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.

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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.

Psalm 28

Today’s Faithful Daily Read is Psalm 28

In today’s Psalm we see both a cry for mercy and mercy delivered. Vs 1-5 we hear the Psalmist (David) plead for mercy and be delivered from his enemies. Vs 6-9 we hear the victorious declaration that God ‘has heard the voice of my pleas for mercy’.

Perhaps David is reflecting on a time when he needed deliverance and is now rejoicing in the saving works of his Lord that he has experienced. Or, perhaps he is in peril and thinking forward to a future time when he knows he will have received deliverance and mercy. Or, perhaps the psalm was compiled from two experiences at different points in time.

There are many times I recall calling upon God for help, and hindsight has shown God’s hand clearly at work. At the time, like David, all I could do is throw myself upon the mercy of God, yet I can now rejoice and declare that ‘in him my heart trusts’. Our God is a trustworthy God who is ‘our saving refuge’. May we all trust in the character of our saving God at times of hardship when all we can do is call upon him for his mercy and grace. Remembering that ‘while we were still sinners, Christ died for us’ (Rom 5:8)

… and they lived happily ever after

Today’s FDR are Job 42 and Acts 16:16-40

And so we come to the end of our journey through Job. In this final chapter Job responds to God’s rebuke, acknowledges God’s soverignty and repents. Job recognises that ultimately it is God’s purposes being brought about (v2) in all circumstances.

What strikes me in particular in this passage is the response to Job’s friends. They are also rebuked by God and incredibly also shown mercy and grace. God’s ultimate response is to ‘not deal with you according to your folly‘. This is some of the most wonderful news that I can imagine and highlights again the character of God in dealing with sinful people throughout the salvation story.

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

It is worth our while pausing and reflecting on the enormity of a loving God who does not deal with us according to what we deserve. We are all shown undeserved grace in our universal folly to pursue a life away from Christ. We can only respond, like Job, in falling to our knees in surrender and acknowledgement of the wonderful plans and purposes of God.

As the chapter closes out we read that Job has his fortunes restored. It is tempting to think that this is a proof text for everything working out splendidly for faithful Christians in this life. Perhaps if we just stick things out long enough the suffering will stop, the sickness will be healed, the financial pressures will right themselves and we will experience comfort and pleasure to the end of our days. The reality is that our true restoration does not occur in this life. God will restore all things in his overarching plan, he will wipe every tear from our eye and erase death and suffering forever (Rev 21:3-4). I once heard it said that for Christians, this life is as close to hell as we will experience. Therefore we should approach our lives not in the pursuit of temporary comfort and pleasure but pursuing the things eternal. Our hope is for the eternal happily ever after, not the fairytale that this world urges us to pursue. If you are suffering from sickness, work pressure, family breakdown, mental health issues, relational distress… take heart from Paul’s exhortation,

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.  For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.’ (2 Cor 4:16-18)

Pray with me this morning that our hearts would turn away from pursuing temporary comfort and long for eternal restoration with the God who gives us undeserved grace through Jesus death on the cross.

Detail in every plan

Today’s FDR is Exodus 36:8-38:31 and Luke 22:39-52

Our Old Testament reading today provides eye-wateringly detailed descriptions of the building of the tabernacle and the elements contained within. Not only so, much of it is repeated information from earlier in Exodus (re-read chapters 25-30)! The materials were expansive and expensive – over a ton of gold, 4 tons of silver and 2.5 tons of bronze (New Bible Commentary), not to mention all the curtain materials!

What do we make of this? Is it recorded here in detail so that we can attempt to reconstruct the Tabernacle out on the FAC floodplain? As interesting a spectacle that this might be, I don’t think the detailed and repeated instructions are there for reconstruction purposes – I think that perhaps they are there to show that God is interested in the detail of his plans, and clearly this is important detail as the Tabernacle was to be the dwelling place of God as his people wandered in the wilderness. Can you imagine, the God of the universe, who called forth light from darkness, is interested in the intricate detail of the curtains and lampstands for his earthly dwelling place? God of the infinite and God of the detail – God over all creation. He not only knows and directs the detail of the tabernacle, he knows our detail, he knows our lives, he knows me… he knows you. As the Psalmist says ‘before a word is on my tongue, you, Lord, know it completely’! (Ps 139:4).

God’s plans for the Tabernacle are almost overshadowed in our reading from Luke today which reveals some detail in God’s unbelievable plan to rescue us. We would do well to slow down and meditate on these passages as we head into Easter.

Here, starkly, we see the anguish of Jesus, sweat running from his brow like drops of blood, asking the Father to ‘take this cup from me’, yet remaining obedient to the Father’s will. He is betrayed by both his sleepy disciples and by Judas’ kiss. I can’t imagine.

The God of the universe, who called light from darkness and the one who cares about the words on my lips – allows betrayal of his son unto death, by mortal man. This betrayal was part of the detail of His plan. It is a sobering and poignant dichotomy and to my human mind, quite unfathomable.  Moreover, this was always his plan. His plan was always to rescue his people through Jesus betrayal, torture, death and resurrection. From the beginning of time, through creation, the exodus and building of the tabernacle, God’s redemptive plan was at work, through Jesus, in order to bring us back into to Him. May we never gloss over the details of how His redemptive purposes were brought about in Jesus!

For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God (1 Peter 3:18)