What Can I Do For You?

The readings set down for today are Nehemiah 7:4-73 and Matthew 20:17-28. (I am going to include the incident where the two men receive their sight in verses 29 -34, because it seems to me that it fits).

It is hard to get into our thick heads isn’t it? If we want to be great – then it will come through serving. We are slow learners, but so were Jesus’ disciples.

James and John didn’t understand. They asked their mother (or so the other disciples thought) to ask Jesus for the top positions in His Kingdom. We can just imagine Jesus shaking his head, and telling the two that they had no idea what they were asking. The high positions in the Kingdom of Jesus call for drinking His cup (vs. 22-23). That cup was for Jesus death on the cross (vs. 17-19).

Jesus explained that high position in the secular world means having authority: it means lording over people. Jesus on the other hand came to be a Servant and, like a slave, to put the good of another before His own (vs.25-28). I suspect the disciples still didn’t understand what Jesus meant. Perhaps we wouldn’t understand either, if it weren’t for the indicent with which this chapter ends.

Jesus led His disciples away from Jericho, up the road that led to Jerusalem and His crucifixion. How sad and distressed He must have been,  because He knew what lay ahead. As He left, two blind men, hearing from the crowd that Jesus was near, cried out urgently. The crowd tried to hush them. But they shouted all the louder. And Jesus stopped. He called them over to Him, and He asked, “What do you want Me to do for you?”

And at last we understand. Greatness in the kingdom of Jesus is stopping for the needs of others. It is setting aside for the moment our own hurts and concerns, to listen, and then to ask, “What do you want me to do for you?”

We may be small in the eyes of other people, but if we follow Christ’s example of servanthood, we will be great in the eyes of God.

 

John Wesley wrote, ” Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, and long as you can.”

Why not begin each day asking God for an opportunity to serve.

 

Have a great day,

 

Peteer Clark.

Grieving Over Our Sin.

The readings set for today are Ezra 9 and Matthew 17:24-27.

When Ezra arrived in Judah, he learned that many Jews had taken foreign wives. This was a clear violation of Old Testament Law, and Ezra was appalled. But rather than strike out angrily at those who had sinned, Ezra identified himself with the sinners and confessed to the Lord. He did not speak of “their” guilt, but of “our” guilt (v.9:7). He did not condemn their “disregard” for God’s laws, but cried out that “we have disregarded the commands” (v.10). Rather trhan stand self-righteously in judgment, Ezra cried, “Not one of us can stand in your presence” (v.15). Ezra’s heart was broken by the sin he found, and he accepted partial responsibility for the failure of men he had never even met.

We can’t read Ezra’s prayer of confession in this chapter without sensing the depth of this godly man’s anguish and shame. He was deeply hurt by the sins of his people: hurt for them and God. The reality of Ezra’s hurt, expressed openly in weeping, prayer, and confusion, moved the men and women of Judah to confess as well – and to purge the sin from their lives.

So the next time we see sin in the body of Christ, let’s be a little slower in pointing the finger (or not point it at all). Let’s realise that if the church was what God called it to be, and if we were the Christians God called us to be, our brother or sister might not have fallen. Rather than judging, let our hearts be broken for the sin and damage to the church.

It would be good if we could grieve over other people’s sin as well as our own.

Have a great day,

Peter Clark.

What A Job Description

The readings today are 2 Chronicles 32 and Matthew 10:1-20.

I am focussing on the Matthew reading. In this reading there is a description of a job that nobody wants. Who wants to work as a sheep among wolves? (10:16). Who wants to be handed over to local councils to be flogged? (v.18). Who wants family conflict? (v.21). Who wants to be hated? (v.22). Who wants to be persecuted? (v.23).

Going beyond today’s readings a little…..it is fine to say things like, all this happend to Jesus first (vs.24-25). And…it’s not too bad….they can only kill the body, can’t they? (v.28). But no matter how you look at it, this business of being a disciple doesn’t look all that attractive. Try putting an ad like that in the Mercury, and see how many applications you get.

But then there is something that makes sense. But it doesn’t come until the end of Chapter 11. Jesus adds something that makes it all worthwhile. He invites us, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me.” (11:29). The yoke which rested on the shoulders of oxen hitched to a plow, was used to distribute the burden of work. The oxen pulled together, and neither was overwhelmed.

Being yoked to Jesus doesn’t so much mean that we take on His burdens, but the He, pulling alongside us, takes on ours. Yes, it’s tough to be a disciple. It’s a challenging and disciplined life. Yet the disciple by the very fact of his commitment is yoked to Jesus. And in the relationship, with Jesus taking on most of the load, we find not added burdens but an amazing inner rest.

Despite all appearances, the disciple of Jesus knows the truth. Jesus’ “yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

Think about these words written by St. Augustine, “I have read in Plato and Cicero saying that are wise and very beautiful; but I never read in either of them: ‘Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden…and I will give you rest'”

 

Have a great day,

 

Peter Clark.

Borrowed Faith

The readings today are 2 Chronicles 24 and Matthew 8:14-22.

I became a follower of Jesus soon after commencing working at the age of 16. It was rather a shock to compare the lives of the people I knew from church to the people I had come to know at work. I was quite shocked and initially decided that I would rather emulate my “church” friends, rather than my new “work” friends. But living apart from the close association of my church friends was difficult. Out on my own I realised that I had to nurture and develop a faith of my own.

We see from 2 Chronicles 24 that this is the lesson that the life of Joash teaches as well. Joash was a good and Godly King – as long as he was surrounded by people who believed, like the priest, Jehoiada who raised him. It wasn’t hard for him to live a good life, or even “believe”. But when Jehoiada died, Joash found that a borrowed faith is never enough.

When Joash began to make decisions on his own, he made wrong ones. He abandoned the Temple of the Lord and began to worship idols. He and his people refused to listed to the prophets who warned them. Joash even killed the son of the man who had raised him, when that son confronted him concerning his sins. Ultimately, because the King and people had forsaken the Lord, disaster came. Joash who chose evil, was killed in his bed by officials who conspired against him.

The account of Joash underlines two important truths for us. First, we can’t tell from a child or young person’s early life what his or her future will hold. So, while we can rejoice in signs of early spiritual growth, we can’t afford to become complacent. We need to keep on praying for our children, that as they mature they will develop their own personal and growing faith oin the Lord Jesus.

Secondly, we need to examine our own lives, to make sure we are not living on borrowed faith. For faith to be real, you and I need to take responsibility for our own choices – and to make sure that our choices are guided by a personal commitment to Jesus Christ as Lord.

To think about…..how do your daily choices reflect your own personal commitment to God?

Have a great day,

Peter Clark.

Overcoming Temptation

The passages for our Faithful Daily Reading today are 2 Chronicles 4:1 – 5:1 and Matthew 4:1-11. Pastorally, I judge, that the Matthew passage might be far more helpful to comment on.

In this reading we see Jesus recalling verses from the Old Testament and quoting them to Satan. Jesus was victorious. Have you tried doing what Jesus did and it hasn’t worked? I wonder, “Why?”.

Perhaps the answer lies in the distinction between magic and faith. Magic is using an object or chant in a desperate attempt to ward off evil or control circumstances. Faith on the other hand is a quiet confidence that what God says is true enough to act on. We have to be careful about using Bible verses as a magic talisman, waving them around to desperately repel temptation (but we wouldn’t do that would we?).

But when we look at Matthew chapter 4, we see that Jesus used Scripture in quite another way. He went into the Word, found a principle or truth, and said in effect, “I will now live by this truth.”

Jesus saw the Word of God as truth, and was determined to act on that truth. It was this exercise of faith that gave Him victory over His temptations. And it is just the same exercise of faith that will give us the victory when we are tempted today.

So, we have to look for the key to our victory in the Word of God (really, where else would we find it?) – but not use our Bible as if it is a magic formula. Rather, let’s take God at His Word, act on what He says and let God use our faith to give us the victory over temptation.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer has a good word on “Temptation”, and I quote it here…

“The Bible tells only two temptations stories, the temptation of the first man and the temptation of Christ, that is, the temptation which led to man’s fall and the temptation which led to Satan’s failure. All other temptations in human history have to do with these two stories of temptation. Either we are tempted in Adam or we are tempted in Christ. Either the Adam in me is tempted – in which case I fall. Or the Christ in us is tempted- in which was Satan is bound to fall.”

Have a great day,

 

Peter Clark.

God With Us.

The Reading today is Psalm 65. I would particularly like to focus on verse 4 of that Psalm.

“Blessed are those you choose
and bring near to live in your courts!
We are filled with the good things of your house,
of your holy temple.”

We might be challenged to do many wonderful and great things in this life that we have been given. Even in our congregation, as we look around there are many superb things happening that lead us to praise our great God, like the Sunday preaching, the children’s and youth work, the life groups, pastoral care and so on.
He will continue to equip and call out many of our number to launch out in faith with tasks to build up the body of Christ and to reach out to others.

But there is something that brings an even greater degree of satisfaction than anything that we can experience on a human level – and that is, our time spent in quiet devotion to Him and with Him.

I realise that I am speaking to the converted – if you are a regular reader of this blog, but could I encourage you to keep on doing what you are doing.

Our lives are very busy – too busy probably. It is hard to take the time to be alone with God. But let us remember…..He is never too busy to be with us.

God’s one consuming desire is for each of us to know Him. When we do this even the smallest of activities will take on a new meaning.

Start today. Spend quality time with God and enjoy the awesome privilege of being in His presence.

Have a great day doing that.

Peter Clark.

The Worldliness Plague.

The reading today is Revelation 218-29 – the “Church in Thyatira” (one of the seven churches of Revelation).

The city 0f Thyatira was a commercial centre when John wrote. Christ’s description of Himself, with burning eyes and feet of burnished bronze, creates a setting of aura for this letter. Although the church was active and faithful in many respects, it had accepted the leadership of a woman characterised as “Jezebel”. The first Jezebel introduced idolatry and gross immorality into ancient Israel, and we must assume the name signified the Thyatiran woman did the same.

Thus what was known as “the church” was divided into faithful and corrupted segments.

Things haven’t changed. The apostate and the genuine still exist in Christendom. The continued existence of the apostate reflects God’s grace. Jesus has “given her time to repent of her immorality”. But the day of grace is drawing to a close. Every day is a day closer. God will surely bring judgment on Jezebel and her followers.

The spirit of Jezebel still stalks the churches, and she will settle wherever she can find somewhere to stay.

How do we deal with her? Don’t expect to purge Christendom, our denomination, or even our own church of her influence.

Jesus says to those who do not accept her teaching, “Hold on to what you have until I come”.

We who hold fast to Christ’s authentic gospel are to concentrate on good deeds, love, faith, service and perseverance (v.19). In doing Christ’s will, we find the spiritual authority we need to overcome (v.26-29)

 

Have a great day and God bless you,

 

Peter Clark.