Wait…. what?

Todays FDR is Isaiah 19-20 and Acts 19:1-22

Our Old Testament reading today continues with a range of messages (prophecies) to the nations, today Isaiah moves on to address Egypt. I found this chapter to be quite powerful, the might of the  Lord is revealed against Egypt, bringing down their cities, crops, rivers, livelihoods, intellect and rulers. It is a dire scene of judgement that ‘makes Egypt stagger as a drunkard staggers around in his vomit’ (v14).

And yet, that is not the end of the story… God somehow, miraculously, turns judgement into healing. The Egyptians in their weakened state ‘will turn to the Lord, and he will respond to their pleas and heal them’ (v22).

And yet STILL it is not the end of the story…. Perhaps most baffling and miraculous of all, God not only heals Egypt but subsequently blesses them…’Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel my inheritance’. These are the nations that oppressed the nation Israel, sold her into slavery, waged war upon her and systematically destroyed her… yet here is the Lord, including them as equals! What a stark and wonderful vision of God’s intent to reconcile even gentiles into his salvation plan! God’s plan of salvation history reconciles his enemies (us!) through Christ’s death.

…but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Rom 5:8)

This is indeed foolishness to the world’s way of thinking, yet that very ‘foolishness’ – the wisdom of God –  brings us life!

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God (1 Cor 1:18)

This is the eternal message of salvation – demonstrated throughout the millennia. Let us rejoice in Christ’s victory and the wonderful, ‘foolish’ grace of God!

____________________________-

In our New Testament reading today, the gospel continues to spread out across ‘all the residents of Asia’ (v10). In some places this brings extraordinary miracles and change of life and in other places extraordinary imitation and deception… and through it all ‘the word of the Lord continue to increase and prevail mightily‘ (v20)

As we read through the word each day, may we ask God to change our lives and allow his word to prevail mightily!

Advertisements

New beginnings

Today’s FDR is Joshua 23 and Acts 1:12-26

What a feast we have before us in our FDR today!

Our journey through Joshua is nearly complete and here, near the end of his life, Joshua gathers the Israelite leaders together for a final few words. He could have waxed lyrical about his role in the times spent wandering the desert, bringing down the walls of Jericho, getting hoodwinked by the Gibeonites or the shenanigans involving rocks falling from the sky… ahhhh, good times, remember when we did all that? Only he doesn’t… Instead he points to God and reminds the people that it is God who fought for them (Josh 23:3). He urges them in light of this knowledge to stay strong, to be obedient, to be singularly focussed on serving Him. In fact he says the same thing to them at least twice… and he warns them of the consequences if they transgress. Perhaps he knows their hearts (and himself) too well?

Indeed if we were to read on into Judges we would find that things slip south pretty quickly and eventually, the very thing he warns them of comes true and the land that they currently possess is taken away. Praise God that the narrative arc of salvation history doesn’t stop there! God enacts his rescue plan for his wayward people, through Jesus.

Which brings us to the opening of Acts….

At the start of this book, we see Jesus ascend into heaven and he promises the Holy Spirit which will empower them to be His witnesses to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). Now the disciples return and take the strange step of seeking suitable nominations and casting lots to find someone to fill Judas’ place (who apart from betraying Jesus, meets a rather icky end). Why was this so important? Well, there must be something important in having 12 apostles – it harkens back to the 12 tribes of Israel, a completeness which is echoed throughout God’s word.

What I also find interesting is the qualifications of those who would be considered as a suitable replacement for Judas. Specifically they had to be a first-eye witness to Jesus and have accompanied him through his ministry years. And while this is key, there is also something else, a hint that the call depends on the heart of the nominated (v24). I try not to read too much into the casting of lots as the example of all decision making – however under the circumstances this is done without pretence or suggestion that this is they way all decisions will be made into the future.

What shall we do with our scriptures today? First of all, let us give thanks for Jesus, our risen King who sends his spirit to guide and strengthen us. Secondly, let us consider our hearts before him – as Joshua did and no doubt as Matthias, Barsabbas and the early Christians did. May our hearts be renewed daily to pursue Christ more wholly and more completely. Finally, let us look forward to a heavenly future where God brings all things new and we are reunited with Christ our saviour.

Psalm 99

What a powerful psalm set before us today! The psalm wastes no time in putting into perspective God’s power and awesome name. I feel the thunderous proclamation of our eternal God; enthroned… exalted… awesome! Our response; trembling and quaking!

Yet, there is more to this psalm – it is also highly relational. In v4 and following, God (the King!) is described as one who loves justice, equity and righeousness. The psalmist outlines how God responds to people when they call upon him – both forgiving and protecting (v8).

Psalm 99 then shows us that God is both reigning king, mighty and awesome, AND loving father, responsive, forgiving and faithful. What more can we do than to fall upon our knees and ‘exalt the Lord our God for the LORD our God is Holy!’ (v9). May it be so for us today.

A generous response, renewed hope

Today’s FDR is 2 Chronicles 31:2-21 and Matthew 9:27-38.

In our our Old Testament reading today we see a bright and prosperous time for Israel. They are led by Hezekiah who appears to be an anomaly  in a line of kings who regularly turn their backs on God. We are told that Hezekiah ‘did what was good and right and faithful before the Lord his God’ (v20). He sought God with all his heart. We also see that like their king, the people have turned their hearts to God and respond with generosity… to the point of overflowing.

As I read this I am encouraged and challenged that as my heart  turns and seeks God, one of the practical outworkings is generosity – in time, money and effort – joyful generosity! How I long to give of what I have more generously. I will pray therefore, not that I would be more generous but that I would have my heart turned more to and captivated by God!

In our gospel reading, the compassion of Jesus is displayed in the healing of two blind men and casting out of a demon in a third. I am struck straight away by the response of the blind men – Jesus ‘sternly’ warns them not to tell anyone about their miraculous healing and their response…. we’ve got to tell everybody! I can only imagine what it must have been like for them to have their eyes opened, to have their lives changed forever and to want to respond by telling others. In the same situation, I don’t know that I would have been able to contain my joy either!

Jesus ministry so far is summed up in v35 – moving throughout the towns, healing the sick and proclaiming the gospel. We are told of his compassion for the crowds, harassed and helpless. He subsequently encourages, no, commands his disciples to pray for labourers for the harvest. I’m sure that during our world missions conference towards the end of July we will hear many stories of labourers and the harvest in Australia and around the world. As we have been commanded, may we continue to pray for those who have been sent and in so doing realise that we too are called to the harvest as co-labourers in proclaiming the gospel… and willingly follow Christ in that calling.

Psalm 54

Today’s FDR is Psalm 54

What I love about this Psalm is David’s response to persecution.

First he prays (v2), putting the situation before God as he sees it – being attacked by ‘arrogant foes’ and ‘ruthless people’ (v3)

Second, he recalls the character of God – helper, sustainer, faithful (v4-5)

Finally, he states what he will do… Praise the name of God and trust in him and his character (v6-7).

It is a helpful model for all of us when we are faced with uncertain circumstances, persecution, sickness and difficulty. Pray, remember God’s character, trust in him.

The light and the darkness

Today’s FDR is 1 John 1:5-22 and Deuteronomy 14

John’s reading today opens with the proclamation that ‘God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all’. This proclamation is the message heard directly from Jesus (or God, vs 2) and now being spread by the disciples. I don’t know about you but my heart thrills when I hear this message. God is righteous, holy, pure, without wrong, without sin, without error – the very antithesis of the imagery of darkness which is juxapositioned here. John spends the next few verses exploring how our relationship with a holy (light) father works out within our sinful (darkness) experience.

John points out 3 errors of understanding ¹

  1. Stating we have ‘fellowship’ with God does not make it so. Our fellowship with light is demonstrated by walking in light
  2. We deny truth and deceive ourselves (who else would be fooled?) by claiming we ‘have no sin’. Understanding the sinful condition of our humanity is fundamental to understanding the truth.
  3. We further demonstrate our separation from God and lack of truthful knowledge by claiming that we have not sinned.

It is important here to pause lest we step into error and begin to equate works with salvation, that is not the intent of John’s words. Rather, as Paul states, we are saved ‘to’ good works, not by them (Eph 2:8-10). In our reading, John pulls no punches in outlining that we are sinful and separated from God and that claiming any other understanding is deluded!… BUT the best news is also laid out plainly,

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness‘ (1:9)

Not only so, but we have an advocate, Jesus himself! (2:1) Jesus is the propitiation (the turning away of God’s wrath) for our sin. What a marvellous revelation given to us in the word today. Knowing the truth of our sinfulness AND knowing the truth of our forgiveness. In God alone we have true light and in him alone is the remedy for darkness.

Our Deuteronomy reading continues to expand on how the people of God are set apart from the world. Why? Vs 2 ‘you are a people holy to the Lord your God and the Lord has chosen you to be a people of his treasured possession’. While the law provides detail on which foods are fair game and which are off limits, you may also note how God’s people are instructed to also provide and care for others, particularly the marginalised (v21, v28-29). The Israelite nation is to be outward looking.

Perhaps today we can take the time to look both inwards and acknowledge our sin, understand the truth that we are forgiven in Christ and also look outwards to spread the message of grace to our community.

 


  1. Adapted from the New Bible Commentary. Morris, L. L. (1994). 1 John. In D. A. Carson, R. T. France, J. A. Motyer, & G. J. Wenham (Eds.), New Bible commentary: 21st century edition (4th ed., p. 1401). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press.

Think on such things

Today’s FDR is from 2 Kings 22 and Philippians 4:1-9.

Our Old Testament reading today comes as somewhat of a relief. Israel once again has a King who ‘did what was right in the eyes of the Lord’. King Josiah’s predecessors Manasseh and Amon were particularly detestable and led Israel into sin. By contrast, the young King reads the ‘book of the law’ and realises how much Israel has turned their back on God and rightly discerns that God’s wrath is ‘kindled against us’ – which is subsequently confirmed by Huldah’s prophecy of impending doom. Josiah’s response is detailed in tomorrow’s reading but for today perhaps we can sit with the knowledge that our God takes our sin seriously. Seriously enough to make the ultimate sacrifice in Jesus to bring us back into relationship with him.

Our New Testament reading encourages the Philippians to stand firm and to let our lives be characterised by peace. There are so many practical encouragements included in this passage,

  • Stand firm (v1)
  • Rejoice in the Lord (v4)
  • Be gentle/reasonable to everyone (v5)
  • Do not be anxious (v6)
  • Prayer earnestly with thanksgiving (v6)
  • Think about praiseworthy things (v8)
  • Practice the Godly life (v9)

I am particularly interested that Paul encourages the Philippians to fill their minds with pure, lovely, excellent and commendable things. It would appear that both Paul and ourselves live in a world that is intent on filling our lives with depraved superficiality – it is all too easy to allow our minds to fill up with rubbish (just turn on the TV). We would do well to hear Paul’s exhortation and deliberatley focus on those things which bring our gaze back to Christ.