Tuesday 30 September 2014

"STOOD AT A DISTANCE WATCHING" Bible Reading Thoughts for Sept. 30th


Pilate was the most powerful man in Israel in the days of Jesus.    But he was strangely helpless in carrying out his own desire to let Jesus go free, although he said, as we read today, “I find no guilt in this man” (Luke 23 v.4) and “nothing deserving of death has been done by him” (v.15), and twice said, “I will release him” (v.16 and v.22). It is strange how Pilate gives in.  When we compare the different gospel records we get a clearer picture, one issue being that Jesus admitted to being a  king – and the Jewish leaders declared, “We have no king but Caesar.”  Pilate queried Jesus about the allegations of his claim to kingship, but said Jesus, “My kingdom is not of this world (or age)”   So Pilate, the most powerful man in Jerusalem became indifferent to justice and let Jesus be crucified; the biased and prejudiced jealous Jewish leaders got their way
It has always been a challenge to hold firm to what is really true! Most of the Apostles, we gather, in the end met untimely deaths. Peter and Paul certainly did.   Let us try to imagine living Centuries ago, especially around 450-500 years ago in England, when ‘christian’ put ‘christian’ to horrible deaths, the situation changing depending which king or queen was on the throne.   
There is some parallel today in what happened.  Like the voices of the prejudiced religious leaders of that age, so today we have the insistent voices (and writings) of the atheistic and agnostic intellectuals – and they are getting louder!  Even some Bible believers seem to be influenced towards accepting human theories of how ‘creation’ happened: remember how God challenged Job!  Read ch 38 v.1-4.  We live in an age when intellectuals believe they can know everything there is to know!
         Today the great majority of people accept that evolution is true and there is no God. For years the Catholics have claimed  to believe in both God and evolution: they are no better that the Jewish leaders in the time of Jesus who blindfolded their minds to the heavenly power of Jesus.   
We have all the evidence we need to be sure that Jesus is king, that he did rise from the dead!   The return of Jesus will astonish our godless world   Those who do not believe and are not ready for his coming, being convinced there is no God, will be overwhelmed and many will perish.  Recall what we read in Jeremiah 25 v.32-33.
How certain are we of what we say we believe?  We read that, at his crucifixion,  “all his acquaintances and the women who had followed him … stood at a distance watching these things” [v,49] Only John and his mother and 2 faithful women stood by the cross [John 19 v.19 v.25,26] Are we standing at a distance?  How ready are we for his coming?  Is there a good supply of oil in our lamps? 
1 Chron 13 we read of the sad event of the death of Uzzah, where great joy was turned into mourning and despair, because Godly principles had not been kept.

But at the end of the chapter we have the wonderful looking forward to the blessing we have in the Lord Jesus Christ.

"And the ark of God remained with the family of Obededom in his house three months. And the Lord blessed the house of Obededom, and all that he had."

Here we have the Ark (antitypical of the Lord Jesus Christ), that remained (Heb = dwelt) with Obed-edom (whose name means servant of red (the flesh)), and because of the ark dwelling in his house he is blessed. He prospered and was blessed, he experienced the blessings of those who naturally are servants of the flesh, but who allow Christ (the Ark) to dwell with them (by faith, through the word of God) and who will receive a blessing.

Let us be servants of Christ with him dwelling in us through faith.

Romans 13:12
"The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light."

"THEN SATAN ENTERED ..." Bible Reading Thoughts for Sept. 29th


            Today, in Luke ch 22, we read of the arrest of Jesus.  Before this he and the disciples had a Passover meal of the bread and the wine: it would only be later the disciples would see the wonder of all their Master said on that occasion and remember his words, “Do this in remembrance of me.” [v.17] and learn the lesson to be like him in being “as one who serves.” [v.27]  The reward for their service would come when they “eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” [v.30]
            There is a certain mystery early in our chapter, when it states, “Then Satan entered into Judas” [v.3]. This increases when Jesus later says to Peter, “Simon, Simon, behold Satan has demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith many not fail.” [v.31,32]  What does Jesus mean by Satan?  On one occasion Jesus rebuked Peter telling him, 'Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God' [Mark 8 v.33]  In today’s chapter Peter 3 times denies knowing his Master, he had not heeded his Master’s advice on the Mount of Olives when he told the disciples to "pray that you may not enter into temptation" [v.40]  In the verses that follow we read how Jesus is surrounded by satans, led by Judas Iscariot.
            What is the cause of temptation?   The word 'satan' personifies negative human feelings, leading one to think in ungodly ways.  Judas was so dominated by thoughts of the benefits money was bringing him that he was ready to make more money by betraying his Master, believing, we conclude, that Jesus would escape from trouble as he had seen him do in the past - recall what we read in Luke 4 v. 28-30.   
            Paul tells the Romans how "sin came alive" in his mind, so that "I died."  He admits, reflecting back on his life, "I do not understand my own actions ... I do the very thing I hate ... I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out ...  " [Romans 7 v.9,15,18] But in his next chapter he tells the Romans how he learnt "to set the mind on the Spirit" and this brought "life and peace."  [v.4-6] Paul does not use the word "Satan" in Romans until the very end - and then he means a literal enemy as Judas became. "The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet." [16 v.20] That will happen soon to our world!
            Turning back to Luke 20 we see how Jesus takes his disciples, "as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives ... And when he came to the place he said the words we quoted earlier, 'Pray that you may not enter into temptation.' [v.39,30]  Let us make that our prayer too for our world is full of satans whose minds are set on the very opposite to the things of God.      

"WHO GAVE HIM STRONG SUPPORT IN HIS KINGDOM" Bible Reading Thoughts for Sept. 28th

“WHO GAVE HIM STRONG SUPPORT IN HIS KINGDOM”                                                                                                               
The history period covered in the two books of Chronicles is parallel with that in 2 Samuel and 1 & 2 Kings. We can compare this with the way the 4 gospels are parallel accounts of the life of Jesus.  There are theories that Chronicles was written to fill out the records in Samuel and Kings and this is partly true.  Among the Jews there is a tradition that the Chronicles were written by Ezra and it is a fact that the Book of Ezra which comes at the end of Chronicles begins as though it is a continuation of Chronicles.
           What we particularly noticed in today’s chapter (11) is that most of it is about the mighty men that served David; it lists those “who gave him strong support in his kingdom” [v.10]. It details some of the valiant acts that they did.  They were valuable and faithful friends to David in his great reign as King for 40 years.  Many of these men are not recorded elsewhere and it is a testing task to read these chapters with many unpronounceable words! 
 As we read them the thought struck us that “great David’s greater son” as many have sung of Christ; will surely require an untold number of “mighty ones” to go “into battle” for him in the age to come.  The weapons of their warfare in that time will be spiritual, like the Holy Spirit was used in the First Century and which are described as “the powers of the age to come”.[Heb. 6 v.5]. We can, in a sense, apply the words we read earlier this month in 2 Cor. 10 v.4; Paul said, “the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.”
The work of those serving Christ, as King of the world, will be to administer the Law that will go forth into all nations from Jerusalem as revealed to Isaiah 2 v.2-4.  We note that it says “He shall judge between nations and shall decide disputes …”  The work Christ will perform is further described in Isaiah 11 v,2-5,9. If we genuinely become part of Christ now, how awesome our tasks may well be at that time!  
Thinking again of David; we have no clear idea of how these mighty men came to know about David, but it seems clear he was able to inspire others and he began to do this from when he killed Goliath. So worthy men responded to his leadership and became an essential part of the strength of his kingship. In the same way the Lord Jesus should inspire us. Those who are inspired and faithful, he will support and will make them to “reign with him for a thousand years.” [Rev 20 v.6]  

"OHOLAH AND OHOLIBAH" Bible Readings Thoughts for Sept 27th


            Our chapter in Ezekiel (23) starts with the prophet saying, “The word of the LORD came to me, ”Son of man, there were two women, the daughters of one mother.  They played the whore in Egypt ... "  A graphic parable unfolds of the nation after it struggled to unlearn the decadence of life in Egypt.  The 2 women, Oholah and Oholibah,  represent the 2 nations which the Israelites split into after the time of David and Solomon and the glory of the Temple.
            This parable, judging by the start of the chapter that follows, was given to Ezekiel less than 2 years before Jerusalem fell and the Temple was destroyed and nearly all the remainder of the people were taken into captivity.  What would the people make of it?  Ezekiel obviously wrote it down and it was circulated.  It is a blunt portrayal of the total spiritual unfaithfulness to the true God that had come to exist - and was enjoyed
            The meaning of the parable is plainly stated in v.35 "thus says the Lord GOD: Because you have forgotten me and cast me behind your back, you yourself must bear the consequences of your lewdness and whoring ..."  Ezekiel is told to "declare to them their abominations" [v.36]   We wonder how the people reacted? 
We see a close comparison with attitudes today - and how God's word is totally ignored.  Some of God's words in this chapter are so applicable to today, "the sound of a carefree multitude"[v.42]  They are told God's actions will , " ... make them an object of terror and a plunder ... Thus will I put an end to lewdness ... and you shall bear the penalty for your sinful idolatry, and you shall know that I am the Lord GOD."[v46,49]
            And our world today "shall know" that there is a God, for it abounds with parallels to the godless behaviour in Ezekiel's time.  We see how Jesus draws a parallel lesson in today's 20th chapter of Luke.  Jesus is "the stone that the builders rejected" but  'has become the cornerstone'."[v.17]  Let us make Jesus "the cornerstone" of our life, and how much will we all need a foundation cornerstone when, as we will read next month in Daniel, the vision of a stone (representing Jesus) strikes the image of human kingdoms on the feet, destroying them all to create God's kingdom, "and it shall stand for ever" [ch 2 v.31-44]  May we so live now that, by his grace, we will be there.

".... WERE HANGING ON HIS WORDS" Thoughts from Today's Bible Readings Sept. 26th


            What is our attitude of mind as we read God’s word? Are our minds “hanging” on what we read, most of all when they are the words of Jesus and his apostles? In the days of Ezekiel, “the word of the LORD” was what they did not want to hear, so they did not listen; already we have encountered this phrase 4 times!  (Ch. 6v.3; 13 v.2; 16 v.35; 20 v.47)
            It was quite a contrast in the days of Jesus – but the words of Jesus caused a division of opinion, some saying, “This really is the prophet’.  Others said, ‘This is the Christ.’” [John 7 v.40.41]  And of course the religious leaders rejected him because he was a challenge to their authority. 
How meaningful is the scene created by the concluding words of todays’ ch.18 in Luke!  Jesus had triumphantly entered Jerusalem and is “teaching daily in the Temple” and declares, “It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer …” [v.46]  He was quoting Isa. 56 v.7 where it says it will become “a house of prayer for all peoples.” May that day come soon and may we, by the grace of God, be made alive then.  How many will not be!  Next month we will read the remarkable vision that Ezekiel is given of the ultimate temple – and recorded in his final chapters.
Different reactions to the teaching of Jesus provide an extreme contrast.  We read, “The chief priests and the scribes and the principal men of the people were seeking to destroy him.” [v.47]  There have always been those who have sought to destroy those who truly believe God’s word and accept his Son as their Saviour: we see it today in parts of the Islamic world despite the fact that Islam acknowledges the Bible to be one of its’ holy books.
The verse in Luke today tells us that his opponents “did not find anything that they could do” – why – “for all the people were hanging on his words.” It seems ironic that at least some of them would be stirred up by their leaders to reject him and that very soon they would hang him on a cross – such is human nature!  Let us make sure that we are so committed that we are “hanging on his words” as we read them - and those his Father inspired his disciples, the prophets, Moses and others to write.  May we all, as we read them day by day, see more and more clearly  the wonder of spiritual “light” that shines in the gross darkness swamping the minds of people today.   

"ALL FLESH SHALL KNOW" Bible Readings Thoughts for Sept. 25th


            Our Ezekiel chapter (21) starts with Ezekiel being told to “Prophecy against the land of Israel” and that the LORD “will cut off from you both righteous and wicked … and all flesh shall know that I am the LORD” [v.2,4,5]  In effect God is now saying, ‘I mean what I say.’   The fascinating part of the chapter is the long term prophecy Ezekiel then receives from the LORD, “… O profane wicked prince of Israel … thus says the LORD …. take off the crown. Things shall not remain …A ruin, ruin, ruin I will make it … until he comes, the one to whom judgment belongs, and I will give it to him.” [v.25-27]
            This is what happened, we await the completion of the prophecy.  The last proper king in Jerusalem is killed, the Jews have not had a king since. Kings Herod and Agrippa in the New Testament era were Idumean’s appointed by the Romans.  The Jewish leaders in the days of Jesus were proud of their heritage, but they said they had “no king but Caesar.”  Their pride was self-centred, they had no meaningful concept of the God they claimed to worship – let us make sure that we do have!
             In today’s chapter 18 in Luke we particularly noticed the words of Jesus portraying the contrasting attitudes of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector as they went into the Temple to pray.  The Pharisee suffered from ‘I’ trouble.  He “standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week,  I give tithes ….” [v.11,12]  In contrast, the Tax Collector humbly asked, “Lord be merciful to me a sinner.”   The Lord makes the point, “the one who humbles himself will be exalted” [v.14]  May we fully absorb the point the so that we may be there, and be among the “exalted” when “all flesh shall know”  there is a God, an all-knowing, all seeing Creator.
The prophets became totally conscious of this, this is how they were able to endure in all their difficult surroundings:  how difficult are our times going to become?   Remember what we read in Jeremiah a few weeks back,  "O LORD of hosts, who tests the righteous, who sees the heart and the mind, let me see your vengeance upon them, for to you have I committed my cause." [20 v.12] May we be there at that incredible time when “all flesh shall know” there is a Creator.   Let us pray now that our Lord will be merciful to us. 

"YOU SHALL REMEMBER YOUR WAYS" Bible Reading Thoughts for Sept. 24th


            One of the most widely used Hebrew words in the Old Testament is the word Zakar.  It is usually translated ‘remember’ but it does not necessarily mean ‘suddenly bringing to mind something you  have forgotten’.  It means focusing your mind on something in particular, it first occurs in Genesis 8 v 1 “And God remembered Noah and all…that were with him in the ark”.  
            The work “remember” occurs in both our Ezekiel and Luke chapters today and conveys a significant message in them both.  The long term future of his nation is revealed to Ezekiel, it creates a wonderful ‘silver lining’ in contrast to the ugly picture of Israel in Ezekiel’s time.  God tells him that ultimately the time will come for his nation “When I will bring you out from all the peoples and gather you out of all the countries where you have been scattered”. 
            But this is to be more than a remarkable world-wide regathering!  “And I will manifest my holiness among you in the sight of the nations.  And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I bring you into the land of Israel…And there you shall remember your ways and all your deeds….And you shall loath yourselves for all the evils you have committed.  And you shall know that I am the LORD”.  (20 v41-44)  How soon before this happens?  It is in God’s hands.
            We have a book, written by David Ben Gurion, the first Prime Minister of Israel;  it includes reference to a stirring of interest and some knowledge of God’s prophets, such as Isaiah. They are starting to remember and search out the foundations on which their nation was originally built.
 But what of ourselves?   How well do we know the foundations of our faith – how real are they to us?  Is it just ‘head knowledge’?   Jesus, when asked, “When the Kingdom of God would come?” (v 20) draws the lesson of the days of Noah and how people were “eating and drinking” and life seemed totally normal “until the flood came” (v 27). The people had forgotten God and put him out of their minds just as they have today.   But God remembered, but only Noah and his family remembered God!
Jesus also reminds his audience of the destruction of Sodom, and how “they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building….” v.28, but then God acted. We know the account well, it is brief and to the point. A vital question - if our minds are absorbed and distracted by the interesting and exciting things in our world today, will we be ready when God acts?  Reflect deeply on v. 21, it has just three words;  “Remember Lot’s wife”.

"BUT GOD KNOWS YOUR HEARTS" Bible Readings Thoughts for Sept. 23rd


            Luke has left on record for us two intriguing parables, probably those which are most difficult to grasp as to their meaning of all the parables of Jesus.  Let’s start though with recalling yesterday’s chapter 15 where we see that as the “tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him ... the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, "This man receives sinners and eats with them." [v.1,2]  Jesus then tells 5 parables, the last two we read today.  There is a common thread -  the need to be genuine in seeking to serve God and God's willingness to forgive when people are genuinely repentant.
            Today we have a parable about a "dishonest manager" [v.1-13] and, as with all parables, its climax makes its’ application clear. The religious leaders are totally focussed in looking after their own interests, they are "faithful" to themselves.  As a result they are dishonest managers of God's vineyard, corrupt spiritual leaders serving their own interests before serving God's.   Jesus ridicules their self-interest, their "eternal dwellings" will be their grave - and archaeologists have discovered the elaborate tomb of the high priest's family, made as a miniature replica of the Temple.     
            We understand that the High Priest had "five brothers"[v.28].  Jesus, in the parable of the 'rich man and Lazarus' ridicules their Greek influenced belief in the afterlife, this final parable is being told against the Sadducees, with its' closing 'punch line' that “if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.” Father Abraham says, ”If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead." [v.30,31]  How true this proves to be.
            We are not like those religious leaders are we, or is it possible that Jesus would say to you or to me, "you are those who justify yourselves before men" [v.15]?  We live in a world that abounds with self-justification!  It is before God, in prayer, that we should seek to justify our actions - and ask forgiveness where-ever it is necessary.  The Master's next words are, "but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.”  May we, in true humility, in a spiritual sense, be “exalted … in the sight of God” because he knows our hearts.  Whether this truly the case will be evident when the kingdom is here.

"MAKE YOURSELF A NEW HEART" Bible Readings Thoughts for today - Sept 22nd


            Our chapter (18) in Ezekiel offers us a change of focus, instead of describing the sins of God’s nation, the prophet is caused to express God’s encouragement to individuals in that nation to turn from their evil ways and serve him.  This is also a chapter which stresses the divine judgement on individuals and shows that the word ‘soul’ does not mean some ‘spirit’ part of a person, often referred to as ‘the soul’ that is able to continue ‘living’ in some way – even though the body is dead.  This is what the Greeks and Romans believed – and the Catholics believed and most other ‘christians’-  under their influence - came to  believe in later centuries  – and, of course, the Muslims.
            Twice in this chapter Ezekiel records the words of God, “the soul who sins shall die” [v.4,20]. The Hebrew word can be translated as ‘the person’ wherever it occurs.  Ezekiel conveys God’s blunt words to the people, “Therefore I will judge you … every one according to his (her) ways, declares the Lord GOD.  Repent and turn from your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin.”  [v.30]  Godlessness is obviously going to be the ruin of our world today.   Just as Jerusalem and its wonderful temple were destroyed in the days of Jeremiah and Ezekiel, so will our world experience  an awesome judgement by God.   Our present readings of the words of Jesus in the Gospel of Luke are making this increasingly clear.
            The final verse in our Ezekiel chapter catches our attention; its appeal applies just as much now as it did then. “Make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit!  Why will you die …?” [v.31] This is equally a question for today, “why will you die” eternally – never again to see the light and experience and explore the wonders of existence?  Many Scriptures ask this question, read Psalm 49 as an outstanding example.
            Luke records Jesus’ parable about a lost coin.  A diligent search is made and finally it is found – what rejoicing follows!  “Just so,” says Jesus, “I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”  Jesus is the only person who ever lived who has never had to repent about anything.  Has there been “joy in heaven” over you?  Or will there be when you “make yourself a new heart” and marvel in “a new spirit” of mind as you are baptised into the name of Christ and commit yourself to use your particular talents in the service of Christ – before he returns!  

"NO KNOWLEDGE OF GOD" Thoughts provoked by Today's bible Readings - Sept 21st

Sin is not a word people use these days, I even met a teenager who had never heard the word ‘adultery’ – and had no idea what it meant – she came into our Bible Education Centre on a rainy morning while waiting for the Internet place next door to open. Today, attitudes are as they were in the days of Hosea who wrote, “ the LORD has a controversy with the inhabitants … There is no faithfulness or steadfast love, and no knowledge of God” [ch. 4 v.1] That is exactly the case with our world today – “the LORD has a controversy with the inhabitants” – and soon this will become awesomely evident.  
In the days of Jesus, people more widely believed that God was the ultimate arbiter of punishment for their sins.  Our readings in Ezekiel also show this, making the point that God had been merciful toward his people, yet there comes a point when God, seeing that his  people do not change although he keeps showing mercy, ultimately brings awesome destruction - and Jerusalem came to a terrible end because of the abundance of their sins and lack of repentance.  It is significant that only once does Ezekiel use the word ‘mercy’ – although Jeremiah uses it frequently. God’s people abused his merciful attitude in Jeremiah’s time.  The one occasion Ezekiel uses it is in his ch. 39 v.25 “Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: Now I will restore the fortunes of Jacob and have mercy on the whole house of Israel, and I will be jealous for my holy name”  A latter day prophecy we believe will soon occur..
Now Jesus makes a very interesting point in today’s ch. 13 in Luke.  Evidently people had been saying that when a tower collapsed in Siloam and killed 18 people (v.4), those people must have been worse sinners than other people.  How did Jesus respond?  “No” he says, “I tell you they were not, and if you fail to repent you will all likewise perish.” There is less and less belief in God these days, so no spirit of repentance.
We must look at ourselves! If we are not on God’s side, trying our best to do his will, there is no future for us.  Jesus followed up his warning about Siloam  by telling them a parable about a man who planted a tree (v.6-9) and who came for 3 years, looking for fruit, but found none.  It was given one more year to produce fruit and a special effort was made to fertilise it.  If it did not produce fruit it would be destroyed. Jesus came to the lost sheep of Israel, most would not follow him, 40 years later there was terrible destruction, especially in Jerusalem..   
The response of Peter on the day of Pentecost when  the people were ‘cut to the heart’ in realizing they had killed their Messiah, was to tell them to “Repent and be baptised” [Acts 2 v38]  So we have done that!  Good.  Are we heeding the lessons of God’s word – not only with a repentant attitude - we must each ask ourselves, are we producing fruit?   There is no point in having a “knowledge of God” if we do not.

"FOR WHERE YOUR TREASURE IS ..." Bible Readings Thoughts for Sept 20th


            They did not have banks in those days!  We read today in Luke 12 v.16-20 of a man who built many barns to “store all my grain and my goods” so he could “relax, eat, drink and be merry.”  This is the spirit among many in Australia today, the emphasis is on material well-being!  Of course it is not necessary to build bigger barns or have barns at all, but what security do banks offer?   Figures in computers, plenty of ‘paper’ money!
            As the Creator brings more and more of his promised time of trouble, a time, to quote our Lord (in Mark 13 v.19) when “there will be such tribulation as has not been from the beginning of the creation that God created until now, and never will be” again - it will almost certainly be useless to have any money in the bank, or any money at all, the only thing of value for the true believer to have – will be an overflowing abundance of faith.
            Jesus calls the man in his parable who built bigger barns a “Fool!” adding, “So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God."  His next words to his disciples are, “"Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food  ... more than clothing …" [v.24]
            Human minds today are totally concerned about such things - but we take to heart in what Jesus goes on to say, " For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them.  Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you." [v.30,31]  His next words are, ""Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom...."   Those who belong to his “little flock” spend their time developing more and more "treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys."  [v.33]
Finally note an even more vital point Jesus makes,  " For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." And he adds this instruction;  "Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning ..." [v.32-35]  Are you "dressed for action?" Is your faith shining bright?   Let us all be conscious, with full honesty of heart, where our treasure is!

Friday 19 September 2014

"THEREFORE BE CAREFUL LEST ..." Bible Readings Thoughts for Sept. 19th


            Our chapter (11) in Luke’s gospel today is full of challenging sayings by our Lord. There is great spiritual value in deeply meditating on them and seeing the extent to which they have application to the circumstances in which we live today.  The background to many of them is the self-righteous attitudes of the religious leaders who contended with Jesus.
            Praise of Jesus’ mother developed in early centuries and led to the cult of a sort of Mary worship. Luke records a little incident which those influenced by such attitudes must gloss over and ignore.  We read the response of Jesus to a woman in the crowd who calls out, “Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts at which you nursed”  Jesus responds, “Blessed rather are those who hear the words of God and keep it.” [v.27,28]  May we all be blessed for that reason, and recognise our additional blessing in being able to read all the words of God..
            The way that we “keep it” will result in us being “full of light”!   As a result our “eye is healthy” [v.34] and so our eye (or ear) keep bringing ‘healthy food’ into our minds.  This is more and more essential today as our world is so full of junk food!
            Underline the next 2 verses, “Therefore be careful lest the light (you think you have) be darkness”  [v. 35] Let’s fully absorb the point Jesus makes in the next verse, “If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, it will be wholly bright, as when a lamp with its rays gives you light.” Are you and I “full of light”?   How difficult it is to maintain such light in the increasing darkness of this world – evil words and deeds multiply all around us.  Now the words of David in Psalm 139 are a special inspiration to us with his perception of the light of God in the darkness.
            “If I say,’ writes David, ‘Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night, even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light to you.” [v12] Read the rest of that Psalm, especially the last 2 verses – and then you and I will be even more dedicated to “be careful lest” the light of God’s word be smothered by the darkness that increasingly surrounds us.   

"LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ..." Bible Reading Thoughts for Sept 18th

Ezekiel 13:10
"Because, even because they have seduced my people, saying, Peace; and there was no peace; and one built up a wall, and, lo, others daubed it with untempered morter:"

The Hebrew used here for wall is only used x1 in the OT, and actually means a thin wall/a wall of slight or poor build. 
Also, when we look to the Untempered mortar, the Hebrew means something crude, undigested, insipid. 

When we put the thin poorly built wall together with the crude, undigested mortar we begin to see the state of this wall. 

Why was the wall in such a state with this crude covering to make it look okay?
Because the people had been seduced, or led astray, or misled by false teachers (prophets).

Verses 11-14 show what will happen to this wall. This reminds us of the teaching of the Lord Jesus and reminds us that what we build on is of critical importance and will one day be shown for what it is:
The wise man who built his house upon the rock, which withstood the storm, unlike the foolish mans house whose foundations were upon sand. (Matt 7:24-27)

Let us not be insipid or led astray, but be building strong walls on the right foundations."LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ..."

            How depressed Ezekiel must have been! The LORD caused him to be aware of the totally godless attitude that existed in Jerusalem.  He writes, “certain of the elders of Israel came to see me.” [14 v.1]  The “word of the LORD” comes to him, “… these men have taken their idols into their hearts and set the stumbling block of their iniquity before their faces.  Should I indeed let myself be consulted by them?” [v.3]
            The lesson is plain, it is folly to come to seek God and yet retain fleshly thoughts in our minds.  Ezekiel is further told, “any one of the house of Israel … who separates himself from me, taking his idols into his heart … and yet comes to a prophet to consult me through him, I, the LORD will answer him myself.  And I will set my face against that man (or woman)…” [v.7,8] Surely the same applies today to those who “consult” God through reading his word – but have a wrong motive in their hearts.  Peter’s words come to mind about Paul’s writings,, “There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.” [2 Peter 3 v.16] 
In our chapter [10] in Luke there is some comparison with the attitude of the lawyer who asked Jesus, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?"   He said to him, "What is written in the Law? How do you read it?"  And he answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself." [v.25-27]
            Jesus says to him, “You have answered correctly: do this and you will live.”  But he asks, “and, who is my neighbour?” In response Jesus tells him the well-known account of the ‘Good Samaritan’ and asks the man, “Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbour to the man who fell among robbers?” [v.36]  He answers, “The one who showed mercy” and is told, “You go and do likewise.”
            Let us all love our Lord, with all our heart, our soul, our strength and our mind showing our love by our actions day after day: of course, we will sense at times, something similar to what the LORD caused Ezekiel to sense.  But surely, in at least some cases, it will cause others to “do likewise” and – for at least one or two to take serious notice of the message and meaning of what we talk about –  the wonder and real meaning of the word of God – as the only ‘light’ in the darkness that covers the world today.

"LET THESE WORDS SINK ..." Thoughts from Today's Bible Readings - Sept 17th


            What effect do the words of the Bible have on you as you read them?  They vary greatly as we have seen today: but this causes us to exercise our minds in many different ways – and this is good for us.  God has overseen the recording of many different events and messages so that what he has caused to be written is a lifelong study – indeed, more than a study, often a cause of prayerful meditation.  So often it is about human failure and the causes of that failure.
            Our Old Testament readings today were both about the dismal end of God’s nation.  The final 2 chapters in 2nd Kings detailed the dreadful destruction of Jerusalem and the distress of the people - and Ezekiel 13 is about the ungodliness at the time and how the Lord GOD said, “I will make stormy winds break out in my wrath … and great hailstones in wrath to make a full end.” [v.13]  And today?
            The Psalms of David had long been written so would one here and there, who knew them, have mediated on them?  Maybe Psalm 12, to take one example; it ends with the words, “on every side the wicked prowl, as vileness is exalted …”!  Those trying to be righteous would surely have meditated on the two previous verses which start, “The words of the LORD are pure words …” !
            We compare the forecasts of the destruction of Jerusalem with the forecasts Jesus made of his death and the reaction of his hearers to these forecasts. . We read today in Luke Ch. 9, “… while they were all marvelling at everything he was doing, Jesus  said to his disciples, “Let these words sink into your ears: the Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men.’  But they did not understand this saying … “ [v.43-45] Their minds were focussed on “which of them was the greatest” [v.46]!  With that state of mind his words would not sink into their minds!
               We see a telling comparison with what we will read later in Luke in Ch.24.  After his resurrection, 2 disciples who had walked with an unrecognized Messiah later confessed, “Did not our hearts burn within us as he talked with us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” [v.32]  They were in a mood to “let these words sink” into their minds!  He had chided them, that they “were slow of heart to believe all that the prophets had spoken” [v.25].  It seems to be our nature to believe only what we want to believe – but in looking at all that the prophets have spoken and seeing alarming comparisons with our world today to the forecasts then of the destruction of Jerusalem and the reasons for it, let us cause the words of Christ and the prophets to sink more fully into our minds, so we can walk with greater and greater faith in the increasing darkness of today’s world.

"ASKED HIM TO DEPART" Bible Reading Thoughts for Sept 16th

After teaching the parable of the sower, "He (Jesus) cried, that hath ears to hear, let him hear. (Luke 8:8).

Our other two readings have the example of those who do have ears to hear and those who don't.
Those who don't have ears to hear:
"Son of man, thou dwellest in the midst of a REBELLIOUS house, which have eyes to see, and see not; they have ears to hear, and hear not: for they are a REBELLIOUS house." (Ezekiel 12:2)

Those who do have ears to hear:
"Because thine heart was TENDER, and thou hast HUMBLED thyself before the LORD, when thou heardest what I spake...and hast rent thy clothes, and wept before me". Josiah acted upon the words of the LORD, as chapter 23 gives us great detail, as he destroyed the idolatry in the land. (2 Ki 22:19)

In these two examples we have the hard soil of the rebellious heart, and the good soil that is soft and tender ready to receive and bear fruit.

Because of Josiah's actions and zeal for executing Gods word, he escaped the judgement which was to come. May we be of the same mind and zeal, that we be not overcome with the things and idolatry of this world and life, that by Gods grace and mercy we also escape the judgement that will be brought upon this world, and "may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man". (Lu 21:36)

            We read of a remarkable miracle today in Luke ch. 8., the healing of a man who had become totally deranged in mind. He was well known, owned a house and lived in the city before he became insane.  Jesus did many miracles in many different ways but this healing was particularly challenging to those who knew the man and lived in his city.
            Jesus came to “the country of the Gerasenes and this man, in his insane state, now lived among the tombs, “When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell down before him and said with a loud voice, ‘What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?” [v.28]  His insane mind led him to perceive who Jesus really was!  There was nothing to be gained by Jesus explaining that such a state of mind was not caused by an ‘evil spirit’ taking over control of the mind; this belief had arisen as a result of the Greek conquest; this was what the Greeks superstitiously believed: the Old Testament shows that no such beliefs were held in earlier years.
            A dramatic healing occurs!  The supposed ‘demons’ are ‘seen’ to be in the pigs because they madly rush down the slope and drown in the waters of Galilee. Now eating pork, even touching their carcases was ‘unclean’ under the law God gave to Moses [Lev. 11 v.7,8]; obviously those keeping the pigs had no regard for the law!   The event was a challenge to the “people (who) went out to see what had happened, and they came to Jesus and found the man from whom the demons had gone, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid.” [v.35]
            Every other healing Jesus did resulted in many more coming for healings but not here!  “All the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked him to depart from them for they were seized with great fear. [v.37] We suspect they were afraid of other things that might happen that would cause a further loss of livelihood.
The reasons are not entirely different today for those who believe in evolution rather than a Creator who will hold them responsible for how they live their lives.  Those who believe in a Creator have at least some responsibility!  Recall what we read last week in Ezekiel in chapter 3.  “If I say to the wicked, ’You shall sure die,” God says to Ezekiel, “and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn … he shall die for his iniquity but his blood I will require at your hand.  But if you warn the wicked … you will have delivered your soul” [ch. 3 v.18,19]   Any words we attempt to speak or write must be done in love. Jesus told his hearers to “love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.” [Matt 5 v.44]. We do not want Jesus “to depart” from us.   

"BLESSED IS THE ONE WHO ...." Bible Readings Thoughts for Sept 15th


            As usual, all our chapters are full of meaningful lessons: first, Hezekiah after his life is extended 15 years is succeeded by a 12 yr old son, Manasseh who turns out to be a very bad king.  We wonder about the role of Hephzibah, his mother in this.  The spirituality of whom we marry is very important. Her name is apparently of Phoenician origin, meaning, ‘delight of Baal.’
            Again the spirit takes Ezekiel to Jerusalem and gives him insight into God’s reaction because of his full awareness of the minds of those living there. God always has such knowledge! Awesome!  Ezekiel learns, “But as for those whose heart goes after their detestable things and their abominations, I will bring their deeds upon their own heads, declares the Lord GOD.” [Ch. 11 v.21]  And today?
            In Luke (Ch. 7) we read how messengers come to Jesus from John the Baptist.  Our Lord has been doing many remarkable miracles, but when he brings to life again a young man who is being carried out to his burial, “fear seized them all, and they glorified God, saying,  ‘A great prophet has arisen among us!’ and ‘God has visited his people!’  And this report about him spread through the whole of Judea and all the surrounding country. The disciples of John reported all these things to him. And John,  calling two of his disciples to him, sent them to the Lord, saying, "Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?"  [v.16-19]
            The way Jesus answers him is instructive – and challenging!  John evidently had certain expectations of the Messiah’s work – and what was happening did not fit these.  We look back at ch. 4 and see how Jesus quoted from a scroll of Isaiah when in the Synagogue, v.17-19. It is now instructive to note how Jesus responds to these messengers, “"Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me." [v.22-23]
            He is telling John to check out and “believe all that the prophets have spoken”!  These are the words of Jesus we will read in ch. 24 v.25, when, after his resurrection he speaks to 2 disciples on the road to Emmaus.  This is a lesson for us as we anticipate the return of our Lord and our expectations are increasing!  We must take a lesson from the quandary of John the Baptist and look to “all that the prophets” have written!  Are they not like pieces of a jigsaw!  We have more and more pieces that seem to fit, but there are still others we are not sure about: events yet to come, maybe very soon, will make the picture clearer and clearer. 

"I HAVE SEEN YOUR TEARS" Bible Reading Thoughts for Sept 14th


            We read and thought yesterday about the anxieties of King Hezekiah over the Assyrian invasion and the potential fall of Jerusalem.  The king appealed to Isaiah to seek the help of the LORD.  Later he went into the Temple and “prayed before the LORD” [2 Kings 19 v.15] himself.  There is a progression in his approach to God – do we have the same experience as we seek to get closer to our Creator and His Son our Saviour?  It is natural that we should if we are truly spiritually minded..
            Today in ch. 20 we read of Hezekiah’s illness, one that he is told, will be fatal;  Isaiah comes with this message, “Set your house in order for you shall not recover” [v.1]    He makes an impassioned prayer to the LORD, “I have walked before you in faithfulness and with a whole heart, and have done what is good in your sight.” [v.3]   His prayer is heard and answered – “I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears. Behold, I will heal you” [v.5]  God hears and sees all things in the lives of those who truly seek to serve him.
                We should each meditate on whether we could utter such an impassioned prayer if we found ourselves in a life threatening situation -  when we feel we still have work we can do in serving our Lord.  It may not be a health situation as with Hezekiah.  Our world, especially in some parts, increasingly threatens us; potentially there could be extreme difficulties.  In our prayers could we say we have serve him with “our whole heart.”?
            This week we will read in Ezekiel how the prophet is told of God’s impending judgements, “Thus says the Lord GOD: None of my words will be delayed any longer…” [12 v.28]  The time is coming, we do not know how soon, when God will be saying the same about our godless world. 
            In Luke today we read the challenging words of Jesus, “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord’ and do not do what I tell you” [6 v.46]  Let us not be guilty of reading God’s word but then failing to put into practice what we read.  We can talk and preach about it – and exhort each other – but this must not be only an outward show.  We are all building the “house” of our life: Jesus said, “the one who hears (reads) my words … I will show you what he is like:  he is like a man building a house who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock …” [v.48] A lot of sweat and tears are involved in such earnest building: so in our building, can our Lord say to you, and me, “I have seen your tears.”

Saturday 13 September 2014

"THE SURVIVING REMNANT" Bible Readings Thoughts for Sept. 13th


            Today’s chapter 19 of 2nd Kings brings Isaiah onto the scene.  King Hezekiah in his great distress at the conquests of the Assyrians and now their presence outside the walls of Jerusalem sends his secretary and senior priests to the prophet, with a message saying, “It may be that the LORD your God heard all the words of the Rabshakeh,”  adding, “therefore lift up your prayer for the remnant that is left” [v.4]
            Isaiah’s response is very positive; “Say to your Master, ‘Thus says the LORD: Do not be afraid because of the words that you have heard with which the servants of the king of Assyria have reviled me. Behold, I will put a spirit in him, so that he shall hear a rumour and return to his own land, and I will make him fall by the sword in his own land.'" [v.6,7]  This happens, but as the Assyrians depart they say, "Thus shall you speak to Hezekiah king of Judah: 'Do not let your God in whom you trust deceive you by promising that Jerusalem will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria. ‘Behold, you have heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all lands, devoting them to destruction. And shall you be delivered?” [v.10,11]
            History is full of human boasting like this, but “The word of the LORD” comes to Isaiah over this (v.21-28) that the LORD is “aware of their raging against me”[v.27] Within a generation or two the Assyrians fade into history and Nineveh is a heap of ruins to this day –  the Babylonians then become the main enemy, but in time Babylon too becomes a heap of ruins, as it is today.   
            Then Isaiah conveys a remarkable long term prophecy. “ … the surviving remnant of the house of Judah shall again take root downward and bear fruit upward. For out of Jerusalem shall go a remnant, and out of Mount Zion a band of survivors. The zeal of the LORD will do this.” [v.30,31]  We witness the resilience of the “surviving remnant” today.  We can read in Isaiah’s book, the prophecy the LORD gives him, how “in that day the Lord will extent his hand a second time to recover the remnant that remains of his people … and gather the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth” [11 v.11,12] 
We are witnessing that event and are in awe of the climax when God “shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.” [v.4]   Soon, in Luke’s gospel, we will come to Jesus’ awesome words predicting this. How awesome the fate of the great Assyrian army, because they reviled God! (185,000 died – v.35) How awesome the fate awaiting at least some who do so today!  Let us do the opposite.  And what is the opposite?.   

"THE GOOD NEWS OF THE KINGDOM" Bible Reading Thoughts for Sept 12th


            How hard it is to hear or find any “good news” these days!  All nations and kingdoms appear to be in disarray especially in the Middle East, only Israel stands firm.  The nations think that their destiny is entirely in their own hands, but God’s purpose is being worked out and dedicated Bible students diligently watch events trying to see more clearly how the various prophecies apply.

             We read in 2 Kings 18 of thfaith of the good king Zedekiah in Jerusalem, standing firm against the boasting of the invading Assyrians (which is called Iraq is today). We will read tomorrow of how the prophet Isaiah comes on the scene and, through God’s spirit, sees and says what God will cause to happen because Hezekiah is a spiritually minded king.

            How hard it is to hear or find any “good news” these days!  All nations and kingdoms appear to be in disarray especially in the Middle East, only Israel stands firm.  The nations think that their destiny is entirely in their own hands, but God’s purpose is being worked out and dedicated Bible students diligently watch events trying to see more clearly how the various prophecies apply.
            We read in 2 Kings 18 of the faith of the good king Zedekiah in Jerusalem, standing firm against the boasting of the invading Assyrians (which is called Iraq is today). We will read tomorrow of how the prophet Isaiah comes on the scene and, through God’s spirit, sees and says what God will cause to happen because Hezekiah is a spiritually minded king.
            In contrast, the prophet Ezekiel (ch.8) is caused to be carried in vision to Jerusalem and made aware of the abominations taking place in the Temple; for him, it is the opposite kind of news of what will soon happen!  Ezekiel is told that God is so angry that, when trouble comes, “though they cry in my ears with a loud voice, I will not hear them.” [v.18]
            In Luke’s gospel (ch.4) we read how Jesus travels to many places and heals many, and “the people sought him and came to him, and would have kept him from leaving them, but he said to them, ‘I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose.” [v.42,43]  Those who really listened were few, most were fascinated by seeing miracles or being miraculously fed but the really important work of Christ was proclaiming, “The good news of the kingdom of God.”  
 This was not as many have imagined over the centuries up until today – a ’sky kingdom’ but, as in the ‘Lords’ prayer, ‘Thy will be done on earth” – What wonders “Isaiah … saw … it shall come to pass in the latter days … the house (temple) of the LORD shall be established … and all nations shall flow to it …” [Isaiah 2 v.1,2] Jesus came to bring this wondrous message of God’s ultimate purpose for the earth - to happen when he returns.  Let us ever more surely make this our hope and expectation and share it with anyone who will listen.   

"CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS" Thoughts from Today's Bible readings - Sept 11th


            The world is a spiritual wilderness today.  We read today of when John the Baptist appeared on the scene and that he was a “voice crying in the wilderness” [Luke 3 v.4] – it was a spiritual wilderness then too, there had been no prophet from God for about 400 years – since the days of Malachi.   Today there has been no message from God that people have taken serious notice of since the Bible was translated and printed and became available in all major languages, this was at least 400 years ago. People “listened” to God’s “voice” then and the world underwent a spiritual reformation; but deafness set in again more and more with each generation until today, nearly all are totally ‘deaf.’
            We saw significant parallels in our Ezekiel reading (ch.7) today.  The 10 northern tribes that made up the kingdom of Israel, as distinct from Judah in the south, had become so wicked that they were all in the process of being taken away into captivity: the southern kingdom was soon to follow.  However, God’s words through Ezekiel, could be his words to the great majority today.  It seems no one was listening to Ezekiel – and it’s the same today, so few are seriously listening.
            “Behold the day! Behold it comes!  Your doom has come” [v.10] wrote Ezekiel, adding, “Violence has grown up into a rod of wickedness” [v.11]  He continues, “The time has come; the day has arrived.  Let not the buyer rejoice, nor the seller mourn, for wrath is upon all …” [v.12] “When anguish comes they will seek peace, but there shall be none.  Disaster comes upon disaster….” [v.25,26]  
            Thankfully, wonderfully, there is an end coming to the disasters that will surely multiply in today’s world’. Those who know God’s word and have established a relationship with him, will know where to “seek peace” and that “the prince of peace” will return “and the government shall be upon his shoulder” [Isa. 9 v.6] and “the wilderness” will be no more – but only those who have heard (by reading and thinking and believing) “the voice crying in the wilderness” will experience the everlasting wonders that “that day” will bring.  Are you listening? What effect is it having on your heart?

Friday 12 September 2014

"... AMONG THOSE WITH WHOM HE IS PLEASED" Bible Reading Thoughts for Sept 10th


            Once again our 2nd Kings chapter is an account of depraved worship in Jerusalem, but it ends on an encouraging note, the wicked king Ahaz dies – but the new king will be his son Hezekiah. How is it that he shows himself to be godly, after such a father? It is reasonable to think that his mother must have been a worthy woman – surely a lesson for today.
            Ezekiel’s chapter 6 is another message of God’s anger against the godlessness of idol worship, with the LORD saying, “Thus will I spend my fury upon them. And you shall know that I am the LORD when their slain lie among their idols.” [v.12,13]  A prophet today would bring the same message to our world.  
But, in contrast, what a pleasure for uplifting meditation is our chapter (2) in Luke with its’ account of the birth of our Lord. We read the well-known account of “the angel of the Lord” appearing to the “shepherds out in the field.” Are his words too familiar to us?  Imagine you were one of the shepherds.  “… behold I bring you good news of great joy for unto you is born … a saviour who is Christ (Messiah) the Lord.” [v.10,11}  The angel is then joined by “a heavenly host” who sing words often sung at Christmas, but the original English version of the words, so familiar to us, is wrong.  The angels did not sing “peace on earth” but, as modern versions correctly translate the Greek, “Glory to God in the highest , and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased.”
            May we be among those who experience this in our hearts, especially as our world is experiencing, as we will read the words of Jesus in ch. 21, “distress of nations in perplexity” and “people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world.” [v.25,26]. Genuinely faithful believers will have his encouragement  echoing in their minds, “Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” [v.28] 
People are not yet fainting with fear, but when that time comes the Lord’s coming will surely be near and he will be wonderfully “among those with whom he is pleased”   May we all, by his mercy, be among all those who “raise their heads”, but, as a hymn, by Islip Collyer, we sing expresses it, ‘we make the answer now.’       

Monday 8 September 2014

"EXAMINE YOURSELVES ... TEST YOURSELVES" Bible Readings Thoughts for Sept 8th


                Today we completed reading Paul’s second letter to the believers at Corinth; he is still anxious about them, his letter expresses many concerns.   Let us recognise that correcting faults in our life in Christ is a personal responsibility. The concept of endless ‘grace abounding’ that exists among many who see themselves as Christians is dangerous.  Let us carefully note the points Paul makes as he brings his letter to a conclusion.
                “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith” [13 v.5].  And so also must we.  Let us fully realize that Christ, by his spirit, is present among believers and sees their actions, knows their minds and that this knowledge will be the ‘foundation’ for his right judgment on the day of judgment.  Paul is developing the points he made in his first letter when he said,  “Let a person examine himself … and so eat … and drink” [1 Cor. 11 v.28] when he or she comes to the table of remembrance to have fellowship. 
This self-examination is not only when we come together to the table of the Lord;  in v.3 of this last chapter Paul stresses,  “Christ is … not weak … but is powerful among you.”  Christ sees their thoughts and actions (and, of course, ours). Paul stresses the need to, “Test yourselves.  or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? – unless you fail to meet the test.” [v.5]   Let us realize the sense he is “in us – and that we meet all the tests the ungodly world around us, puts on us.?
                When we were baptised we entered into a wonderful spiritual relationship with him, we were no longer our own; Paul expressed his own feeling to the Galatians, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” [2 v.20]. Let us realize the reality of this,  our Saviour is watching over us, this is both wonderful and awesome. 
Paul completes his message to the Corinthians by writing; “finally brothers (& sisters) Rejoice … comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you.” [v.11] It is the same today, our “peace” and teamwork together, means we will also fully have divine fellowship: remember Jesus said, “where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” [Matt 18 v.20] How wonderful! It is beyond our human comprehension. Let us appreciate the full meaning of the final verse of Paul’s letter, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” Let us try ever harder to sense that “fellowship” as we “EXAMINE” and “TEST OURSELVES” every day.

"THE MEEKNESS AND GENTLENESS OF CHRIST" Bible Readings Thoughts for Sept. 7th

"THE MEEKNESS AND GENTLENESS OF CHRIST"                                                                                      S

Our world is full of distractions; these seem to increase every year!  This is especially so for the young; at every twist and turn of daily life they encounter “voices” “words” and messages clamouring for their attention.  These “voices” might come via iPods, mobile phones or whenever they turn on their Laptop. 
            The words of Paul to the Corinthians we read today can be applied to the present situation.  The church in Corinth had been established for some years and the believers were being distracted by some who were full of their own self-importance and were creating problems.  We read, “I Paul, myself entreat you, by the meekness and gentleness of Christ” [10 v.1]. This was the Christ-like attitude Paul had toward the genuine heart-motivated believers there, but it was a challenge to have it toward those who envied his popularity and sought to undermine his work for the Lord; we remember how our Lord responded to those who were envious of his popularity.   Paul was putting into practice what Christ had said, “Come to me all you who labour and are heavy laden … Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly of heart…” [Matt. 11 v.28,29]
We see how Paul expresses his distress at the attitude of many in Corinth who were not doing this. It is the same today: God’s words get wilfully distorted.  Paul writes, “I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.  For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough” [11 v.3,4]
Tragically the ‘Christian’ world has seen so many different gospels over the centuries, it is only the regular and prayerful reading of God’s word, so wonderfully preserved, that provides the foundation for us to truly walk in Christ’s footsteps – and, at the same time, to be motivated to develop the spirit of “meekness and gentleness.” This should apply equally as much when we seek to “destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God”[10 v.5]  May we find that, on at least some occasions, “the soft answer” [Prov. 15 v.1] can penetrate the hard hearts we encounter.
              Finally, note how this chapter ends; “it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.” May the Lord commend you on that day for being faithful to his word, and in turning from this world’s distractions to daily read and meditate on his word knowing they provide an essential foundation for all you think and do..