Yes it’s the bit about Ehud……snigger, snigger

The OT reading today is Judges3:7-31

Here we have 3 men that the Lord uses to deliver Israel from it’s enemies. The Lord has been punishing and disciplining this defiant Israel that keeps turning its back on its God. and following the gods of the nations around them.

The Lord has then caused Israel to be subject to other nations. In their time of suffering Israel calls out to the Lord for deliverance.

The first deliverer is Othniel. The “Spirit of the Lord” falls upon him and through his actions peace comes. Doesn’t last though…..”once again Israel did evil in the eyes of the Lord”

And this is the part all the little boys love and snigger at……

This time the Lord uses  Eglon the really fat Moabite king to subdue Israel. Again Israel cries out and God sends a deliverer……lefty Ehud with the REALLY BIG sword. He plunges it deep into Eglon’s gut and left it there! The noises Eglon makes as he’s dying sound like he’s having  difficulty with a bowel motion. Initially his attendants are too embarrassed to enter the locked room…….when they do he’s already dead and Ehud has made his getaway!

Ehud wipes out 10,000 Moabite men and there is peace for 80 years.

Shamgar is also mentioned with his Philistine killing ox stick.

Now will this peace last, will Israel continue to honour the Lord?

To me it seems when Israel earnestly cries out to God he listens and delivers them. For a time all is well but the nation falls down usually committing the same sin – following other gods.So is their repentance true?

Of course we can ask this question of ourselves as we often sin repeatedly in the same way. In Christ there is forgiveness but it’s not cheap!

In the reading Matt23:1-12

Jesus addresses the crowd and disciples by pointing out the hypocrisy of the Pharisees.

In tomorrows reading he launches into the “7 woes” where directly speaks strongly to these teachers of the law about their hypocrisy.

But today He tells his listeners to do what the Pharisees say but not what they do. Their teaching is negated by their actions – they don’t practice what they preach. Their message is burdensome. they are not humble and love to display their false piety.

Whoa! (pun intended!) easy application here I think. We are often right to say “do as I say, not as I do” Words are easy, even correct ones but they’re not so easy if our lives don’t  line up. So often the church i.e. us are accused of hypocrisy, sometimes without cause but sometimes  rightly so.

So let’s spur one and other on toward love and good deeds.

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Choose Life

If you’re a fan of Wham in the 1984 then this this image will mean something to you.Those T shirts were everywhere and are still popular today. According to Google  the inspiration for these shirts created by English fashion designer Katharine E. Hamnett might have come from Deuteronomy 30:19

Image result for choose life wham

I cant help thinking though that our 2 readings 2 Chr16, Matt6:19-24 are about choice and indeed part of the life that God offers.

In Chronicles King Asa of Judah starts out really well. “He did what was right and prospered (Chapter 14). There was covenant renewal (Chapter 15) enjoying peace. By Chapter 16 though it starts to go bad. When confronted by an invasion from the Israel he hired foreign Aramean forces using his own and the temple’s wealth. He did this rather than trusting in the Lord and imprisoned the prophet (Hanani) who rebuked him. In his 39th year (of his reign) he was afflicted with a disease, but still steadfastly refused to seek the Lord. He dies 2 years later” (from NIV text notes)

For a large part of his reign king Asa made some great choices in terms of honouring the Lord but sadly did not finish well.

In Matt6: Jesus is speaking to the disciples and the crowd about ” 3 acts of righteousness – giving, praying, fasting” He then goes on to address the issue of money. We are encouraged to store up treasure (spiritual blessings) in heaven (Eph 1:) One is temporary the other eternal. Jesus talked a lot about money and the love humanity seems to have for it.

The mistake we often make is Jesus is not talking about the cash but the desire. You can be not well off at all and have little or no money but still desire and love it. The converse is true too of course……..and everything in between.

In the end it’s about the heart AS IT ALWAYS IS.

Simples really – Look at where your treasure is and there you will find your heart. May we all finish well,  so continue to choose well my friends.

 

 

 

 

Hey Saul…….just let it go!

Todays readings are 1Samuel19; Revelation10:1 – 11:14

I’ll just say it – I just don’t get a lot of Revelation….especially today’s reading. The letters to the 7 churches not too much of a problem there…and the culmination of all things: a new heaven and earth, the final judgement and the awesome worship of the glorified Jesus…..I just love that imagery. In fact I see worship as one thing we do now that is eternal in that when we are in the presence of the father and son we still continue to do just that. Even the written word of God and theology wont matter. We will be in His presence – the living word.

But when it comes to our reading today I’ve got nothing. I checked out some study notes and they sounded a bit like: “this verse could mean this but others take it to mean that”

Yesterday in Chap 18 of 1 Samuel we saw how Saul is becoming jealous of David. He was loyal to Saul and did everything and more that the King asked. David was successful and so honoured by the people and loved by Saul’s son Jonathan. By now Saul is planning to have David killed in battle by the Philistines (interesting that David some years later would try the same trick on Uriah! – Bathsheba’s husband who he committed adultery with). Saul was also becoming afraid of David – the hand of the Lord definitely resting upon him. Not only that but his daughter Michal was very much in love with David and Saul schemed to use her in David’s downfall when they married.

By Chapter 19 Saul is trying to talk his son Jonathan into killing David – this is getting bad! Jonathan was very fond of and committed to David. He talks his father into giving a pledge not to do such a thing. God had withdrawn His spirit from Saul and permitted an evil spirit to torment Saul – this would continue for the rest of his life. The Lords spirit now rested upon David. Saul could just not give up the idea of having David killed.

David runs away from Saul’s insanity. Saul repeatedly sends out groups of men to capture David. The Spirit of the Lord came upon all these man and they all prophesied. Saul then personally pursues David and he also has the Lords spirit descend upon him and prophesies! The power of the Lord has prevented Saul and his men from taking David’s life. He will be God’s man and a King after the Lords own heart. With David will come blessing for the great nation Israel……….well for a time anyway

This story reminds me of Paul’s (Saul’s) conversion. The last guy on earth we would pick to be the apostle to the gentiles is God’s choice. The power of God is a scary thing when humans decide to rail against it. God will have his way! – and that sometimes will not make sense and even seem bizarre to us.

So you think Saul would give up? Think again…….

If you want an insight into Davids thoughts while he is fleeing the relentless Saul  read some of the Psalms.(e.g Ps18)

 

Be prepared in attitude

Proverbs 19: 21-29, 1 Peter 4:1-11

The context of today’s reading in Peter follows on from I Peter 3:18 – Christ died / suffered in the body physically, the righteous for the unrighteous.

Because of this, Peter is exhorting us to be prepared in our thinking to have the same attitude. “believers are to be prepared also to suffer unjustly, and to face such abuse with Christ’s attitude – with the willingness to suffer for doing good.(NIV text note)

The receivers of Peters letter were once pagans…..joining in the sinful activities with  great eagerness with everyone else.

Now though as Christ followers they do not. For this they receive heaps of abuse from their once buddies who don’t understand that their lives have been transformed because of Christ. These same “friends”may even be the ones who are causing the suffering. I’m sure at times these believers struggled with their old way of life, battled with their flesh and even a desire to rejoin their friends.- See Connie’s comments yesterday

But Peter goes on vs7 with another exhortation – ”anticipating the end times particularly Christs return, should influence believers attitudes, actions and relationships” (NIV text note).  Peter now calls all his readers to administer God’s grace in its various form – quite in contrast to their previous lifestyles.Do whatever you do, whatever gifts you have, whatever you’re good at, to the glory of Christ!

 

 

 

Maybe Solomon knew what he was talking about

Two fairly different readings today are Proverbs 5, Heb 9:1-15 (ESV and Message parallel)

In Proverbs the writer most probably Solomon is giving a strong warning and almost a plea against adultery. Now one thing Solomon knew about and that is women. He had 700 wives and 300 concubines. In 1Kings11 you can read how his love for foreign women led him astray from the Lord.Here though he entreats his male readers (sons) to flee from the adulterous woman. Her words may be enticing and her presence pleasurable but she will lead you to death. At the end of your life you will realise the truth and wisdom of what Solomon says but you did not listen when you were young and you avoided discipline and correction.

Sexual sin is pleasurable that’s obvious (most sin usually is in the short term) but the long term damage and regret is huge.

For some as you read this you do so with a sense of regret because you have been involved in similar sexual sin. For some you may even be contemplating such a thing. For many though there is a pious view that “it couldn’t happen to me” That may be true and by God’s grace I hope it is. But…..

As one older guy once said to me; sometimes it is more a matter of lack of opportunity than Godly resilience. How strong would you stand if the opportunity was there, and it was easy?

Also recall the sobering words of Jesus when he spoke of lusting after a woman as being the same as committing adultery in your heart.He also spoke of hating your brother in the same way as murdering him.

Find your sexual delight with one woman and remember nothing escapes the eyes of the Lord (vs21)

Like most sin it comes down to choice – Gods way or my way, my pleasure, my wants. Father God give us the desire and power by your spirit to be steadfast in this area of our lives. Guard our hearts and minds.

And of course with this sin and indeed all others, the blood of Christ purifies us from all unrighteousness – (sort of the Hebrews reading)

Go well.

 

 

Better than Godspell

On this Christmas eve our readings are: Isaiah 40:1-5 Luke 1:67-80

I am sure most of you are pretty familiar with Godspell from the early 70’s. I suppose the signature song from that musical is “Prepare ye the Way” which more or less echoes vs3 from Isaiah 40

I assume the fountain thing is a pointer to baptism???

although I do like the way the message puts it:

Thunder in the desert!
    “Prepare for God’s arrival!
Make the road straight and smooth,
    a highway fit for our God.

The prophet John…..the child miraculously given to the barren Elizabeth and Zechariah, the one who is about 6 months older than Jesus is to announce His coming and also preach a baptism of repentance.

John is a wild kind of guy. He lives in the desert wearing strange clothes and lives on a less than ordinary diet. Some scholars suspect his parents died when he was relatively young and had no one to look after him

John is much more than just a warm up act for the messiah – the lord Jesus. John indeed does prepare for “God’s arrival” in the person of Jesus with his preaching but also points to Jesus as someone far greater than himself (see chapter3 for that) – someone to take notice of

Zechariah knows exactly what’s going on. He has been mute since he doubted the angels proclamation to him in Luke1:20 concerning the conception of John. The first thing he says as his tounge has been loosed is to prophesy over the role his son will have.

John will be “a prophet of the most high” – Jesus is the “son of the most high”

God has poured his Spirit upon Zechariah so he sees the salvation of the Lord coming as promised in Isaiah.

Today and tomorrow at Christmas services may we all see the fulfillment of the Lords promise to bring comfort and salvation to His people. May we all celebrate that exuberantly.

Have a great time with friends and family as you do.

“A plan so cunning you could put a tail on it and call it a fox, my Lord”

If you’re a fan of the Blackadder series then the reading in Mark12:13-27 bears some resemblance to Baldrick’s overconfident claim in the title above.

Here we have two groups that try to trick Jesus and trap him by what they think is their cleverness. They are confident Jesus will stumble and self accuse and therefore be guilty of some crime of blasphemy that deserves punishment – death.

They fail of course but later if you look forward to Mark 14:60-64 Jesus does just that. He knowingly and willingly makes the claim that he is the Christ. He knows that this sort of thing that will result in his trial and death.The high priest declares it to be blasphemy and the crowd is revved up for the Lords blood.

But in our reading the first group are the Herodians (supporters of Herod’s dynasty and by extension Rome) along with the Pharisees. They have been plotting to trap and kill Jesus for some time. Check out Mark3:6. They almost flatter Jesus with the truth and they are correct in what they say about the purity of His character (unlike their own I would say!) Jesus sees through their scheme and says so. They are amazed at his response in saying that “one must pay their obligation to the state when it does not infringe upon their obligation to God”.(NIV study note)

The second group that have a go are the Sadducees (a small group, politically astute, wealthy, upper class) who concoct a question about about a ridiculous situation based on a law in Deuteronomy 25:5-6. They are quoting scripture without understanding only to try and trap Jesus and maybe playing silly theological games with the Pharisees who they did not like.Jesus calls them out in vs24 – “they don’t know scripture or the power of God, they are badly mistaken”

I wonder sometimes if we Christians too play these games for all sorts of reasons without knowing the power of God?