But even if he does not…

Today’s readings are Daniel 3:1-18 and 2 Thessalonians 3

Promises are often made in the hope (confident hope) that other parties will pull their weight. When, for whatever reason, the other party doesn’t hold up their end of an agreement we can feel justified in walking away from ours.  It’s the stark contrast to this that strikes me most whenever I read Daniel 3.

The amazing young men in this story know that they have been faithful to God, and that he would be pleased with them. In a very difficult context they have remained true to Yahweh and now their very lives are at risk. In this context they say:

If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up. (Dan 3:17-18)

Obedience is not dependant on God’s action. It’s dependant on his character. They knew God and therefore could do nothing else.

In the 2 Thessalonians readings, we read of people who do “not live according to the teaching you received from us” and whom are “busybodies”. We are warned not to be complacent nor led astray in following Jesus. Yet again, we see such obedience is not to be dependant on God’s action but on his character.

And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil people, for not everyone has faith. But the Lord is faithful,and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one. (2 Thessalonians 3:2-3)

I fear that sometimes my faith, and perhaps our faith, can easily be more about God’s perceived action or inaction than his character. May we “never tire of doing what is good” (2 Thessalonians 3:13), looking not to what we “get” or what God “is doing” but rather trusting his faithfulness and goodness for the strength we need to be his hard and faithful workers… even if he does not ________________ (fill in your own expectation here).

Advertisements

The Grace connection

Today’s readings are Daniel 2:24-49 and 2 Thessalonians 2

We’ve just come from reading Judges where some of the chapters leave us feeling like we should have a good wash! Yet God intervened time and again to save a remanent and appoint a new ruler.

Then here in Daniel there are four faithful men who would not touch unclean food.  Yet when the King is about to execute all wise men and advisors Daniel sends a message to the King they can sort out the dream.   After prayer God provides the riddle and the meaning.   So a picture of a new world not built by man emerges before this Babylonian King.  Throughout these events God gracefully protects these faithful men and provides for them so that His will might be accomplished.

2 Thessalonians 2 provides us with a part picture of  a church under pressure and opposition. Yet they are being encouraged to hold fast and remain steadfast in their faith.

And then. . .

Today’s the day we observe the crucifixion of our Lord.   Now is a good time to read Mark’s account of Jesus’ final hours.  Read chapter 15.

What is this all about?   This great chain of grace God provides –  the Grace connection..

That we might know God, and accept the gift of everlasting life through Jesus’ death in our place.

 

What is your Grace connection?

 

Glenn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Psalm 12

The first few psalms are a great way to be oriented to God and to find True North in Him among the craziness that pervades our world and sometimes creeps into our church. I was reminded of the two greatest commandments here and noticed how the behaviour of David’s neighbours was diametrically opposed: ungodly, proud, obstinate, unfaithful, uncaring and uncompassionate. The focus is on words but the consequences are more visible (oppression and neglect). David, the greatest King of Israel, finds it too much. “God save me!” is his prayer. Ultimately our hope for justice and protection can only be located in God.

Words that are worthless do more harm than good. Broadly speaking untruth can be experienced as lies, insincerity or simply distortion and exaggeration. A myriad of un-helpfulness abounds in false claims, manipulative flattery, deceitful double-talk, boasting, threatening and proud ungodly stubbornness. We don’t have to look far to find examples I think not much has changed (such as much marketing, political spin-doctoring, sensational news items, heretical Christian books the list goes on).

David’s response was not a lengthy engagement in a statement of his defence. Just two words “Save me!” Then God’s active word changed everything as the Psalm continues (and also in many other places in the bible). God’s words by massive contrast are always valuable, effective and trustworthy because of his faithful heart of integrity. God does not change; He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow (Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 13:8). God’s power is immensely greater than the silly boasting of the arrogant. In the face of rotten social behaviour true justice demands cleansing. David called for his neighbours’ destruction in the Old Covenant paradigm. In the New Testament Christians are called to see themselves as salt – to be an antiseptic that lives among the morally unbound. I’m also reminded that to stand firm as in 1 & 2 Thessalonians takes effort, so as not to be blown away or lost in conformity.

In Revelation the church is constantly under threat of attack as she seeks to witness. She is not promised immediate deliverance out of evil, but helped in her suffering to hold fast faithfully to her true identity – to remain the community of God’s people. We are the people of ‘the God of the Bible’ who is faithful and true, who loves completely yet does not leave the guilty unpunished.

Of Jesus in John 6:68, Simon Peter replied, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life.”

References

Paul G. Apple, Commentary on Psalms, Baltimore.
Jim Jarrett, Psalm 12, Calvary Chapel, Palo Cedro.

Stand fast because you are chosen.

FDR for 15/03/2014
Todays’ passages are 2 Thessalonians 2:13-17 and Luke 20:45-21:4

As we sit eating our meal or having a drink at any time in any day we can watch the food for our eyes and mind from various parts of the world that demonstrate the wars and rumours of wars (Matt 24:5-7) that we are told to be aware of as signs of the end times.

What struck you in the last week of all the fighing and rumours of fighting? Perhaps Crimea and the invasion that is not. Perhaps the picture of the Syrian city, all but demolished, but standing in the natural light of what is left are thousands, perhaps millions of survivours crowded together. Perhaps the police and citizens fighting each other in Turkey. Then there is Somalia, Chad, and Egypt.

Shall I go on – no – I’m sure you can add some I haven’t mentioned.

This portion of the letter begins by reminding us we are chosen (v13) and called because God chose us from the beginning (v14). (see also Rom 8:30)

And then the very next thing is to “stand firm”.

Just walk with me mentally for a moment. If we are chosen and called by the Spirit then we could relax and not be concerned. Surely?

Ah, but the constant here is God’s grace and love of us as His children that we, as Thessalonians, should be encouraged and engaged to be steadfast in our belief. So this too is turned on its head, so that our close relationship with God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit does not allow us to relax and chill-out but encourages us to be firm in our faith. And by extension active also in our faith.

But the encouragement to stand firm is broader than just as we watch or read whatever brings the ugly news. Here the Thessalonians, and we too, are being encouraged to be firm in the much broader sense of our lives together as members of His church and before God.

While we are looking at things turned upside down, the passage in Luke describes Jesus views of the teachers of the law of His time, the equivalent of our ministers, as wolves making life harder for all and parading around.

Also to compare unfavourably the gifts of the rich and the gifts of the widow that are of much greater value than those of the rich. Not because her gift is counted but it is measured for its value to her.

Jesus contrasts the hypocrisy of the teachers of the law and the gift from the widow’s life. Her last two tiny coins, she gives her all.

A rhetorical question – When we look privately at our own exercise of our faith before God which do we live like, a teacher of the law or a widow?

Dear God, may we see honestly and clearly our own lives before and for You as they truly are. Strengthen us in our faith as we seek to stand firm as people who know Christ. These things we ask in the name of our Lord Jesus, Amen.

Glenn Murray
[This blog was prepared with the help of the Matthwew Henry Commentary and the IVP New Testament Commentary Series provided by the BibeGateway.com.]

One wrong decision

Just for a change I have taken the Message translation for today’s readings.

Luke 19:41-48
The Message (MSG)
41-44 When the city came into view, he wept over it. “If you had only recognized this day, and everything that was good for you! But now it’s too late. In the days ahead your enemies are going to bring up their heavy artillery and surround you, pressing in from every side. They’ll smash you and your babies on the pavement. Not one stone will be left intact. All this because you didn’t recognize and welcome God’s personal visit.”

45-46 Going into the Temple he began to throw out everyone who had set up shop, selling everything and anything. He said, “It’s written in Scripture,

My house is a house of prayer;
You have turned it into a religious bazaar.”
47-48 From then on he taught each day in the Temple. The high priests, religion scholars, and the leaders of the people were trying their best to find a way to get rid of him. But with the people hanging on every word he spoke, they couldn’t come up with anything.

2 Thessalonians 1:11-12
The Message (MSG)
11-12 Because we know that this extraordinary day is just ahead, we pray for you all the time—pray that our God will make you fit for what he’s called you to be, pray that he’ll fill your good ideas and acts of faith with his own energy so that it all amounts to something. If your life honors the name of Jesus, he will honor you. Grace is behind and through all of this, our God giving himself freely, the Master, Jesus Christ, giving himself freely.

The meeting that changed everything…
In early July 1927, a group of four men, Benjamin Strong, governor of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Sir Montagu Norman, governor of the Bank of England, Hjalmar Schacht, head of the Reichsbank and Charles Rist, deputy governor of the Banquet de France, met at an Estate on Northwestern Long Island. This was the exclusive area home to mansions owned by the Vanderbilts, Du Ponts, Astors, Morgans, Hearsts and many other of America’s wealthiest families. It is the area made famous in The Great Gatsby.

While America’s economy was booming, that of England, France and Germany and hence the rest of the world were in the doldrums. America enjoyed a record budget surplus, a booming stock market and a never ending spiral upward of share prices. While the GDP had risen 60%, stocks went up by 400% and with a steady influx of new investors there seemed no end to the cycle of boom that had gathered pace since the early twenties.

By 1927 almost half the world’s gold sat behind a ninety-ton steel door in a five story vault deep beneath the Federal Reserve Bank. This was not a good thing.

In the interests of world trade, the decision was made at this secretive meeting to cut America’s discount rate from 4% to 3.5 % to encourage holders of gold to move it to Europe where they would hopefully attract higher returns, bolster European reserves, stabilise the European currencies and boost trade. It would prove to be an unbelievable miscalculation.

Neither Calvin Coolidge nor his Treasury secretary Andrew Mellon saw fit to deal with disquiet voiced by many in the banking sector. They happily left the problem which we know as The Great Depression, and all its resultant misery was left for someone else to deal with.

So often throughout history men and women have been blind the the eventual impact of their decisions. The ruin is often visited upon another generation or those geographically distant.

Jerusalem makes the wrong choice..
In today’s reading, Christ, the Great Ambassador of Heaven as Matthew Henry refers to him, weeps as he beheld Jerusalem and the fate that awaited her. The gospel had been preached, salvation offered but they had resolutely refused to recognise God’s ‘Holy One’.

Jerusalem cannot escape the day of her desolation. While some heard and heeded the warning, ‘the body of the nation, and the leading part of it, were sealed up under unbelief.’ (Henry) In under forty year the terrible destruction wrought upon the city by Rome was complete. No stone and no person was spared.

Jerusalem had bequeathed for itself a terrible doom by their refusal to heed the warnings given. The prophets had spoken, and it had been repeatedly demonstrated what would happen when Israel refused God’s warnings. While those four men could never have foreseen the terrible destruction their single decision was to bequeath to the world on October 29 1929. The leadership in Jerusalem however had warning.

The warnings were clear and they still are today. We need to heed God’s gracious offer of salvation though the death and resurrection of Jesus. Faith and trust in him alone. After all….Grace is behind and through all of this, our God giving himself freely, the Master, Jesus Christ, giving himself freely.

(For a full account of the meeting read Bill Bryson’s ‘One Summer America 1927’)