FREED TO LOVE AND SERVE

Today’s passages are Leviticus 10 – 12 and 2 Corinthians 5:11 – 6:13.

We are sure the readings that we have been following last week from Levitcus needed the encouragement that the passages from 2 Corinthians have given us  since Thursday.

Those chapters in Leviticus (5-12) cover in great detail the ceremonial regulations which the developing community of Israel needed to follow, in order to stay in relationship with God.    Sin and guilt had  to be dealt with and though the practices seem quaint and exaggerated.it does remind us that GOD IS GOD, AND IS NOT TO BE TRIFFLED WITH.  ‘I dd it my way’ does not hold credence when God has set out the procedures to follow – the ordination of Aaron’s sons and their decision to add their own touch to what God required as regards their sacrifices,   (Leviticus 10:1 -3) demonstrates the importance of trusting what God says.  

Chapters 11 and 12 cover health and social regulations which must have been appropriate for the wandering tribes.

However, like Iris on Thursday, it has been a relief for us to turn to the Corinthian passages and discover again the assurance that GOD HAS DONE ALL THAT IS REQUIRED FOR OUR SALVATION AND RELATIONSHIP WITH HIM.  No ceremonial is required on our part but instead, BELIEF, as He has done all that is required.  It is a bit overwhelming, but worth the effort, to sit and read over again passages like

 5:15  and He died for all, that those wholive should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again.

5:17-18  Therefore if anyone is in Christ the new creation has come.  The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God who reconciled us to Himself through Christ

6:1  as co-workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain –       –  just enjoy with thankfulness what we’ve read.

No more sacrifices, or fear we may not have covered all our misdoings.

Join us in taking some time today to let these promises sink in and then let’s all go out and live in love and thankfulness as though we believe it is true and that the BEST IS YET TO COME.

Peter and Elizabeth.

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MY WAY NOT YOURS O LORD!

Judges 14

 The story of Samson continues – this promised child has now grown up.  In God’s plan he was to be the one to confront the Philistines – those constant enemies of Israel who were now ruling them. Today’s passage shows  Samson only following his own way – not God’s  at this stage. Samson was spoilt, self seeking and by his behaviour it would seem that he was either ignorant of or ignoring God’s way (he married a Philistine woman v2). So we will have to read on. 

Maybe this is a reminder for us all – how easy it is to satisfy our own desires in this busy world rather than remembering the verse – ‘be still and know that I am God.’  

May we look to God and take time with Him so we can  know and follow His way. 

 

Matthew 26:57-68

As we turn to the beginning of Jesus’ trial before the Sanhedren we are faced with an amazing picture of people who had known God’s purposes for humanity from the beginning of time, and who had decided HOW this would occur.  When the fulfilment of prophesy was not in line with their ideas they stubbornly rejected the evidence of Messiah from Jesus’ life with them and his claims to be the One.

To ensure their purposes were not discounted they were willing to resort to lies and false witnesses resulting in supreme injustice (but mercifully for us our salvation.)  Their method is not unknown in the world today.

Perhaps today is a strong reminder to us all to be very careful that we do not decide for God and expect Him to fit in with our ideas of His purpose for us all.  A reminder to listen to His word and to be guided by his Spirit.

Peter and Elizabeth

DO SOMETHING

The title of this psalm Maschil, means ‘ a psalm that gives instruction – instruction in what? 

Actually it instructs believers in how to act when in any distress – that is to turn to God in prayer. 

So, have you ever felt like this?

Perhaps the Eugene Peterson paraphrase The Message makes the emotion stronger –

You walked off and left us, and never looked back.  

God how could you do that?

We’re your very own sheep:

how can you stomp off in anger?    v1

 

 

One commentator suggests that if the Asaph of David’s time wrote this psalm it would have been prophetic pointing to the time when Jerusalem was actually sacked/ obliterated by Nebuchadnezzar and the Chaldeans, or perhaps the author was another Asaph from that time and who wrote like Jeremiah, from exile. Remember Jeremiah’s long lament that we read in the middle of July?  It is a comfort to hear someone else feeling that in spite of constant appeals God is distant and unwilling to engage at all on our behalf.  Yes this Asaph felt abandoned!  Yet he knew God had the power to rescue but  wasn’t acting on his people’s behalf; but still he prayed,

Why do you hold back your hand, your right hand?

Take it from the folds of your garment and destroy them.     v11

 

Back to The Message:

Why don’t you do something?  How long are you going 

to sit there with your hands folded in your lap?     v11

 

However Asaph’s faith and knowledge of God’s faithfulness and purpose encourages, strengthens, restores him in the midst of his pain and suffering – both for himself and for the nation –

God is my king from long ago;

he brings salvation the earth.   v12

 

This writer agonises over God’s apparent disinterest, but most likely being aware of the people’s disregard of God he anchors himself in God’s character 

(v12) and reminds himself while at the same time reminding God of his almighty power, and care for his creation in the past.

Maybe when we feel abandoned, or when the pressure is too great, or sickness overwhelming we can settle our hearts by focussing on God’s good character and look back over his great actions not only in our own personal lives but also reflecting on the whole  purpose of Christ’s coming to earth and all the steps that remind us of his salvation for now and for eternity.

While we all want God to act on our behalf will we do something too in times of trouble?  Praying is a solid basis for connecting with our Lord God.

 

 

Peter and Elizabeth.

DRAMATIC CONTRASTS

2 Chronicles 27-28.

It is a relief to come in chapter 27 – to the leadership of a good king of Judah! –

 ‘Jotham grew powerful because he walked steadfastly before the Lord his God.‘ v 6

It would be wonderful if, while reading this chapter, you could be here with us today in Amman, because the war Jotham fought and won was against the Ammonites, and right here was their territory.

Unlike many of his predecessors (and many of those who followed) Jotham did not let the power he gained turn him from God.  We too need to pray for our leaders that they will be God honouring rather than self satisfying.

However, in chapter 28 by contrast, we once again revert to a king who:

‘did not do what was right in the eyes of the Lord.’  v1. He was defeated by the king of Aram                 (Syria/Damascus today) and then by Israel – his kinsmen.  It is interesting to note that in God’s sight even in war these prisoners were not to be mistreated and there is no place for ‘killing  in rage.’ v9.       The captives were clothed, fed and given medical care, with those too weak to walk returned on donkeys.  Although these prisoners were from the same ‘ tribe’ it is interesting to compare this treatment to the way current prisoners of war are treated.

May the Lord help us all to ‘ walk steadfastly‘ before Him and to look carefully at ourselves when judging others and justifying our actions. v 10b

 

MATTHW 9:9-13.

Another contrast where Matthew’s life is turned around!                                                                   On meeting Jeaus,

Matthew heard – ‘follow me‘ v9     and                                                                                                   he obeyed – ‘ got up and followed      and then                                                                                   he shared this new found commitment with people like himself, having them to a meal so they too could connect with Jesus. v 10

What a comfort to hear again Jesus’ words, ‘ I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners’ and to know that we too are accepted (when we hear and obey).

 

Peter and Elizabeth.

REJECTION AND REALITY

1CHRONICLES 28.

As I guess you may know we are writing from Amman in Jordan, surrounded by DAVID!

Beside where we lived last time is the ruin of a Watch Tower believed to have been used by David when he was fleeing from Saul and fighting local tribes.

The Citadel here is surrounded by the remains of a wall which is thought to be where Uriah was placed on David’s command, in order to be killled!

Now today, after reading all the lists of the last few days, we come to a very moving account of David handing over to his son Solomon, all his very detailed plans for the building of the temple.  This happened in a very public way as David had called together all the people and not just Solomon for the occasion.

Have you ever put your heart into something, thought it all through in great detail, even prayed seriously, only to have the proposal rejected by those you thought you were helping?  I wonder how David felt at this point at the end of his life?

While REJECTION is tough for anyone, David has some encouragement for us today.

1.  He heard God ‘you are not the one.   v3

2.   He recognised his own worth in God’s sight.  v4

3.   He passed over all his detailed preparations to Solomon ( leaving it to Solomon to follow completely, in part or not at all and leaving room for Solomon’s own creativity).       v10-11

4.    In handing over to Solomon he acknowledged the first priority for success in leadership (and I guess for all of us) success requires obedience to God.

I found this an encouraging new way of looking at rejection and thank God for it!

 

MATTHEW 1.

Another list!

However, it does for those interested in family history, anchor Jesus’ coming to earth , in the original purpose of God to rescue the human race from destruction.  Abraham was just the beginning!

It is a great encouragement to be reminded that Jesus’ ultimate purpose in coming as a human being was to save us from our sins.  v21.        and

that He was God here with us on Earth    v 23

We have much to thank God for in today’s readings.

Peter and Elizabeth

IN GOD WE TRUST

1 Samuel 1.           Acts 27

‘In God we trust’ is the motto emblazoned on American coins and notes as a statement of faith since 1864. Whether people believe it or not they handle the currency constantly and the reminder is before them.

Today we read of 2 people who really did believe that they could trust God, the Lord of all creation, with their deepest need and with unshakable belief in His word.

Hannah came to God after years of derision from Peninnah, no doubt with feelings of inadequacy and hopelessness.  Elkanah’s human love was not sufficient to remove her deep pain.  So she turned to God and He heard and answered her prayer.

Paul, in spite of the many opportunities for freedom, when appearing before, Governors Felix and Festus and King Aggrippa, moved towards Rome because he believed God’s word to him.  You might remember back in chapter 23: 11 the Lord appeared to Paul in the barracks where he was being held for his safety,

‘Take courage!  As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.’

In today’s account we find the journey to Rome pressing on in spite of ship change, unpredictable winds, a raging storm and finally shipwreck.

Whether our prayers are answered as they were for Hannah – a miraculous response that God brought about and being exactly what Hannah longed for; or whether the answer carries with it difficulties and tests, or is a clear statement from God Himself as it was for Paul; or whether the answer is different from what we really wanted, do we pray and believe?  Then, do we live out our side of the prayer as Hannah did by taking the boy back to serve in the temple as she had promised, or Paul, using the slow process to share the truth of God in unlikely places and with people he would not normally have had contact with or do we forget our promises?

Romans 15:13 is a great encouragement to trust God in all situations in this life as we saw Hannah and Paul doing today.

  ‘May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Peter and Elizabeth

LICENCE TO JUDGE

1CORINTHIANS 5

This is a difficult passage!   There has been an obvious violation carried out in the congregation and the members are not only condoning but are accepting the immorality of the situation and are doing nothing about it.  They should have been ‘ grief-stricken‘.  Paul is appalled, urging the believers to be aware that claiming to belong to Christ means behaving in a way that honours Him and thus honours all others and also having a real compassion for one another which leads to action.  The reminder for us as we read is to watch our own behaviour ensuring that when we slip up we seek Christ’s help

to be aware, 

to ask for forgiveness and 

to make sure we don’t continue on that sinful path.  

There is another warning too that we do not become complacent and allow the world’s standards to become our standards in the church.

Jesus’ words in Matthew (chapter 7:1-5) are the parallel truth that we must also practise, ‘do not judge or you too will be judged ……’ reminding us to check our own behaviour before going in to battle.

 

1CHRONICLES 7

If you have persevered with the Chronicles lists of dynasties over the last few days you, like us, may have been encouraged by the last verse from today’s reading.  The descendants of Asher are described as ‘ choice men, brave warriors, outstanding leaders.’  They are the only ones with such a commendation.  It would be wonderful for our descendants to be similarly remembered.

Peter and Elizabeth Smart.