No More Moab

Today’s readings are Isaiah 15-16Acts 18:1-17

Isaiah is prophesizing against Moab, saying Ar and Kir (cities in Moab) is ruined and destroyed in one night.  The people are weeping in the streets with shaved heads and beards and wearing only sackcloths.  The waters of Nimrim are dried up, the grass is withered, the vegetation is gone, nothing green is left.

Lions fall upon the survivors and those fleeing.  Isaiah tells them to send lambs of peace to Judah and flee to Judah for shelter for a throne will be established, one from the house of David who will be just and righteous.  Moab’s pride, conceit, and insolence get in the way and they choose their own gods.  Therefore, the Lord pronounces judgment upon them saying in three years Moab will effectively be no more.

Isaiah delivers his message with compassion and with God’s heart for his people. It’s a great example of how as a believer you can speak with other non-believers and warn them gently and lovingly about the consequences of not having a relationship with God  But, ultimately, every individual must make the choice to accept Jesus as their Lord and Saviour.

God is offering Moab a chance at grace and salvation and they reject Him for it.  This is a great example of how even in the face of utter devastation people still do not embrace God and His grace. Perhaps we know people who have rejected God and His grace and need to continue to keep praying and witnessing to them. And perhaps we need to be vigilant in our own lives that pride, conceit and insolence do not get in the way of us receiving God’s grace.


Commissioned to be witnesses to the victory!

Today’s readings are from Joshua 20-21Luke 24:36-53.

While may of us would be familiar with the great commission at the end of Matthew’s gospel there is a similarly interesting finale to Luke’s gospel with a commission of sorts (I’m sure it’s still great for all involved)

It was the day of resurrection and many of the disciples had gathered in Jerusalem to discuss the reports that Jesus had risen from the dead. “As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” 

During this appearance, Jesus explains from the scriptures the meaning of his death and resurrection. He then commissions his disciples to be “witnesses” (now to all nations and in the power of the Holy Spirit), he blesses them and then disappears.

It seems Jesus appears to his disciples in this  way to remove doubt: It is a group appearance, he shows them his wounds, even asking them whether they want to touch him, and then he joins the disciples in a meal.

Obviously, the psychological state of the disciple is by no means settled and so they are filled with doubts – “they still disbelieved for joy“, in verse 41. But it seems the purpose of this appearance is not just to dispel their doubts, but rather to commission them to ministry.  To undertake this mission the disciples will be empowered by the Holy Spirit and to this end Jesus ascends to divine glory and power.

We can draw great comfort and hope from the power of the Holy Spirit with us. We can rest in the reality that Jesus showed himself to the group and joins them for a meal. As was written in a recent post by Peter Clark – “In the New Testament we see Jesus, the Son of God as being “our Joshua”. Jesus has defeated every spiritual enemy, by His death on the cross (Luke 23:44-49) and now He reigns in heaven (See Ephesians 1:15-23 and Colossians 2:9-15).”

Now, because of everything that Christ has done, we can “live and rule like kings” (Romans 5:17)

There is the victory!!

The Word on the street

Happy new year. Hope it’s off to a great start. Today we look into Matthew 5:11-16 – those well-known verses about us being salt and light of this world.

We are told that we are blessed and our reward is in heaven if we suffer persecution for our faith. This is a great comfort and as Jesus mounts his argument (excuse the pun) as to why we need to be “the salt and light” he highlights the blessing it is to be abused and criticised for our faith. Like many of the beatitudes, it seems a little backwards or hard to understand this side of eternity.

The question Jesus asks is, “What good is salt if it has lost its flavour?” In other words, if a Christian has lost his or her gusto and fervour, then what’s the difference between an old grain of sand they once were and the so-called salt they are now? The answer is very little.

Similarly, there is a challenge to “let our light shine before others, so they may see your good works and give glory to our Father who is in heaven.”. The push from Jesus is to get out there among people. To be seen and known as a believer and for people to see our good works. It’s not enough to be a social body that everyone knows but nobody knows you’re a Christian – nor is it enough to be a strong, faithful believer that retreats from the world and lives in a bubble.

All the best with getting the Word out on to the street, into our friendship circles, into our random interactions with people in our community through being salt and light to the world.

Regarding brevity, souls and having wit.

I was at a conference earlier in the year where the speaker encouraged a room full of preachers and teachers of the bible to regularly remind their congregations of “the brevity of life”. He pushed them to remind people of the limited time we have in our lives as it should spur us on into repentance and into mission (hopefully). Both Luke 13:1-9 and Joel 2:1-12 bring us into that place.

In a world of self-help books, motivational posters and pain avoidance to be confronted with the words “repent or perish” can be a bitter pill to swallow. We often focus on the loving and lovely aspects of our faith and, understandably, it’s a very attractive message. We sell ourselves short though when we don’t address the whole of the gospel – the part about judgement, wrath and God’s plan for unbelievers.

While there is a wonderful comfort we have knowing that we are shielded from God’s wrath with Jesus’ blood for me the knowledge that many people I love and want to spend eternity with don’t know Jesus creates an urgency in my spirit. The fact that “the day of the Lord is coming” as described in Joel makes me pray even harder for friends who don’t know Jesus. As much as the return of the Lord and the restoration of his creation excites me I don’t want friends to miss out on the goodness and forgiveness of God and an eternity with him. I feel annoyed at the miss opportunities or the times I haven’t been bold sharing my faith.

As we journey into Christmas who is on your heart to know the Lord? Who do you need to share your faith with? It’s a great time of year where there’s songs about Jesus playing at shopping malls and on TV. Let’s pray that we have an opportunity to share the good news and make it personal for the people we love who need to know Jesus.

Mirror, mirror on the wall

Our readings today are from Numbers 33-34 and Luke 6:43-49.

We arrive at Luke’s abridged Sermon on the Mount recount and are greeted with two challenges. Sometimes I wrestle with how binary some of Jesus’ teaching is as I know life is so nuanced and often not as black and white as things seem. The creator of the universe however I assume knows a lot more than us, can search our hearts deeply and know us so intimately so if there’s someone who can be black and white and sort out the sheep from the goats it is our great God.

We have an analogy of good trees not being able to bear bad fruit and vice versa. As I reflected above I fail at reconciling this analogy in my head when I think about people I know because in my limited capacity to really know and understand people and their motivations it becomes very difficult to know who is “good” and “evil”. Obviously by looking at their fruit yes… but even that can be deceptive as many “good” people can exhibit some atrocious behaviour and outcomes to their decisions.

For me, the most useful way of looking at these verses is self-examining and looking at the fruit of my behaviour and decisions. To reflect on the Galatians 5 fruit of the spirit in my interactions with my family, my co-workers, the church people I lead, the wider church family, my friends who don’t know Jesus and I start to get a picture of how I’m doing. Am I acting in love? Do I have self-control in our interactions (even when others don’t)? Am I being faithful and staying the course? Etc.

Similarly with the challenge of putting God’s word into practice and how strong my foundation is. There are many echoes of these passages in James here and here. I love the book of James. “Do not merely listen to the Word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”

So these passages are really about holding a mirror up and hoping you don’t immediately forget what you look like. It’s about asking yourself am I bearing the fruit of the spirit? Am I putting God’s word into practice? Have I got a strong foundation so when the rug gets pulled out from under me I’m still standing strong in the knowledge of what Jesus has done for me? (Possibly a mixed metaphor there but you get the vibe.)

“I will build a great wall — and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me”

Now…… Matthew 19:1-12 I don’t know how I got another passage on marriage/divorce and what message the people selecting the passages are trying to send me… Only recently in my April FDR did I ponder the 1 Corinthians 6:12-20 passage in which Jesus’ instructions here are quoted. Even going back to November 2015 I was given 1 Corinthians 7:1-16. Yeah I get it….

But I digress….. Excuse the Trump quote as a title. Hard to not think about anyone else when it comes to building walls at the moment. Nehemiah 3 is a chapter on rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem. On a superficial level it’s as exciting as a genealogy – it’s kind of a name drop of all who contributed. Like linear notes on an album or credits in a movie. I think it’s important for a couple of reasons though:

  • There is a common vision for the task of accomplishing God’s work. There is an ultimate outcome all the people listed are working towards.
  • The work is divided so everyone knows what they need to do and to do it with excellence – without contention and separate interests.

We have been commissioned greatly in Matthew 28. Jesus says “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

It’s been exciting to come off the World Mission Conference with a increased focus on what our task is as followers of Jesus… to be on mission to make disciples of all the nations! We should have that as our common vision for the task of accomplishing God’s work at FAC.

And how do we do this? By dividing the work according to our gifts and skills which is beautifully articulated in 1 Corinthians 12 with the body of Christ teaching from Paul (and was recently preached on by Myles as part of our Power of One series).

Let us be unified in the vision of the task God has purposed us for and let us be celebrating the unity and diversity of the body of Christ we have in our church!

Hearing things…

Both our readings today involve visions, revelations and God talking directly to a person. There are some interesting parallels throughout which I hope you too observe as you read through these passages.

1 Samuel 3

Samuel is a boy at this point of time ministering to the Lord under Eli. It is noted that the word of the Lord was rare in those days possibly due to the hardness of heart among the people of Israel and the corruption of the priesthood. God will speak, and guide, when His people seek Him, and His ministers seek to serve him diligently.

Samuel initially thinks it’s Eli speaking to him and response with “Here I am!”. There are many other parts of the bible we see faithful servants of the Lord respond in that way. Eli suggests that it is perhaps the Lord speaking to him and recommends some helpful things to Samuel:

  • Make himself available for God to speak
  • Not be presumptuous about God speaking
  • Respond to the word of God
  • Humble himself before God and His word.

God reveal things to Samuel that weren’t necessarily great news for Eli. Eli’s response acknowledges the Lord as his God and perhaps was not surprised by the correction and his need for repentance in his leadership.

At the end of this passage we also see Samuel growing and maturing as God establishes him as a prophet.

Revelation 1

We journey form one servant of the Lord to another we read the opening chapter of Revelation. John is on the island of Patmos when he received this Revelation. I was always comforted by the promise of blessing for those who hear and keep what is written here. It is a challenging book and there is a helpful assurance for those who endure and try to understand some of the passages we read later in Revelation.

There is some powerful language as John addresses the seven churches of Asia. He is the Beginning and the End; all things are from him and for him; he is the Almighty; the same eternal and unchanged One.

Ron recently highlighted the description of Jesus in verse 14 is very similar to Daniel 7:9 belonging to the “Ancient of Days”. The similarities between the language of the second half of Daniel and Revelation continue throughout.

In a similar way to Samuel humbled himself before the Lord John fell at his feet. There is a comfort from the Lord, “Fear not” and again reminding us that the old is, was and shall be for ever.

How should we respond to the Lord? Are we making ourselves available for him to speak to us?