Chaos in Jerusalem……Paul the smarty pants

In the Acts22:30 – 23:11 reading it’s all getting pretty chaotic. On the TV news if you’ve ever seen middle eastern street demonstrations or even public funerals  they seem to be on the verge of getting out of control – to our Anglo eyes at least!  Middle Eastern people seem to be more passionately expressive in the opinions they hold!

The Roman commander isn’t quite sure what the crowd have against Paul and what he’s done wrong. He releases Paul (who he has held and now is alarmed he has done so). Paul has previously spoken to the crowd and told them of his conversion experience and the hope hes now has in Christ.

Paul faces the Jewish crowd exclaiming “My brothers I have fulfilled my duty to God in all good conscience to this day”. I’m sure I could not say this about myself……..well not honestly at least!

Paul receives a smack in the mouth for what the chief priest considers insolence. There is debate about what Paul says in saying that he didn’t recognise it was the high priest. Some commentators say Paul’s eyesight was poor and so didn’t recognise him…….others say Paul was being something of a smart mouth………in that no true high priest would have given such a command. The latter explanation appeals to me more 🙂

Then Paul seems to purposely stoke up the crowd to cause division between the Pharisees and Sadducees with the exclamations about his hope of resurrection. Now he’s got the Pharisees on his side who also hold this view strongly. They declare now him to be innocent of any wrong doing – how fickle they are. The argument gets so violent the commander rescues Paul and puts him in his own barracks. What a sight.

I love verse 11 in that the Lord stood near Paul telling him ” Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify in Rome”

How we yearn for the Lord to also stand near us in time of difficulty and trial. Lets ask Him and trust Him to do so.

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“They say the Lord does not see”

Psalm94 is an appeal to the Lord, as Judge of the earth (v2), to redress the wrongs perpetrated against the weak by arrogant and wicked men who occupy the seats of power. – NIV text note.

At the moment I’m binge watching a Netflix miniseries Designated Survivor. It tells the story of a nobody politician who is thrust into the presidency of the USA after a calamitous terrorist event. He is a good man who wants to do good for the nation but his intentions are thwarted by those intent on evil even within his own government. As I watch I want good to prevail and opposition to the inexperienced new president to be crushed.

And so it is with the writer of this Psalm. He sees the evil of those in power and what they do to the powerless and he is perplexed. How long will God put up with these ignorant men and their actions he asks. “they say the Lord does not see” (V7). They can do what they like – God is impotent.

He reflects in Vs16 – 19 that the Lord is personal and that He has come to his aid and consoled him in his anxiety and brought joy.

As we see the evil around us let us pour out thoughts and voice to the Lord and long for justice and righteousness in leadership. At times we can be indifferent and shrug our shoulders – “that’s just the way it is” we say. We may sometimes even add to the perpetration of evil not just by indifference but action. To me the findings of the royal commission into child sexual abuse highlight this.

As we yearn for leaders to do what is “right” may we also always be eager to do what is good – Titus 2:14

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.

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.