Glad I Didn’t Need to Buy a Ram

Today’s readings are from Leviticus 5 and 6 and 2 Corinthians 3 and are well contrasted in reference to the old and new covenants.

Rob and I recently attended our first ram sale at Peak Hill. We went as observers only as our back yard would definitely not feed one of these beasts for more than an hour or so. They are huge, beautifully laden with thick, soft merino wool which has just the right amount of crinkles in the tufts to provide a very high CF (comfort factor for those who don’t know these things!) Some of the most valuable of these rams are preciously housed at night in a shed with ABC FM playing.

I can imagine the high worth of these beasts throughout the centuries as they can provide food, warmth, progeny and income for their owners. As we read in the Leviticus passage today, rams were used as payment for sins. Sheep were restitution for sins such as not speaking out when one should, speaking untruthfully or touching something unclean, all without realising it. I don’t know who the sin police would have been to catch people out in this way!

To unknowingly sin against God however, required a ram as a guilt offering, plus an extra fifth for the priests. Each beast would probably have had as much value to the owner then as those at the Peak Hill ram sale last weekend. Verse 16 And the priest shall make atonement for him with the ram of the guilt offering, and he shall be forgiven.

Were the people in Moses’ time more willing to admit to their hidden, guilty actions? I can’t imagine most of us these days admitting to our own hidden sins. Is that because we want to keep our public persona credible, likeable, reliable? Or is that because we can confess them directly to our Lord God, our God who loves us and is always ready to shower us with his grace?

The 2 Corinthians reading describes the hope and confidence we have in living now under a new covenant with Jesus. I like verse 3 And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.  

I love the picture of the Holy Spirit capturing my heart with knowledge of Jesus. The words etched on the stone tablets given to Moses will always be a preferred recipe for living. Our hearts though are configured by the Holy Spirit. Verse 4 Such is the confidence that we have through Christ towards God. Verse 6 The letter kills but the Spirit gives life. We don’t need to be bogged down in trying to adhere to an enormous list of rules and we don’t need to be continually racked with guilt after we have realised a sin we have committed. Thank you Jesus!

I am so grateful that I live now, confidently, freely under God’s grace because of Jesus’ death. May my life reflect my love and faith in who God is and may we all know his forgiveness for the times we do something wrong, whether publicly or not.

I’m glad we didn’t need to buy that ram!

Iris

 

Advertisements

Timeout With God

Judges 9 and Matthew 26:1-13

The Judges passage today is filled with examples of how humans are motivated to cause harm to others. Emotional blackmail, hit men who earn their 70 pieces of silver, lying and deception, lust for power. Lord, when will things ever change.

The New Testament reading signals the end of Jesus’ ministry here on earth. Here we read how Jesus is preparing his disciples for his coming death. Calmly and with resolve he tells them of his own death and prepares them to the time when they will be without him.

We read of Matthew’s reference to the corrupt religious and legal leadership which was in power at the time. Lord, when will things ever change. It’s interesting to read that the political leaders were deciding which was the most opportune time to kill Jesus. Verse 5 But they said, “Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar among the people.” We know that Jesus was crucified on the day which those leaders were trying to avoid. A subtle reminder of who was in charge.

We also read of Jesus’ compassion. While at Simon the leper’s home, (probably whom he had cured from leprosy) He graciously accepts the gift of the beautiful and expensive oil with which he was anointed by the woman. We know from John 12 the woman was Mary, sister of Martha and Lazarus. It reminds there are times when our only focus should be on God.

The disciples, particularly Judas (John 12:4-6) are horrified at the waste of this expensive gift. I read an interesting quote, “Is anything wasted which is all for Jesus? It might rather seem as if all would be wasted which was not given to him.” (Spurgeon.) But Jesus defended Mary as an example of someone who simply did a good work for him and would be long remembered for this.

I pray that we can take timeout to just focus on Jesus and put everything else aside for a moment in time.

 

God is Angry!

 

How often do we read of the almighty, all powerful, Creator of the Universe described as a loving, soft hearted Lamb? This Lamentations passage does not conform to that same image!

 The passage begins with graphic pictures of how God has abandoned his people and their communities, verse 3 He has cut down in fierce anger all the might of Israel;

he has withdrawn from them his right hand in the face of the enemy;

he has burned like a flaming fire in Jacob, consuming all round.

What a frightening picture!

 The details of despair and pain of his people are hard to read. What horrors were faced by children in particular.

 Verses 18-22 are the prayerful pleas for mercy of these humbled people to this fierce and angry God. Verse 20 Look, O Lord, and see! With whom have you dealt thus.

 I pray that we continue to seek our Lord in all we do and say and be grateful that we are living now, under Jesus. The bible says that in our natural, sinful state we are enemies of God, Romans 5:10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. We are comforted that by Jesus’ death we are welcomed into His presence. Through our repentance and acceptance of Jesus’ death, we are even called his children. Thankfully, God no longer sees our imperfections. Only by what Jesus has done for us are our sins forgiven, our relationship with God restored, and our eternity secured.

 I am thankful that he sees me through his Son. 

On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand

In this passage Jesus ends his sermon on the mount. His final message is probably very well known to many people, even those who don’t know its context or origin.

For us reading this familiar passage it is good to be reminded of the truths behind this proverb. One important aspect is that it is useless to call ourselves Christians unless we put into practice what he has taught us as well as what we are to believe.

It is good to take a look at ourselves and check the foundations our lives are built on. Will we be able to weather the storms, the vicissitudes of our life or will we be washed away? We know the distractions of life, the stresses, the chaos or just plain bad decisions, all lead us away from Jesus. These are all part of our life at some time or another. How we react to these situations or to our own sinful decisions depends on the strength of our foundation.

Our life built on Jesus as our Rock secures us a firm foundation, as long as we take our beliefs and knowledge of who Jesus is and put them into practice. Our own motivation is who we are in Jesus. As I write this, I’m thinking about my own foundations: they sometimes wobble, or small fissures or cracks undermine the strength or even pieces break off and form little mounds of sand. It’s not that I don’t have faith in a loving God, a mighty Creator, a redeeming Saviour but instead of seeking His wise counsel…… well you know the rest.

To be able to weather the storms of life, to please our Lord and glorify Him, we must encourage each other to be real and authentic Christians remembering our lives are transformed and solidly built on His foundations.

For your enjoyment today and to help focus on our Saviour:

My hope is built on nothing less

Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness

I dare not trust the sweetest frame

But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

On Christ the solid rock I stand

All other ground is sinking sand.

I Will Keep My Eyes Always on The Lord

Good morning FDReaders. This post is for Monday 8 May. I’m posting from London so apologies if it arrives on the wrong day.

As we travel around the United Kingdom, we are feeling very blessed, in so many ways. To have the health, and the means, to be able to explore this beautiful part of God’s creation are just two enormous blessings.

As we visit many beautiful Christian monuments – towering ceilings engraved so intricately on enormous stone blocks, brightly coloured windows soaring above the walkway, painted or covered in mosaic and depicting biblical scenes – our gaze continually is drawn upwards, as was the intention of the builder. Upwards towards God, the centre of their belief and all their community, creating awe, humbling the on-looker, reminding of God’s might and supremacy.

David uses words to create this same focus on God, the centre of his devotion. His confidence in his relationship with his Lord is a great blessing to him. His expressions of devotion to this same God of ours are lovely to read.
Keep me safe, my God,
for in you I take refuge.
I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;
apart from you I have no good thing.”

He is confident God will provide his every need. He doesn’t need a beautiful building to be reminded of this.
Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup;
you make my lot secure.

I like verse 7 The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
surely I have a delightful inheritance.
That sounds like a great promise. How confident are we that we have a delightful inheritance to look forward to while living inside these boundary lines, in pleasant places!

Verses 8-11 are quoted by Peter in Acts 2:25-31. We’ll leave you to read Peter’s interpretation of these last verses from today’s psalm.

Acts 2:29-36 “Fellow Israelites, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. Seeing what was to come, he spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that he was not abandoned to the realm of the dead, nor did his body see decay. God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said, “‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”’ “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”

May we all continue to look forward to Jesus’ face, keeping our eyes fixed on Him and our minds and words thankful and rejoicing in all that He has done for us.

Lawsuits and Loose Living

 This reading from 1 Corinthians 6 gives us an insight into the legal processes of Paul’s day. It appears it was common practice to bring legal proceedings against one another for many matters, large or small.

 The judicial system in Paul’s day was somewhat different to what we’re used to now. I read the local judge sat in what was known as the “bema” seat of the civil magistrate, located in the heart of the marketplace. Because Greek culture found a good legal battle entertaining, anyone’s lawsuit soon became public knowledge. Judge Judy style perhaps?

 Paul is not writing about criminal lawsuits, verse 5 Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers, 6 but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers? 7 To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong?

 Paul berates the Corinthians for taking small matters before the judges for a ruling. Surely Christians can resolve problems between each other without “airing their dirty linen in public,” as my mother used to say. Accusations can be so divisive can’t they? There are always those who will take sides without hearing both sides of the story. The Corinthian judges were not necessarily Christians and Paul suggests it would be better to suffer wrong than to air a dispute with another believer and have a non-Christian rule on the case.

 It seems that Corinthians were just like our own society, full of their own “rights.” By clinging to these rights so firmly meant they had already lost. It would be better to let themselves be cheated or accept wrong rather than bring God’s name into disrepute by public dispute. No one who accepts wrong for the sake of God’s glory will be a loser.

 It is possible for Christians to settle disputes among themselves according to God’s principles. This can be done either through the church, or through Christian arbitration. Still today, I think, there is no reason for Christians to sue one another. Criminal cases, however, should be handled by the legal system. There is no place for dishonest dealings by Christians or even among Christians.

 Verse 9a Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? encourages us to view all our sins as serious. The only outcome from cheating someone is eternal separation from God. The person who wrongs another by cheating is putting himself in bad company with fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, homosexuals, sodomites, thieves, covetous, revilers and extortioners and none of these will inherit the kingdom of God either. Not much comfort in that thought, but there is in the following:

 Verse 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

 What a great reminder of the privilege we have to be part of the Creator of the Universe’s family. No matter what our sins are, Jesus has washed us clean and made us acceptable to our Heavenly Father.

 Thank you Jesus.

God’s Wrath

Paul begins this text with a summary of the gospel and its power. Verse 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

The righteous shall live by faith – we can’t see God’s character or his special qualities, but by looking around us at his incredible creation they are very obvious. He is the Lord of the Universe, the Mighty One, the Creator who has decided we are worthy of his attention and protection. If we understand and accept God’s love for us, his provision for us in every cell of our body and for every breath we take, it is not surprising then that he is angry with us when we sin.

These next verses describe God’s anger. God knows we know the truth about him as we can see his creation of the world and therefore are able to understand some of his special qualities, his power, his majesty, his holiness. We know of his power and might as a Creator and know that he rules over all. Paul introduces us to the very real concept of “the wrath of God.” His justice is real, his just and sustained anger against our sins is real. Hell is real.

If we didn’t acknowledge that God’s wrath is real, we would have no need for salvation. There wouldn’t really be any penalty for our sin. It is important to remember that God’s wrath is not an irrational anger, or a spontaneous reaction to our behaviour. Instead it is quite deliberate, determined, a consistent opposition to our sin.

God really, really hates sin. He is holy, perfect and sin must be opposed because it is contrary to who God is and to all that we are created to be. God has not kept his wrath hidden. We all know we have to stand and give an account of our life on the last day. That’s a pretty daunting thought!

None of us are excused from our poor behaviour because the whole created world clearly proclaims the glory and perfection of God.

We don’t often talk about God’s anger. It is quite a painful picture to imagine this loving Father of ours burning with anger. I see the sacrifice on the cross of his own son describes the intensity of God’s anger against sin. I see also the sacrifice of Jesus for our evil as a measure of his intense love for each of us.

For meditation today:

Psalm 19:1-4

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.

They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them.

Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.