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.

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Religion or Relationship?

Today’s readings are 2 Kings 16:1-17:6 and Philipians 1:1-11.

In this small summary of Ahaz’s rule we learn that he did not trust the living God, but rather, when Syria and Israel joined forces to attack Judah and Jerusalem, Ahaz trusted instead to the power of a foreign kingdom, submitting his rule and his kingdom as vassals to Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria, giving the silver and gold from the Lord’s temple as a gift to the foreign king. Continue reading

Priests, Peace and Praises

Joshua 21:1-42

Take Special Care of the Poor Clergy! 

The heading is a quote from a commentator’s explanation of what is recorded in the chapter.

The calling of the Priests and Levites was to serve the community by serving the Lord who was the Lord both of the Land and of the community.

The possession of the Priests and Levites was the Lord himself: not land but the Lord. However provision needed to be made for their accommodation and maintenance and God’s people, by provisions like these and by their share of the sacrifices, were to care of those who ministered in the sanctuary.

The arrangement of the cities of the sons of Levi forms a general likeness to the way the members of tribe were situated around the tent of meeting in the wilderness.

As has been observed before, these were God’s people in the land God had chosen to be His and the Tent which marked his Presence stood at the centre: at that time in Shiloh.

The Cities of Refuge, havens for unintentional killers until their matter could be judged, were allocated as God had commanded.

Perhaps we can draw from this passage a couple of important lessons for ourselves.

Initially, we might remind ourselves that whether under the Old or the New Covenant God is to be at the centre of the life of the believing community. When the people of God gather together, they gather around God as His people. Their primary responsibility is to honour him with their praise and prayers, with their faith and love for His word, with their submission to his will, and with their love for one another. In short, they are to worship Him as the Lord in their midst.

Perhaps too, it is not improper to notice the responsibility that falls upon the people of God to maintain appropriately those who serve the Christian community in the things of God.

A humorous remark used to circulate about the fervent prayer of an old Church Warden as he contemplated the coming of the new minister: “Lord you keep him humbly and we’ll keep him poor!” May the Lord indeed keep his servants humble but churches have no license from God to be ungenerous towards those who serve their spiritual wellbeing in any capacity.

Joshua 21:43-45

God Gave Them Rest

Theses verses end this major section of Joshua. The notion of rest is an important one. It is an expression that God has fulfilled his promises which this small section directly asserts.

Hebrews chapter 4 takes up the idea of “rest” and ought to be read in conjunction with this passage. We should take heed to the encouragement from Hebrews to “hold fast our confession” and to “draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need”.

Philippians 1:12-18

“In that I Rejoice”

Paul’s source of gladness was that whether by kind friend or jealous antagonists the gospel of the grace of God was being made known even in the ‘praetorium’ or governor’s residence.

The message of Christ, and of God’s free and abundant grace, in him is a joy to those who depend on Christ alone for their salvation. Their joy is increased when, by whatever means, that saving truth invades the life of others enabling them to enter into the same experience of blessing.

Paul would teach the Ephesians that God had chosen them in Christ before the world began with the purpose that they should be holy and blameless before him in love. That blessed condition was realised when they heard of Christ and his saving work on the cross and in his resurrection and believed in it for themselves.

It is when we are moved by God’s Spirit to see the wonder of God’s salvation and spontaneously rejoice in it, that we are the most moved to help others to see what we have been led to see.

The joy of Paul in Jesus is spelt out in all his letters as he unfolds the sovereign, full, and free salvation into which God draws sinful people by His Spirit through the gospel message.

It my opinion the best way to stir the flame of evangelistic zeal is to see and to embrace in mind and heart the wonder of a salvation that takes someone dead in trespasses and sin, pardons them, sets them apart as God’s possession, liberates them from Sin’s dominion and the clutches of Satan, places His Spirit within them as his seal of ownership, and undertakes to present them faultless in His presence with great joy. In that I too rejoice and will continue to rejoice throughout eternity.

May the God of peace be with you

Today’s readings are from Philippians 4:8-23 and Ruth 4

It is only the first of November as I write this reflection.  I am sitting at the bedside of my father in palliative care at Port Kembla hospital. He has a short time to remain on this earth and each day becomes more of a struggle as he battles mesothelioma.  I am grieving as I sit here, not just for his suffering, but for the fact that he doesn’t want to know who Jesus is.

What does Dad think about? His mind is still sharp and clear. We chat about the past, his early years in England, the war, his marriage, building our family home, his work and friends, current affairs and politics.  Are these things honourable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent and worthy of praise? Yes of course, so many wonderful memories.  But do these things bring comfort and peace?

While he sleeps, what do I think about? I am thankful and grateful for the care he is receiving at this special place but I also feel a great and heavy sadness as I see his body suffering, and I am fearful for what lies ahead for him if he doesn’t come to know Jesus as his Saviour.  Then, as I re-read the passage, verse 11 reminds me that the author Paul says, I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.

How can I be content when I feel so low?  Verse 13 reminds me: I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.  My faithful Heavenly Father will support and guide me through any possible situation that I might face.  Over many years I have heard and learned about Jesus and have a clear blueprint to follow.  If I can put into that into practice, I know that the peace of God will be with me.  But what to focus on, what to practise?

I focus on Jesus and His love for me, His death for me and feel humbled and in awe.  I focus on prayer as the Holy Spirit guides my thoughts and groanings and know with certainty that I am being heard.  I remember the care and love people have shown me during this sad time and feel grateful and encouraged.

It is now the 8th of November. Today as I sat with Dad I read to him from John’s gospel.  I talked to him about Jesus and His love and sacrifice for all of us.  Dad lay unmoving, with eyes glued closed from medication, but I know he could hear me.  I can say, I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.

And my God will supply every need of mine according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.  To our God and Father be glory forever and ever.  Amen.

Dad – 16.3.23 – 12.11.13

Justice, Law and Grace

Todays readings are Judges 21 and Philippians 3:1-11

Judges 21 is the end of a sequence of events that seems truly bizarre to our modern eyes.  Take a moment to change your mindset to that of an Israelite in the promised land. One of twelve tribes brought to the land by God and meant to be a holy nation. An example to those around of a Godly people. A people who care for each other and act with justice.

The tribe of Bejamin have have been held to account for the brutal murder of a woman. The other tribes of Israel sought to bring justice against Benjamin in battle. But now the other tribes are faced with a stark reality in the aftermath of that battle. The tribe of Benjamin may cease to exist.

In an act of love and concern for their brother Benjamites they seek to find wives for them. This is a noble thing and shows how deeply rooted the value of the twelve tribes had amongst the people.

However, they have constrained themselves from giving wives to the Benjamiites by an oath. The strange events that follow as they hatch their cunning plan is of their own making. We are seeing something described, not prescribed as they go on their wife snatching hunt.

Just like the vow of Jephthah in Judges 11:29-49, it is a rash vow that has tied their hands and brought them to this questionable solution.

But God does not value their legalistic adherence to their vows, or to any laws:

I get no pleasure from the blood of bulls and lambs and goats.
When you come to worship me, who asked you to parade through my courts with all your ceremony?
Stop bringing me your meaningless gifts; the incense of your offerings disgusts me
Isa 1:11-13

Imagine the impact on their own hearts and their nation if they instead humbled themselves and admitted their foolishness before God.

God’s desire for their hearts is beautifully summarised by Micah:

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God
Mic 6:8

In Philippians, Paul urges the church to beware those who would bind them up in laws rather than keeping their confidence in Christ Jesus. Paul feigns boasting about such things, as he points out he was a “Hebrew of Hebrews”. Yet his wonderful words show where he now places his value:

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.
Phil 3:7

He does not consider his lineage, his upbringing, his training or his religious zeal anything to be counted. He only counts one kind of righteousness to be of any value:

that which is through faith in Christ – the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.
Phil 3:9

May we only ever lean on the righteousness that comes from God as we seek to act justly, love mercy and above all walk humbly with our God.

“Let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ” (Phil 1:27)

Oh this is huge! Spend some time this morning meditating on this command.

We find it in a number of other places in Scripture:

“I therefore, a prisoner of the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called”. (Eph 4:1)

“Walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Col 1:10)

“We exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory” (1 Thess 2:12)

It’s important we don’t get the wrong idea here. What these passages aren’t saying is that we can act in such a way as to merit or deserve God’s favour. Remember it is by grace you have been saved, through faith, not by works (Eph 2:8, 9). The focus in these texts is rather the worth and the value of the gospel of Christ. The point is that “God is worthy of our complete and unqualified dedication and devotion”. Sam Storms helpfully explains:

“Our great Triune God and the marvellous and undeserved kindness that is ours in the gospel are of such infinite value, so exalted and beautiful and full of glory, that we should always live in such a way that it be known. Our lives, by his grace, should reflect positively on God. People should walk away from having observed us saying, “My goodness, what an incredible God he/she believes in!” Our aim isn’t to evoke from them praise and admiration of who we are, but praise and admiration of who he is! Jesus, the cross, the gospel of salvation by grace alone through faith alone, are worthy of lives that reflect on their value, not ours.”

Wow. The challenge for us then is this: How will we display the infinite value of God and his gospel in the way we act and speak and think and consume and relate to others today?

Daniel Budd

An inheritance that will never be taken away!

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Today’s readings are taken from Numbers 36 and Philippians 4:10-23.

Finally we come to the end of Numbers and what a journey it has been, forty years in the making. Today’s reading deals with the problem of inheritance within the Israelite community and more specifically the clan of Manasseh as they wait upon the Plains of Moab. The problem concerned the progression of inheritance if the daughters of Zelophehad, who, having been given his inheritance upon his death, were to marry outside of their tribe. The elders’ concerns were legitimate and Moses listened to their case and the eventual decision was made that the daughters should marry within their clan.

No inheritance in Israel is to pass from one tribe to another, for every Israelite shall keep the tribal inheritance of their ancestors. (Numbers 36:7)

In this way God’s provision for each of the tribes would be preserved for evermore. God would be faithful to his covenant despite the ongoing unfaithfulness of the people.

For us living in the other side of the cross should we also be concerned about our inheritance in Christ?

Hebrews remind us…

For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant. (Hebrews 9:15)

These words should give us great reassurance, but, in the meantime we have maturing and work to do. We ought also to be secure in this because we know just as Paul did that our needs will be met. He speaks warmly of his great joy in the support and fellowship he received from the Philippian church. His grateful remembrance of them leads him to speak of his dependence on The Lord and the blessing that come from generous giving. We too need to have this attitude of dependence and contentment, all with an eye to the future.

Greg