Sinfulness Does Not Go Unpunished

Sinfulness Does Not Go Unpunished

Nahum 3

“… the book of Nahum tells us in very straight terms that evil will be punished. It warns us about our own sin, and it encourages us when we are oppressed by great evils by reminding us that God will have the last word. We need this message bringing home to us at times when our persecutors ‘increase like the locusts’, or on the other hand, at times when we think we are getting away with behaviour which is not strictly honouring to God. The book may have a limited scope, but its message is a vital one.” (M. Butterworth)

It is worth reading Revelation 20:11-15 as a New Testament equivalent.

Entering the Kingdom of Heaven

Luke 18:18-30

Who will enter the Kingdom of Heaven? Thank God that what is absolutely impossible for sinful human beings is possible with God. Only by His undeserved mercy and grace can any of us be saved. Thanks be to God, He does save those who call upon Him.

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For Those “Confident In Their Own …..”

The readings set down for today are Nahum 2 and Luke 18:9-17. Sit down, relax, remove all the distractions and let these passages soak into your soul.

In this Nahum passage we see one of the descriptions of the fall of Nineveh. The river gates are opened and the city is flooded and then burned. Nineveh was situated on three rivers, with a canal system that fed the different districts. Once the suburbs were captured, the canal gates could be thrown open and the cities defences flooded. The walls of the palace collapsed, enemy soldiers swarmed into the city and plundered it.

We can only imagine how confident those in Nineveh felt living inside their fortress city. They would have thought they were perfectly safe with no-one able to get any where near them. But that self confidence was misplaced.

Our second passage (Luke 18:9-17) is one of Jesus’ parables and it is specifically directed to “some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised others (presumably because these “others” were not as righteous as they were)”-v.9. The Pharisee who represented this group thought that all he did was a ticket directly into God’s Kingdom (“Do not pass go”). In contrast, the tax collector, a representative “sinner”, simply cried out to God for mercy.

Confidence in ourself, or what we do, or what we own, is a fantasy. Those who think and/or pray as the Pharisee have their eyes fixed on themselves and not on God. This can be a huge problem for us – almost without us knowing it.

Only by us taking our place beside the despised first-century tax collector, admitting to God (and others) that we are sinful, and relying ONLY on God’s mercy, can we be justified before God.

Have a great day,

Peter Clark.

Nahum and Luke

Today’s (Mo 08/01/2018) FDR is Nahum 1 and Luke 18:1-8

What does Nahum chapter 1 and the first 8 verses of Luke chapter 18 share in common?  Not many things but a great powerful and merciful God. Our glorious God as the centre piece.

Yesterday Steve took us into Psalm 99 and concluded with these words:
“. . . shows us that God is both reigning king, mighty and awesome, AND loving father, responsive, forgiving and faithful. What more can we do than to fall upon our knees and ‘exalt the Lord our God for the LORD our God is Holy!’ (v9).”

Today, Nahum’s prophecy in this first chapter prophesies about an overlord called “Ninevah”, a great and worldly powerful oppressor whose descent from its own glory and might occurs in the face of the Lord’s greater power and justice.  This provides us with the same perspective as more ancient readers of this prophecy such as those between 7th century BCE and Christ’s birth.  That is, a message of hope and trust in God for those of us who are oppressed by our own “Nineveh”.  The same message for the ancients and ourselves.

Today also this familiar passage from Luke 18,  as Jesus relates the parable of the lonely and persistent widow and her constant approaches to the normally unsympathetic judge so that he accedes to her requests.   Luke, in his helpful style, identifies for us that the parable’s purpose is prayer.

But how to characterise these two players in this parable?  While it is easy to see ourselves as the petitioner, the widow. Possibly feeling alone and unsuppported.  I don’t believe we should ascribe the role of the judge to God!  In fact, it is my view that the description of the judge is deliberate to encourage us to think about our own perspective in which we see our God.

Is He a grumbling reluctant judge who approves our prayers after we have “droned on” for a while about what we want?  Not so.

The Bible describes an very different God.  Our God, in my experience, is an extremely generous and considerate God.  A personal and committed God, who is keen for each of us to know Him and Jesus and the Holy Spirit, as part of our own lives.  Also as part of our collective lives together as the church, as Christ’s redeemed people.   God demonstrates His great care and interest in us in many ways, not the least of these being the provision of both a personal and collective prayer connection for ours and His use, as often and as many times as it is needed.  There are many different prayer modes, of which some examples are, those urgent times when something disastrous is about to occur or has just occurred, when we or our brothers and sisters are in need of grace and peace, and in praise and worship of our great God.

Just three of all the many examples of prayer conversations we can have with God.

Why is prayer so important?  Briefly, prayer demonstrates our faith in God through Christ and it stokes our hunger for things of God encouraging us to leave the sin and mundane of this world and revel in Him.  Prayer is an important part of each of us remaining as an elect child of God and those who will be taken on Christ’s turbulent return to be with Him.

Its time to pray.  Its always time to pray.

Blessings,

Glenn

Note to all diaries: Monthly FAC Community prayer mornings recommence on Sat 3rd February, 2018 from 7am to 9am.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Psalm 99

What a powerful psalm set before us today! The psalm wastes no time in putting into perspective God’s power and awesome name. I feel the thunderous proclamation of our eternal God; enthroned… exalted… awesome! Our response; trembling and quaking!

Yet, there is more to this psalm – it is also highly relational. In v4 and following, God (the King!) is described as one who loves justice, equity and righeousness. The psalmist outlines how God responds to people when they call upon him – both forgiving and protecting (v8).

Psalm 99 then shows us that God is both reigning king, mighty and awesome, AND loving father, responsive, forgiving and faithful. What more can we do than to fall upon our knees and ‘exalt the Lord our God for the LORD our God is Holy!’ (v9). May it be so for us today.

The battery of good works God has already prepared for us to do.

Today’s (Fr 05/01/2018) FDR is Ephesians 5:1-20

The previous readings in the last few days have sought to remind us of our response to God on becoming Christians. (Thanks Steve for these.)  Much of the underlying theme of each of these is the path made smooth for us by Jesus.  Just as the lead Sherpa, when climbing Mt Everest, seeks to find the best path for we who are following, to tread trustingly to reach our goal.  So are Jesus demonstrations and instructions about how to live as believers in this world.

So that we as faithful Christians may adopt a lifestyle that exemplifies God as described in these 20 verses.

vv 1 & 2 asks us to not just talk to the talk, but to walk the walk.  That is to act in Christian ways, “to walk in the way of love.”  Essentially we are encouraged to act as Christ taught us.  Yes even to imitate God by taking on Jesus example of behaviour.

vv 3 -7 Provides us with a list of behaviours and people who behave in these ways that are to be rejected.

vv 8 – 20 encourages us to ” . . live as children of light . .” (v8), “. . making the most of every opportunity, . .” (v16), ” but understand what the Lord’s will is.” (v17b) and “. . .be filled with the Spirit, . .” (v18b).

 

Hebrews 10: 23 & 24 has this to say about why we should act like this;

23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.  24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

 

Martin Luther (1483-1546) picks up on the continual imperative of imitating God with these words:

This life, therefore, is not godliness but the process of becoming godly, not health but getting well, not being but becoming, not rest but exercise. We are not now what we shall be, but we are on the way. The process is not yet finished, but it is actively going on. This is not the goal but it is the right road. At present, everything does not gleam and sparkle, but everything is being cleansed. (1)

 

Lastly, but not least, we should ask for guidance and assistance through prayer;

Holy, blessed and glorious Trinity, three persons in one God,
have mercy on me.

Almighty God, Creator and sustainer of the universe, I worship you.
Lord Jesus Christ, Saviour and Lord of the World, I worship you.
Holy Spirit, Sanctifier of the people of God, I worship you.
Heavenly Father, I pray that I may live this day in your presence and please you more and more.
Lord Jesus, I pray that this day I may take up my cross and follow you.
Holy Spirit, I pray that this day you will fill me with yourself and cause your fruit to  ripe in my life: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-control.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit,
As it was in the beginning, is now, and shell be forever.
Amen.

 

Blessings,
Glenn

(1) Defense and Explanation of All the Articles”, transl. 
Charles M. Jacobs, in Luther’s Works, Volume 34 (Philadelphia: 
Muhlenberg Press, 1958), 24.

The Word on the street

Happy new year. Hope it’s off to a great start. Today we look into Matthew 5:11-16 – those well-known verses about us being salt and light of this world.

We are told that we are blessed and our reward is in heaven if we suffer persecution for our faith. This is a great comfort and as Jesus mounts his argument (excuse the pun) as to why we need to be “the salt and light” he highlights the blessing it is to be abused and criticised for our faith. Like many of the beatitudes, it seems a little backwards or hard to understand this side of eternity.

The question Jesus asks is, “What good is salt if it has lost its flavour?” In other words, if a Christian has lost his or her gusto and fervour, then what’s the difference between an old grain of sand they once were and the so-called salt they are now? The answer is very little.

Similarly, there is a challenge to “let our light shine before others, so they may see your good works and give glory to our Father who is in heaven.”. The push from Jesus is to get out there among people. To be seen and known as a believer and for people to see our good works. It’s not enough to be a social body that everyone knows but nobody knows you’re a Christian – nor is it enough to be a strong, faithful believer that retreats from the world and lives in a bubble.

All the best with getting the Word out on to the street, into our friendship circles, into our random interactions with people in our community through being salt and light to the world.

How intense is your ‘fervor’?

Bible Reading: Romans 12

I assume that like me when you read the scriptures, at particular times in life or particular periods of time in the year, words seem to jump out of the pages at you. Today was one of those days for me and given that we are fresh in the start of a new year, it was not just ‘A’ word but 2 verses.

‘Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.’ Romans 12:11-12

Yes, there is so much that could be reflected on in this very challenging and thought provoking chapter, and so much for conversation, but what a beautiful expression of our language the author uses to describe the way we are called to serve our Lord … with FERVOR!

Noun: fervor / intense and passionate feeling.

“he talked with all the fervour of a new convert”

synonyms: passion, ardour, intensity, zeal, vehemence, vehemency, emotion, warmth, sincerity, earnestness, avidness, avidity, eagerness, keenness, enthusiasm, excitement, animation, vigour, energy, fire, fieriness, heat, spirit, zest, appetite, hunger, urgency;

An intense and passionate feeling …. an emotional reaction that irrespective of our personal ‘analytical decision making process’, requires a reaction or a decision!

So my own personal challenge and my personal challenge to you as we start another year is, are we prepared to accept the challenge to live with our eyes fixed firmly on the future – not the here and now  … to live a life that is full of being BOTH emotionally and practically responsive, holding firm to the promises of God whatever life might hold?

The one thing I have learnt and continue to learn over the years is the importance of fellow brothers and sisters in Christ to ‘stay the journey’.

As we begin yet another year, can I encourage you to continue to read and re-read, and again, re-read again and again the passages that bring you strength and encouragement to stay the journey … passages like Romans 12. Not only read them but MARK them in your bible (yes it’s OK … it’s also part of leaving a heritage so that the generations to come will understand your heart!!)

I also encourage you to make sure you invest in relationships that help you remain passionate, ardour, intense, zealous, emotional, sincere, eager, keen, excited, animated, excited, and above all else, FERVOR about the hope and secure future you have in life eternal with a gracious and loving God.

Oh and yes of course, so very, very undeserved!

New year blessing to you and your friends and family. May you remain faithful no matter what might unfold in the days and months to come … FERVOR!!!

KD