Not just a Public Holiday

Esther 9:20-10:3

As we finish Esther as Australians we resonate with the establishment of this festival of Purim – a day off for feasting and remembering. Who doesn’t want that?

The meaning behind our public holidays in many instances has been forgotten – Labour Day, Queens Birthday (unless you’re a monarchist!) and for some Christmas and Easter. The 2 days that still seem to have significant meaning for many Australians are Anzac Day and Australia Day (notwithstanding the current debate)

Mordecai and Esther are very keen that Gods providence and sovereign power in preserving the Jews is remembered and celebrated annually. Mordecai with some prescriptive detail communicates this the Jews both near and far in Xerxes kingdom. In some ways this celebration sounds a lot lot like Christmas! – getting together, feasting, joy, giving presents, remembering the poor.

Mordecai is elevated in rank second only to the king. What Haman had planned and plotted – the destruction of the Jews has been over ruled by the Lords power.

God’s sovereignty is greater than the power of any human leader – King Xerxes, Donald Trump or Robert Mugabe. He even changes the hearts of leaders to achieve His will.

Lets pray He continues to do that in the world…………and as always including our own heart.

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He’s not a naughty boy

There is something very human in the reading from Luke2:41-52 today.

I remember many years ago when we lost Tim at Tumbalong park at Darling Harbour. He was 3 at the time. It was packed with families on the Australia day weekend. We ran into Lee and Merylyn Roberts and started talking…….and talking. Tim WAS playing with Ben in the giant sandpit………but he wondered off. We, his neglectful parents frantically searched for him for about 1/2 hour. Finally found the security people who had found the lost little boy. The relief, we hugged him……and then then we scolded him!

Poor Mary and Joseph have lost their son in the business of attending Passover in Jerusalem, they are in the “big city”. Jesus is not a little boy anymore. At 12 He is about to come of age at 13 when He will be able to enter the religious community of Israel.

They don’t even know he is missing until during the trip home so they travel back to Jerusalem and are frantic…….we have lost our son…….we have lost God’s son! I assume they gave Jesus the liberty to do his own thing and maybe he was allowed to catch up or be a bit ahead of them.

Jesus displays both His divinity and humanity in this recount. He is human in that he needs to grow up physically, in experience and stature into adulthood. However He is also the son of God, “word who became flesh” who already understands the scriptures better than anyone else.

His parents are surprised to find Him in the temple….the last place they thought to look, not where 12 year olds go. Jesus is no ordinary 12 year old boy! Surely as He grew up they reflected on His remarkable birth –  virgin mother, angels, star, wise men. At times Jesus was probably like any other boy…….but somehow different. I would have loved to have heard their pillow talk!

Here in the temple Jesus knows exactly who He is. He is in His Fathers house, the Lord’s house, God’s house.

He goes back to Nazareth and is an obedient son. In doing so he honours his parents fulfilling the 5th commandment.

No wonder Mary treasured all these things in her heart.

The Church of ME

Today we are reading Ephesians 4:17-32 and Ecclesiastes 9

This Ephesians passage was part of the Fuse depth series 2 weeks ago and one of the home group studies.

WELCOME TO THE CHURCH OF AL

I just love the worship song playlist, all the sermons cover my favourite bible subjects and passages, everyone I talk too agrees with me on pretty much everything, it’s great that we have no theological disagreements, it’s good that we all come from the same educational and socio-economic background, the people here are interesting to talk to – no awkward moments in welcome time, we even have the same sense of humour. Amazing!

We enjoy great unity. It’s a great church. I love this church!

Easy to laugh at too but sadly it’s often the truth………not just for me but for many I think.

A real church of course is made up of  different people with different views, backgrounds, likes and dislikes and of course……………problems.

Following on from Peters reflection yesterday, Ephesians 4 is pretty much book ended by vs 2 and 32. “bearing with one and other in love”…..and “forgiving each other as Christ forgave you”.

In this church we are to “put off the old…..put on the new”

This is highly intentional. It would be so much easier if we could passively blob around and God by his spirit would almost magically transform us into the “new”.

We have to desire the new, seek the new, and yes by the power of his spirit we will slowly be changed, transformed. He helps us put off, put on. In fact without Him we wont at all.

Frustratingly though it’s a lifetime journey and a daily thing.

As we do, “bitterness, rage, anger, brawling, slander and malice will fade to be replaced with kindness, compassion and forgiveness.

Surprisingly too the church of me will also become less important.

 

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.

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!