other things as “compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience” [v.12]  In these things we show that our “life is hidden” 

"FOR IT IS NO EMPTY WORD" Thoughts from today's Bible readings - 15/5/14


            We read today the song Moses spoke “in the ears of all the assembly of Israel.”  The song is long and has a remarkable text.  They were expected to learn it, to bring it to mind as they entered and lived in the promised land.  Of course there were no books, i.e. scrolls, readily available to the people – and in any case we presume only a select few could read – but God had seen to it that Moses, in his youth,  “was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and he was mighty in his words and deeds”, said Stephen (Acts 7 v.22)
Moses song starts, “… let the earth hear the words of my mouth.  May my teaching drop as the rain, my speech distil as the dew, like gentle rain … For I will proclaim the name of the LORD; and ascribe greatness to our God!” [Deut. 32 v.1-3]  Let us appreciate the spiritual application of these words.
The song is a warning to those who do not serve God, the only real God, who is now about to bring them into the promised land, he is  “A God of faithfulness … just and upright is he.  They (in the past) have dealt corruptly with him  … Remember the days of old; consider the years of many generations;” [v.4,5,7]  But God knows that future generations will not learn from the mistakes, the failures of faith, in the past.  “Do you thus repay the LORD, you foolish and senseless people?” [v.6]  This could be said to our world today!  May it not be said to us!
After completing the song Moses says, “Take to heart all the words by which I am warning you today, that you may command them to your children, that they may be careful to do all the words of this law. For it is no empty word for you, but your very life, and by this word you shall live …” [v.46,47]   
We are blessed in having all the words that God caused men to utter - and for them (and others) to write down and preserve.  The climax is the final message of his son in the last book of the Bible that he gave to his loving disciple John in his old age.
The final words of the song (v.47) can be used as a promise to us, to all who genuinely aim to serve God; “by this word you shall live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to possess”  God has promised the whole world as a promised land to those who love him – and this “is no empty word.”

" ... FULLY PLEASING TO HIM" Thoughts from today's Bible Readings 14/5/14


            Today we start reading several letters of Paul beginning with his message to the Colossians. They are letters of encouragement for them to remain fully committed to following Christ in the face of various difficulties.  He tells them, “I have not ceased to pray for you” [v.8].  In his prayer he is “asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord fully pleasing to him” [v.9,10]
            There can be no half measures when we commit our lives to serving Christ – we must aim to be “fully pleasing” to the unseen presence of our Lord sensing the reality that “in him we live and move and have our being” as we read last week in Acts 17 v.28.  Our Lord is now seated “at the right hand of God” as we will read in Colossians 3 v.1.
In today’s chapter Paul reminds the Colossians that they “once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds” [v.21] as Paul himself had been.  Very few of us can look back on that kind of life – and we suspect that those who can are wonderfully motivated to make sure they are “fully pleasing” to their Saviour.  But how motivated do the rest of us feel?  Does it not depend on how clear is our perception of that which is “unseen”?
Paul told the Corinthians, “the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” [2 Cor. 4 v.18]  Coming back to today’s chapter – Paul’s words in v.23 apply just as much to us as to them, that we will be “fully pleasing … if you indeed continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel …”  Our daily reading of God’s word is a vital part of making sure we do that.  

Tuesday 13 May 2014

"BUT THE WORD IS VERY NEAR YOU" Bible Readings Thoughts for today - 13/5/14

"BUT THE WORD IS VERY NEAR YOU"                                                                                                

Moses today, in Deuteronomy 30, completes his exhortation to the people who are about to enter the promised land. We still have the words of his song to come in Ch. 32. We need to appreciate why he taught them a song – and it’s not a short one!  Everything depended on memory. There are references to people developing and possessing fantastic memories in early Centuries, such as being able to memorise all the Psalms.
A good memory enables you to have God’s “word … very near you.” But we need the right attitude to the value of memory learning – the words must be very meaningful so that they stir our thinking and create a real sense of motivation in our minds, but verses lose their purpose when people simply recite them by rote. 
Moses writes, “return to the LORD your God, you and your children, and obey his voice in all I command you today, with all your heart and with all your soul” [v.2].  The result will be evident when they come “into the land that your fathers possessed, that … he will make you more prosperous and numerous than your fathers”[v.5]
Then comes a key verse, “and the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.” [v.6]  Is not the message of Jesus to us the same!  
Then in v.14 we have the words, “but the word is very near you.  It is in your mouth and in your heartso that you can do it.”  We thought how today the word of God is very near us, freely available in a multitude of different languages; but is it within the “hearts” of those who possess copes of it?  Is it in yours?
As Moses brings his final message to a climax notice the reference to the need for love!  “If you obey  … by loving the LORD your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules, then you shall live and multiply, and the LORD your God will bless you … therefore chose life that you and your offspring may live, loving the LORDyour God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him.”[v.16,19,20]. 
We lay a firm foundation to choosing eternal life, by reading and reflecting on portions of God’s word every day – doing it in a way that makes sure “the word is very near” us.

Monday 12 May 2014

"THE SECRET THINGS BELONG TO THE LORD" Bible Reading Thoughts for May 12th

Deuteronomy 29:29 - we read the wonderful privilege we have, who like Israel have been called out from darkness.  God reveals things to us, so that we may do.

"The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are REVEALED belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may DO all the words of this law."

When we think of God revealing things to us, we are taken to the Lord Jesus Christ who has also revealed to us (those who will hear, understand and do) what would come to pass through history to his return:

"The REVELATION of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified (Greek - to make known) it...Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and KEEP (do) those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand."

            How meaningful are the words Moses uses as he is completing his last message to the nation.  Ch. 29 of Deuteronomy today ends with these very interesting words, “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.”
            God has “secret things” that he chooses not to reveal to his chosen people, or even to Moses. One of those “secret things” is how he created the world, the simple fact is that he created it, as the beginning of Genesis tells us; doing so in daily stages.  We can see it had to be this way as several of these stages depended one upon another.
            It is very interesting that when God finally revealed himself to Job (his book is contemporary with Genesis), he asks him questions – but does not reveal the answers,  He asks, “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? … Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?  Tell me if you have understanding …” [ch. 38 v.2,4]  Job confesses to God, “I know that you can do all things … I have uttered what I did not understand, things to wonderful for me, which I did not know.” [ch.42 v.2,3]
            God told Moses he had revealed the things that are essential for us to know.  This is a vital point for us to acknowledge, especially in the 21st Century when men and women of science – want to believe they can know and understand the nature of everything.
                We started today to read the remarkable prophecies God gave to Isaiah.  God says, “Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD, though your sins are like scarlet they shall be as white as snow … if you are willing and obedient …” [v.18,19]  The world around us does not want to reason in this way, they want to reason there is no God – but look what  increasing chaos and evil is developing in the world as a result!  Let us be “willing and obedient” to leave “the secret things … to the LORD” for those who think they are starting to discover them are only fooling themselves – in the age to come when those who have reasoned together (with the Lord) are made, said Jesus, “equal unto the angels” [Luke 20 v.36]– then they will know the wonder of “the secret things.”  

"THESE BLESSINGS SHALL COME" Thoughts from Today's Bible Readings - May 11th

“THESE BLESSINGS SHALL COME”                                                                                         

Deuteronomy Chapter 28 starts, “And if you faithfully obey the voice of the LORD your God, being careful to do all his commandments … these blessings shall come upon you … [v.1,2]. It is very sad that the succeeding generations failed to be careful to do this, so God’s blessings ceased and later, curses came upon them instead (read v.15 on).
In Acts we have been reading how Paul first preached Christ to the Jews but there was great opposition from many of them so God said, as he quoted to King Agrippa in today’s reading, “I will send you far away to the Gentiles” [Acts 22 v.21]    Now Paul has meaningful things to say about this when he wrote to the Romans. The failure of the Jews to accept Christ “means riches for the Gentiles” [11 v.12]  Paul describes the Gentiles as being grafted in to God’s olive tree to replace “some of the branches (that) were broken off” [v.17].  But then Paul warns these Gentile branches that have been grafted in and are receiving God’s blessings to “stand in awe for if God did not spare the natural branches neither will he spare you” [v.20,21]
We could not but think as we read the Deuteronomy chapter that some of the warnings against natural Israel about what would happen if they let God down can now be applied in the 21stCentury to the largely faithless “Christian”(?) nations.  For example, “From heaven dust shall come down upon you until you are destroyed” [v.24] “The LORD will strike you with … confusion of mind” [v.28]  “Because you did not serve the LORD your God with joyfulness and gladness of heart, because of the abundance of all things, therefore …” [v.47] 
Many nations, like Israel of old, have experienced abundance, but what kind of “joyfulness and gladness” has resulted?   Peter quoted David in the Psalms and the experiences among the first generation of believers was a fulfilment of this. “You have made known to me the paths of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence” [Acts 2 v.28].
Let us live so that all the blessings we read of today come upon us.  Our knowledge and belief in the truth of God’s word can give us a foretaste now, but what wonderful future blessings are promised!   While knowledge and belief are an essential foundation, prayerful godly living is needed to complete the character of Christ being formed in us. Let make sure we are doing this.

"CURSED BE ANYONE WHO ..." Thoughts from Today's Bible Readings - May 10th


            We continue reading Moses’ final instructions to his people before they cross the Jordan into the promised land without him.  When they enter the land they are to build an altar to the LORD.  On the stones of the altar they are “to write … all the words of this law very plainly” [ch. 27 v.8]
            Moses and the Priests then say “to all Israel, ‘Keep silence and hear, O Israel: this day you have become the people of the LORD your God.  You shall therefore obey  the voice of the LORD …”[v.9,10]
            We can draw a comparison in this with the day when we took on the name of Christ in baptism (or when we do do so).  Moses then says that when they have come into the land “the Levites shall declare to all…”[v.14] certain specific warnings about behaviour God hates, for they, as the people of God, members of his chosen nation, bring dishonour upon themselves and, in a sense, upon him should they do so.  Most of these are equally applicable to those who take on the name of Christ through baptism and then dishonour the name of Christ in aspects of their behaviour.
            Moses says, when they are in land,  “ … the Levites shall declare to all the men of Israel with a loud voice [v.14] such things as, “Cursed be anyone who dishonours his father or his mother.  And all the people shall say, ‘Amen’” [v.16]  Similarly, “Cursed be anyone who perverts the justice due  to the sojourner, the fatherless and the widow,  And all the people say, ‘Amen.’ [v.19] – And by saying that they acknowledge awareness of this warning.
            There are curses on a variety of sexual misconduct, also, “Cursed be anyone who takes a bribe …” [v.25]  And the final verse, “Cursed be anyone who does not confirm the words of this law by doing them.  And all the people shall say ‘Amen’ “  
 Is it the same with following the teachings of Christ?  Yes, but we can be most thankful that there is the principle of grace.  But, Paul asks believers, “Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?  By no means!  How can we who died to sin still live in it?” {Rom. 6 v.1,2]  Let us all “live in” service to Christ, using our various individual talents and opportunities to bring honour to his name.
Deuteronomy 27:2 we read of the stones which we covered:
"...that thou shalt set thee up great stones, and plaister them with plaister"

The stones were covered, why were they covered? For Gods word to be written on (v3)
"And thou shalt write upon them all the words of this law..."

For what purpose? For all to see (v8)
"And thou shalt write upon the stones all the words of this law very plainly"

We are stones, which have received a covering through Christ our Master and Saviour. We are to have the word of a God written on us, and that dwells in us richly. When we think of the word "plainly", our minds are taken to the whole purpose of the word of God written on stones:

"These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare PLAINLY that they seek a country" (Heb 11:13-14)

The Septuagint has the word "plaister" as the Greek used of Jesus' words of the the rulers being hypocrites and WHITED sepulchres. Our lives are to exude the character of those in Hebrews 11 and PLAINLY show Gods word, showing the word of God as much more than an observance, it was their whole way of life. May we follow these faithful examples set before us for our learning.