Who Do You Say I Am?

Who do you say I am?

You know I am the King.

I am your Lord

I created everything.

I am your God who loves you more than you know,

Who loves you more than you deserve,

Who loves you despite your unkind thoughts and words.

Yet loves you, just as you are.

 

Who do you always put first?

You know I am the Creator.

I am the King.

I created everything.

I am the God who made you, who has plans for your life,

Who knows the paths your journey will take.

Who knows of the good times and bad

And carries you through the hardest of times.

 

Who deserves your attention now?

You know my Son; He died for you

This very day that you call “Good.”

He was despised, mocked, lashed, nailed

His hands, his feet, slammed into a piece of wood,

Agony, pain, abandonment, betrayal

Mocked and insulted. Alone. Forsaken.

Dead.

 

Who do you say He is?

He is our King, He died for us

This very day that we call, “Good.”

He paved a way for us to be led,

Clean, untarnished to the throne of God.

One day we will stand, bathed in His love

An account to give of all we’ve said, and done.

Who do you say He is?

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The Innocent for the Guilty

Jesus Before Pilate
11 Now Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus said, “You have said so.” 12 But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he gave no answer. 13 Then Pilate said to him, “Do you not hear how many things they testify against you?” 14 But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed.
The Crowd Chooses Barabbas
15 Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to release for the crowd any one prisoner whom they wanted. 16 And they had then a notorious prisoner called Barabbas. 17 So when they had gathered, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?” 18 For he knew that it was out of envy that they had delivered him up. 19 Besides, while he was sitting on the judgement seat, his wife sent word to him, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered much because of him today in a dream.” 20 Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus. 21 The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” 22 Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all said, “Let him be crucified!” 23 And he said, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!”
Pilate Delivers Jesus to Be Crucified
24 So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood;[b] see to it yourselves.” 25 And all the people answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!” 26 Then he released for them Barabbas, and having scourged[c] Jesus, delivered him to be crucified.
Jesus Is Mocked
27 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters,[d] and they gathered the whole battalion[e] before him. 28 And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29 and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 30 And they spat on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. 31 And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him.

Overcoming Jezebel.

The readings today are Isaiah Chapters 48-49 and Revelation 2:18-29. I will leave you to read and comment on the Isaiah Chapters. I will focus on the Revelation passage – one of the letters to the Seven Churches.

The letter is addressed to the church at Thyatira. This city was a commercial centre when John wrote. What do you think of Christ’s description of Himself? – the burning eyes and the feet of burnished bronze, it really creates a setting of aura for this letter.

Though the church was active and faithful in many respects, it had accepted the leadership of a woman characterised as “Jezebel”. Do you remember the first “Jezebel”? She introduced idolatry and gross immorality into ancient Israel. We must assume the name signified that the Thyatiran woman did the same.

Thus what was known as “the church” was divided into faithful and corrupted parts.

The faithful and the corrupt (or the apostate and the genuine) still exist within Christendom. How do you cope with that?

The continued existence of the apostate (corrupt) reflects the existence of our God of grace (as does God’s patience with us). God has “given her time to repent of her immorality”. But the time of grace is drawing to an end.

At a time of God’s choosing He will bring judgment on Jezebel and her followers.

The spirit of Jezebel still moves through churches, and settles wherever she can find a home. Do not expect that you will be a able to purge our church of her influence. Have you met any who try?

Jesus says to the genuine of us – to those of us who do not accept her teaching, “Hold on to what you have until I come.”

We who hold fast to Christ and His authentic Gospel are to concentrate on good deeds, love, faith, service and perseverance (v.19).

In doing Christ’s will, we will find the spiritual authority we need to overcome (vs. 26-29)

Remember to be a good finisher.

Have a great day,

Peter Clark.

Futile

Today’s readings are Isaiah 44:1-23 and Revelation 2:1-7; I will be focussing on the passage in Isaiah.

Upon first reading my eyes almost glazed over when I got to verses 6-20. It seems like the same old Israel – forgetting God’s goodness and worshipping idols. Whenever I read stuff like this I have a pretty similar thought process, “How dumb could they be? They’ve just been triumphantly rescued by an almighty God! They have seen his compassion and his wrath – how could they so easily forget that? And to worship a STATUE that they MADE?” It all seems so crazy to me.

However, reading it through a second time this passage hit me in a way it never had before.

 

“The blacksmith takes a tool
and works with it in the coals;
he shapes an idol with hammers,
he forges it with the might of his arm.
He gets hungry and loses his strength;
he drinks no water and grows faint.” (v. 12)

 

While blacksmiths are not as prevalent as they were back then, the idea of toil and weariness are not foreign to us. The overriding phrase that came into my mind reading this was “the futility of idols”. Sure, we’re not creating little statues and bowing down to them, but how often do we see people in our lives, or even ourselves, slaving over futile things? The person who comes home exhausted and wakes up wearied eyes and tired souled in their efforts to climb higher up the corporate ladder? Or the one who pours out their soul, doing all they can to win the affections of someone they love? Or the person who spends hours of a morning perfectly combing themselves to be presented in the best possible way to be well-liked by others?

The list could go on and on for all the things we do which lead us to lose our strength and grow faint. How often do we put all our efforts into things which we are told will give us no reward?

“Their eyes are plastered over so they cannot see … a deluded heart misleads him; he cannot save himself” (v. 18-20). And that is the thing about idols – so often we do not even realise what we worship, what we desire with our hearts, and what we put our faith in to fulfil us.

I encourage us all now to spend some time looking inwards to our hearts. Are we one of the deluded ones? What is the thing we desire most?

But the Lord will redeem us, we are not alone, it is not up to us. The Lord will remember us always, like he remembered Israel. Through Jesus we have freedom from the chains of idolatry. We have a Spirit in us that helps us overcome temptation, and continually points us to Jesus. So let us pray for God to make himself the greatest desire of our hearts and find freedom from the futility of idolatry.

Isaiah 43 and Revelation 1

Introduction

Today’s readings are Isaiah 43 and Revelation 1. Both readings are addressed to the people of God, a people who are under the pump, whose backs are up against the wall. Israel remains in Babylonian exile and the first century churches are suffering severe persecution under the reign of the Roman Emperor Domitian.  Like them, we too languish in a land not our home. Peter describes the Christian community as ‘foreigners and exiles’ (1 Peter 2:11).  Like them, our home is in glory with King Jesus. Our context is also marked by opposition. The Christian community is increasingly being pushed to the margins of mainstream society. Our voice is being drowned out.  The fundamental Judeo-Christian biblical principles, which formed the strong fabric and solid foundation for a just and moral society, are being denied and overthrown. Today our children and grandchildren are being brought up in a world where values are fluid and flexible. It’s a bit like playing football on a field without any boundary lines no one knows what’s in and what’s out? This chaotic and disturbing situation can unnerve and unsettle us. Like ancient Israel and the first century church, we need to hear and embrace the encouraging words of the LORD so that we may not grow weary in well-doing and fulfill our vocation to live for God’s glory (Isaiah 43:7) and proclaim his praise (Isaiah 43:21) in the power of His Spirit (Isaiah 44:3).

Isaiah 43-44:5 (44:1-5 properly belongs to Isaiah 43)

This section of Isaiah reaffirms that exiled Israel remains the LORD’s servant despite the promise of another greater servant (Isaiah 42). Dr Barry Webb helpfully notes that there are six statements of encouragement in this passage. Six words of affirmation for all people of God to be encouraged by:

  1. Isaiah 43:1-7 There is no need to fear the world, for the LORD is invested in his redeemed. Yet there is no promise of a quick fix or a trouble-free future. What is promised, using some of the most tender language in Scripture (see 43:1, 4, 5), is God’s sustaining presence right through until journey’s end, no matter what.
  2. Isaiah 43:8-13 The people of God may feel inadequate and feel like failures but the LORD has a ministry for them anyway. This ancient people of God, and also Christians today, are called to be witnesses to God’s uniqueness in the world (43:10-12).
  • Isaiah 43:14-15 The LORD reminds his people that he is King, the invisible, yet greater reality that will bring Babylon and indeed all nations, to heel in his perfect timing. The fact that history records the fall of ancient Babylon should encourage us that the Lord is able to do the same in our time, when he is ready.
  1. Isaiah 43:16-21 Nothing can stop the LORD fulfilling his promises. The history of the Exodus from Egypt testifies to this (43:16-17). But he will now do a new thing in providing a way through the desert out of exile (43:19-21). Jesus is the way through our wilderness (John 14:6).
  2. Isaiah 43:22-28 Despite this text drawing attention to Israel’s failure to obey God and worship him rightly, the heart of the text’s encouragement comes in the LORD’s description of himself as the one who ‘blots out transgressions and remembers sins no more’ (43:25). We Christians know that it was the Lord Jesus who was the means of this grace for all time.
  3. Isaiah 44:1-5 This sixth and climactic encouragement focuses on the future and the outpouring of the Spirit (43:3), when not just Israel but non-Jewish people will also become the LORD’s (43:5, see also Acts 2:16-21). What a spectacular promise we see fulfilled today. The very same Spirit that energized Jesus’ ministry and who wrote the Scriptures, lives in us as we engage with a less than friendly society.

Ultimately all of God’s promises would eventually find their spectacular ‘YES’ in Christ, which is exactly what we find in the second reading.

Revelation 1

Despite its strange apocalyptic (unveiling) language and scary beasts, the overall message of this book is this: The people of God win in the end. The Satan inspired world and our society may huff and puff and seek to blow God’s house and purposes down. However they will fail, as did the evil one when tempting Jesus in the wilderness. The book calls Christians of every generation to endure opposition, to hold fast to the truth, resist the devil and to obey the commandments of God. The symbolic visionary image of the risen glorious Jesus (1:12-15) reminds us that while he is human, he is also much more gloriously and sublimely divine. This glorious Jesus stands among the churches (lampstands). He is the chief Pastor (Elder/Bishop). He is walking among the churches, patrolling, supervising and assessing, as the following two chapters will reveal. But here in Revelation 1, we do well to note that the image of the lampstand for the church is one. This indicates that it is designed to be a light bearer in the darkness of the world. However, to do this the church needs to remain in Christ’s presence.

Conclusion

We must not be surprised when an unbelieving society acts like an unbelieving society and does all it can to shut us down and turn us off. But we must not be afraid. We have the LORD on our side and one day he will call all to give account. Just like the Babylonian nation, all nations and societies that persist in opposing the Lord and his church will be called to account. Remain close to the Risen Lord Jesus today as you engage society. Be encouraged by his promises. Remember you have come to know he who is ‘the Alpha and Omega, who is and who was, and who is the come, the Almighty.’ (Revelation 1:8). Represent Jesus to the all you meet in word and work. Be a witness to his grace and glory.

—Steve Abbott

Silence in the Court

Isaiah 41.  Acts 28: 1-16

Isaiah 41 depicts a courtroom scene, emphasizing the authority and power of God. He is the judge, he declares the case and he pronounces the verdict. God rules. Be silent. Respect His position and recognize yours.

God rules! The chaotic events Israel find themselves in are under God’s control. God calls Cyrus, the Persian(v2), to defeat the Babylonians, Israel’s captors and thus bring their freedom. God has done this (v4), not man’s schemes and cunning. The ‘ coastlands’ are afraid of the impending aggression, and draw together (v5) for morale.

God reassures Israel, (v8) that they belong to God – they are His. His servant; chosen, called, not rejected. His word encourages them as it does us:

‘Do not fear, for I am with you. Do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you. I will help you. I will uphold you with my victorious right hand. (v10)

Acts 28:1-16 retells Paul’s experiences in Malta and Rome, a case study as he lives out these words, trusting the promise-maker amidst the seeming chaos, prayerfully depending on Him rather than giving way to fear.

God will also hold Israel’s right hand against their enemies (v13) redeem Israel (v14), answer their prayers and restore them (v17,18). The result is that Israel will rejoice and glory in the Lord (v16).

God initiates all this action, and brings it to pass, in His time. The future is unknown to us, as it is to Israel (v22) – only God knows (v26). Therefore God is always right. In comparison, everyone else is a delusion.

Whilst there is much in our lives that can potentially make us fearful, and certainly much clamour, God calls us, like Israel, to Listen to God in silence (v1). It’s a kindness; a call to recognize  who we are and who God is. To free us from the delusion of self importance and the deception that God is unwilling or unable to help us and bring His purposes to pass.

God is in control, no matter how events seem. He has chosen; he has redeemed us. His words are true, and time and future are known to Him. So,

Listen to your God in silence this morning.

Listen to His Holiness

Listen to His Majesty

Listen to His Power and Rule

Listen to His Glory

Listen to His redeeming Love.

Get Out Your Eagle’s Wings!

What a great read is Isaiah 40! So full of promise, challenges and reminders of God’s sovereignty.

When I read this chapter it encourages me with comfort in my life, to be filled with hope and to persevere in all circumstances. God is in control and apparently The Creator of the Universe doesn’t need my assistance or even really helpful handy tips.

Things I see I need to focus on include looking forward – to the coming of Jesus. Comforting one another with God’s love and hope – especially those of weaker faith. Encouraging fellow Christians – to build our faith together based on God’s word and finally…..

Waiting!

May we all be blessed with hope, comfort and perseverance as we wait on what our loving Father has planned for us, now and in the future.

Isaiah 40

28 Have you not known? Have you not heard?

The Lord is the everlasting God,

the Creator of the ends of the earth.

He does not faint or grow weary;

his understanding is unsearchable.

29 He gives power to the faint,

and to him who has no might he increases strength.

30 Even youths shall faint and be weary,

and young men shall fall exhausted;

31 but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;

they shall mount up with wings like eagles;

they shall run and not be weary;

they shall walk and not faint.