Go tell it on the mountain

1 John 2:18-27
Deuteronomy 16:1-8

(Antescript: In an interesting coincidence all but one of today’s cross references were brought to you by the disciple John)

Jesus is divisive.

The end times are upon us. This is no time for half truths or “post truth”. No time for more palatable nativity scenes that feature bambi among elves instead of Jesus among the angels — lest the true divisive nature of the Gospel interrupt the consumers from their worship of Mammon. Make no mistake you are either FOR Christ or antichrist. Jesus said put your hand to the plough because there is no such thing as a coasting Christian. He is the vine, we are the branches and we are to abide in him. Abide in him or you will perish (John 15:5)! In Revelation Jesus spits the lukewarm church out of his mouth. John writes this warning to us so we won’t be deceived (1 John 2:26).

A note on “the antichrist”. Many Christians seek to identify the antichrist in a single person to be an object of fear and loathing, but I’m not convinced that it’s any more than a rumour the bible makes mention of. Indeed vs 18 says there are many antichrists and vs 19 equates them with people who left the true church. So it would seem that John (the only New Testament author who uses the term) is emphasising the division between those that are truly in Christ and those that are not despite their appearances. So about this fear, I wonder if it is not a projected fear of our own capacity for rebellion that we would rather not acknowledge as it seems to emanate from within us? Or is it simply less scary to watch out for one antichrist than one billion? John tells us what to watch out for, it is anyone who claims there is new truth that supercedes the original Gospel. There is no new Gospel. There is one saviour and He is from ancient times. In our times of “enlightened thinking” it will take sustained effort to hold on to traditional truths and we will no doubt be judged intolerant, however there is one judge over all eternity who wants you and I to remain true to him then reward us with the statement “well done good and faithful servant.”

Today is my final FDR because I am moving to Sydney. It has been a joy and a privilege to prayerfully seek to inspire you guys with biblical musings. Thanks for all your encouragement along the way! With a little sadness and much fondness, “see you ’round.”

Matthew

Hyperlink: Take the anti-christ self quiz!

http://www.bible.ca/auto-antichrist.htm

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Simply Gathered to Him

Zechariah 10:1-11:3

I expect we all like singing the song “Our God Is a God Who Saves! Let God Arise!” Most of us often pray and some cry for God to return and put things right again (His justice) when calamity and corruption abound. In our country we have been hearing months of horrendous testimony at the Royal Commission Into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse. There are many crying for justice. We are living in a society that has gone astray which has allowed unimaginable evil to be done to our children both inside and outside the church, both by wilful neglect and by ignorance. Zecharaiah 10 deals with such a society that has gone astray – God’s flagship nation that has become lost and afflicted. However when God returns to save them it is not all happiness and singing! Well yes for the oppressed but not for everyone. God has reserved massive judgment for the leaders who neglected His flock. He calls the leaders literally ‘billy-goats’ (v3). Woe betide anyone who is God’s enemy when he returns, because he will smash all that they place their pride in (11:1-3). So there is victory and children will see it, live well again and return with their parents from exile (v7,9)… but there is also judgment and therein lies one of the tensions of this present age.

Mark 10:13-16

Jesus is indignant here for the only time recorded in scripture. Why? It might have been because his disciples were buying a narrative about power and status that limits ordinary people from coming to Jesus. There is nothing you need to bring when you come to Jesus. You do not need to be a so-called ‘good Christian.’ Just come with full submission and open hearts like children. Then He will open his arms and hold you close. If you refuse to let go of your adult pretences and religious pride then he warns that you will never enter the kingdom! Notice his love for children. There were probably many high-standing, intellectual socialites waiting in line behind the children for their time talking with Jesus. I am sure they were surprised at the very least that Jesus was making time for the little ones ahead of them, the scruffy kids who lacked significance in the eyes of proper society. God is overjoyed to bring his caring presence to children (9:37). More than that when we do likewise it brings a special kind of joy that I suspect is what he must have felt too. We need to stand up and be good caring shepherds that eschew silly adult hang-ups.

Reference – A Ransom for Many: the Gospel of Mark Simply Explained (Welwyn Commentary Series); Wilmhurst, Steve; © 2011 EP Books.

The Good, the Bad and the Lovely

Isaiah 12

A description of God’s Kingdom. When His Kingdom comes we will sing praise because He has comforted us, brought us salvation, taught us to trust, to not be afraid and to be strong. My favourite is verse 3, “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.”

Isaiah 13

Not so for God’s enemies (Babylon). They will be full of fear, their hearts will melt and the darkness that comes around them will match the evil in their hearts. They will be repaid for their evil deeds.

2 Thessalonians 1

The dear church is “in” God, Christ’s name glorified in them and you in him. Across national divides we are bonded as “brothers” (ie. Family). The economic commodities of this community of grace are not of this world namely faith, perseverance in hardship and love for one another. When these things are growing God’s kingdom is coming. The Lord’s rule accompanies his kingdom, judging us worthy of suffering and paying back trouble to oppressors. Despite his awesome blazing fire and majesty of his power, his glory is in… “his holy people” (v.10). God’s community is like his crown. The ultimate union of Creator God full of power with his redeemed glorified people (once full of flaws) is indeed something that will cause us to marvel at him. Marvel. Do you marvel at God yet? Pray for each other that we might live in full awareness of these dense themes expounded here in one short chapter. By holding firm with his help, verses 11 and 12 will become true, that your purposes will align with his and our faithful actions will become a dance in step with his Holy Spirit. Bring on the dance!

The Lord Knows

2 Kings 11; John 19:38-44.

What a tumultuous time in Judah’s history. Athaliah the wicked queen gets her son King Ahaziah killed by guiding him to make an unholy treaty with God’s enemies. She then proceeds to kill all the House of David. This poses an immense challenge against God’s plan — that David’s line should rule forever. The last grandson is little Joash. How can a one year old survive the murderous queen’s army? He is rescued by the High Priest’s Wife Jehosheba and hidden for six years in the temple of the Lord. When the time comes for this heir to the throne to be revealed, the High Priest Jehoiada commands the temple guard to encircle God’s chosen king, thus protecting him from the murderers. God’s plans were not thwarted by evil and impossible circumstances! We know God has a plan for those he rescues: Exodus 19:6 “You will become to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” I am grateful to Clark Van Wick’s exposition of 2 Kings 11 as follows:

  • Temple of the Lord = the place of God’s presence.
  • The guards of the temple = similar to angels of the Lord.
  • Jehoiada’s name literally means “The Lord Knows”.

Is it a stretch to see that God knew when child Joash needed to be saved so He commanded his loyal followers and angels to protect him against all odds? Will He do the same for all his children? Yes.

      Psalm 34:7 “The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them.”

Matthew

Reference – 2 Kings 11, Clark Van Wick, Calvary Chapel Bible Fellowship, Temedula, CA.

The Road We Walk On

Micah 6,

V5b. “Remember your journey from Shittim to Gilgal, that you may know the righteous acts of the Lord.”

Shittim was outside the promised land and Gilgal on inner side of the Jordan river. To journey between them Israel crossed the Jordan River while God made the flow stop. It’s an extraordinary event that once again shows the lengths that God will go to to make his people enter right relationship with him. Notice all the work that God did (stopped a river) and how easy it was for the people to enter the promised land (walking across the dry river bed). See Joshua 3:1 and 4:19.

It is mentioned here in the context of God’s generosity toward us. He has redeemed his people. We can do nothing that would fairly repay him (v.6-7). What he does ask of us is such a neat summary and one of my favourite bible verses:

V8. “He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,[b]
and to walk humbly with your God?

  1. Do justice. Don’t just do nothing or live for comfort or pleasure. That is not the life of a Christian according to this verse. Sometimes justice requires us to be firm. Do not compromise on truth for the sake of avoiding conflicts, if we do that the fallen state of society will let the stronger ones take advantage of the poorer and weaker ones.
  1. Love kindness (or mercy). In your firmness do not be harsh. Truth can be confronting. Be kind. Show compassion for the situation of others. Just as God had mercy on us so we should treat people with temperance and care.
  1. Walk humbly with your God. Not proudly. Not by apart from God. With God. Do you enquire of him? Do you observe the ways he is moving among us? Do you seek to imitate Jesus? Do you invite the Holy Spirit to lead you?

Do all steps 1-3. The beauty of this calling is also in its three-way balance. We are called to be firm and kind and relationally in tune with God. Look around at other worldviews and religions. Some pursue the sword (justice) without mercy. Some hold up tolerance without the Word (liberalism). Some pursue ethics and love without God (a tragedy of humanism either outwardly secular or disguised as religion).

John 1:43-51

Jesus called to Nathanael as he approached Jesus. Jesus has seen Nathanael “under the fig tree” presumably as he was seeking God or praying about something extremely personal. His reaction implies that he knows Jesus is God incarnate. Jesus sees our deepest desires. He responds to our approach. He works through other Christians, in this case Philip. It would seem that Philip is one of the first Christian evangelists who cared enough about his friend to go and get him and convince him to come to Jesus.

Matthew

Christians United

Acts 20:1-12

I have been privileged to travel overseas on short term mission with Evangelism Explosion (EE). One of my joys has been to develop and retain cross-cultural friendships with Christians in Fiji and Vanuatu. It is great to see Jesus in other people who speak another language, look slightly different to me and live with different cultural practices. It is comforting to know that Jesus has brought us together, both socially through ministry and supernaturally in the bond of fellowship that transcends cultural differences (cf. Galatians 3).

In this part of the Acts narrative Paul is travelling around with a bunch of delegates from the regions that he has visited. Possibly they are there to witness and report back on the appropriation of donations received for the Judeans. Presumably they can give testimony about Paul’s ministry to new audiences along the way. Furthermore, as seven men from three geographic regions they also bear witness in themselves to God’s work of building a community of diversity. Wouldn’t it be good for new believers to be surprised at the diversity among us? Imagine if reformed criminals broke bread with retired justice professionals in our local Christian community. That may be just as unnatural as a man being raised from the dead.

Putting The Puzzle Together

Luke 24:36-53.

All disciples were gathered together trying to make sense of the strange happenings among them. People were reporting visions of angels and sightings of the Lord who had just died. Right then he stood among them. They were understandably startled and frightened because a seemingly dead person was talking to them. We who have come from Western cultures have grown up with the resurrection story that makes sense of this event, but the disciples did not have it in their minds. So they believed the most reasonable explanation that Jesus was a ghost. Then when he showed them the wounds on his body and they flipped out in the positive direction, their minds still could not comprehend it and they were overcome with “joy and amazement”. What a week they must have had! Not quite the little bunnies and eggs that our culture tends to focus on. Their experiences ranged from terror, grief and fright, turning to incredible joy and amazement beyond their comprehension.

In the meantime Jesus needed to care for his beaten, starved body so he ate some fish. Then he returned to his task of teaching them, starting with the story of his death and resurrection rooted in the Scriptures. Finally they could understand a narrative that made sense of this incredible experience.

Indeed the Easter story is the story that beats all others. No other event on earth has ever eclipsed the utterly amazing transformation from death to life of Jesus that is given to any sinners who call on his name. What were the results? They worshiped Jesus with great joy and returning to the centre of their religion (Jerusalem) they stayed at the place of God’s presence (the temple) praising God continually. This is the correct response to the first Easter. Consider Paul’s prayer for us in Ephesians 3:18, “[you] may have power….to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge”

A prayer: “Lord, may we too understand what you are doing in our midst even when it is too amazing or unexpected for us alone to grasp.”

Matthew