Of Kings and Character

Our second reading today is Romans 11.

It is way too long to dissect here, so let me leave you with the words of the final verses, a doxology…

Doxology

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
    How unsearchable his judgments,
    and his paths beyond tracing out!
‘Who has known the mind of the Lord?
    Or who has been his counsellor?’
‘Who has ever given to God,
    that God should repay them?’
For from him and through him and for him are all things.
    To him be the glory for ever! Amen.

These final verses speak to our King, whose wisdom and mercy we cannot even fathom. 

May we ever be thankful that our King is far greater, far more just, and far more glorious than we, or any earthly king could ever be.

—Simone.

[Originally posted 23 March 2017 by James Boswell.]

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The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart.

Romans 9: 30 – 10: 21

Today’s passage is both a passionate cry of awe in response to the righteousness of God, and a lament from Paul for his people. He calls on the riches of the Hebrew Law and the Prophets to expose the counterintuitive and extraordinary nature of God’s grace and generosity, as it is now, and as it always has been.

How had the precious nation of God, Israel, stumbled? They lost their footing by striving for righteousness through fulfillment of the Law. (Righteousness refers to goodness, integrity, worthiness.)

From the beginning, God’s righteousness had been offered to His people Israel, and then through Christ, to all people, through faith. God is not looking for us to achieve a righteousness of our own, an idolatrous pursuit of our own perfection and worth. He is rather inviting us into His righteousness, the righteousness that comes from Him.

And what is this righteousness? It is fulfilled and concluded by Jesus Christ our Lord. “For Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.” Romans 10: 4

His righteousness is characterized by mercy and grace, where the least are first and the humble are put right with God. Where Jew and Gentile alike can call on the name of Jesus, “…the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him.” Rom 10: 12

The Old Testament Law is an expression of the righteousness of God, beautiful and spacious, a place to come into close relationship with Him, “The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart” (Deut 30: 14 as quoted by Paul). Through Jesus Christ, this promised and precious intimacy is offered to us all. Our God holds out His hands to His children Israel (Isaiah 65:2 as quoted by Paul), despite their tragic failure to grasp that grace is at the heart of righteousness. Our God has been found by us, even though we did not seek Him, even though we did not ask for Him (Isaiah 65: 1 as quoted by Paul). The unworthy have been offered worthiness! This is the economy of grace and mercy at the heart of God, lived in Jesus Christ, for Jew and Gentile alike.

For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. For, “Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Rom 10: 12-13

Thank you Jesus that the incredible good news of such a God of righteousness, grace and mercy has come to us. Thank you that you are near, on our lips and in our hearts. May our feet be beautiful today as we take your good news, with joy, into the world.

[Originally posted on 22 March 2017 by Jane Thomas.]

Give Thanks to the Lord

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What I love about the Psalms is their depth of emotion. Emotions are one of the things that set us apart as human. The ups and downs of life expressed by those with the image of God imprinted upon them, but experiencing a corrupted creation that is groaning for something better.

In Psalm 118, the psalmist has a message of joy about the Lord that he is repeating for us:

his love endures forever
his love endures forever
his love endures forever
his love endures forever

The Lord is with me
The Lord is with me

It is better to take refuge in the Lord
It is better to take refuge in the Lord

he has become my salvation
you have become my salvation

the Lord has done this
The Lord has done it this very day

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
    his love endures forever

As we reflect on the week just gone and prepare for the week to come, let us remember with the Psalmist “his love endures forever”!

[Originally posted on 17/5/2015 by Andrew Zahra]

From Judgement to Salvation …

Today’s Readings: Jeremiah 30 & Romans 9:1-29

How refreshing after so many chapters to finally turn the page and read Jeremiah’s encouraging message from God to the remnant of his people; the exiles who would return from Babylon.

‘The days are coming’, declares the Lord, ‘when I will bring my people Israel and Judah back from captivity and restore them to the land I gave their forefathers to possess,’ says the Lord. Jeremiah 30:3

Such hope as this picture of restoration is painted for a people who would be delivered out of exile, back into the covenant relationship. God dwelling with his people in the land he had given to them. Why? Because God chose to do so.

“So you will be my people, and I will be your God.” See, the storm of the Lord will burst out in wrath, a driving wind swirling down on the heads of the wicked. The fierce anger of the Lord will not turn back until he fully accomplishes the purposes of his heart. In days to come you will understand this. Jeremiah 30:22-24

This is exactly the same message of hope and encouragement to listen only to the true prophet, we read about earlier in Chapter 23:16-20

Understanding the sovereignty of God can certainly be difficult at times but Paul, in our second reading today, is very clear and passionate as he explains what it means to belong to God’s family.

It is not as though God’s word had failed. For not all who are descended for Israel are Israel ….. in other words, it is not the natural children who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abrahams offspring. Romans 9:6 & 8.

And that means you and me. We are the children of this promise which was made to Abram when God called him all the way back in Genesis 12.

In the same way God chose the place and time and people who would be restored back into relationship out of exile, so Paul’s message to the Christians in Rome has the same resounding truth and depth for us today.

It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy ….. God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy and he hardens whom he wants to harden. Romans 9:16 & 18

Ouch! From a human perspective, this certainly seems unfair, but again, God’s election is a mystery and sometimes there can be no logical explanation for his actions and decisions. Given the majesty and sovereignty of God, Paul’s question certainly makes one stop short.

‘But who are you, O man, to talk back to God?’ Romans 9:20

Again, ouch!!!

And then Paul asks, ‘what if God did what he did to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory?’ Romans 9:23

So what difference does this make to how I live my life?

I can live in the assurance that God will use all things for his glory! ALL things …

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

KD

[Originally posted on 30/10/2015 by Karen Dixon.]

Settle down, get married, have kids

Jeremiah 29

Romans 8:18-39

We all go through hard times in life. Some respond by crying out “If you are a loving God why am I going through this?!?” Others may simply roll over and succumb to the pain. Yet others will get on with life knowing with certainty that the pain is only for a season.

God instructs Jeremiah in 29:5-7 that the Exiles should settle down for the long haul

“Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”

There captivity to the Babylonians isn’t going to be over anytime soon. But what strikes me is that in this time they are to actively seek the good of their captors. I don’t know about you but when I’m in pain, trouble or hardship its hard to lift my head beyond the issue I am facing. God says to the Israelite “don’t get caught up in your situation, rather make the best of it – and in so doing bless others!”

I love Paul’s encouragement to the Romans in 8:18

18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.

It is not that we shouldn’t hope that things were better, but that we lift our eyes to the better beyond our present suffering. The best better being when Jesus returns to bring us out of our dark, decaying world and our mortal bodies into an eternal glory that makes all other sufferings pale to insignificance.

Come Lord Jesus! Take us home to the new Jerusalem!

[Originally posted on 29/10/2015 by lachlanedwards2013.]

World Peace

Jeremiah 28

Romans 8:1-17

Is it wrong to hope for world peace? The great masterpiece of movie magic “Miss Congeniality” has a not so subtle dig at the cliche of Beauty Pageant participants saying that their greatest hope was for World Peace. It is certainly not a wrong thing to hope for! But hope as we might, if it is not part of God’s plan for his people then it simply will not happen.

The false prophet Hananiah not doubt won the hearts and hopes of the people of Israel by proclaiming that God said in Jeremiah 28:2

‘I will break the yoke of the king of Babylon.’

Freedom from captivity at last! And what’s wrong with providing a little hope now and then? The problem is that Hananiah was not prophesying what God would do but rather was simply declaring what the people earnestly hoped for.

2 Timothy 4:3 says

For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.

The problem was not that God was being slow in redeeming Israel, but that Israel was being slow in repenting. Restoration without repentance is a false economy.

Paul says in Romans 8:5

Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.

Wanting hard enough for something to be true does not make it true. Only God gets to set truth. Pastoral this is really important. Comforting someone with a lie to make them feel better does not make it all better – it actually makes it worse. How tempting it is in the heat of the moment to tell someone what they want to hear, rather than what they need to hear.

May we be people of truth, while also being loving.

[Originally posted on 28/10/2015 by lachlanedwards2013.]

It’s Better Together

Romans 7

Death brings separation. It separates soul from body, people from people and it is a constant reminder of the awful separation of mankind from God. Humans have long wanted to be immortal, to overcome the great leveller and limiter of death. The One who gave us life holds the keys to life and death and he desires life for us to the full (John 10:10). However death is still a feature of this fallen world and although the bible reframes death for Christ’s followers as falling asleep it is still to be expected in the life of a Christian.

In Romans 7 Paul explains another way the war between life and death is at work – within us. The life that God’s Spirit brings to our hearts is at odds with our unredeemed (hence sinful) habits, limitations, diseases and other incoherencies. God’s life brings unity. It unifies where there is division; it integrates the heavens and the earth bringing praise to Him from all creation. Unfortunately though we cannot enjoy that reality in its fullness while death, disunity and double-mindedness continue within us. How wretched we are. We cannot win a war that is within us any better than saving ourselves from drowning by pulling on our own hair. Who will win the battle? Only Jesus (Revelation 17:14). He has claimed victory when he rose from death to life. His life for yours. His life within you. His life will bring life to your need for unity and integration of heart, mind, soul and strength. That’s one reason why his yoke is easy and his burden is light. It’s a narrow path but the wide one leads to destruction. Do you come to Jesus often and drink of his living waters?

Matthew

[Originally posted on 27/10/2015 by Matthew Broadbridge]