The Greatest Commandment

Today’s Reading:  Judges 2:1-3:6, Matthew 22:34-46

Have you ever tried to surf? I did.

Every Christmas my family would head up the coast and spent weeks camping at a place called Bateau Bay where we would spend long hot summer days down by the beach. Like all young blonde Aussie boys I wanted to surf. So, one Christmas mum and dad bought me a Styrofoam surf board and my surfing career began.

What looked so simple (and seemed to be so simple for all the other young blokes) turned out to be impossible for me. I just couldn’t stand up on that board no matter what I tried. Over time the other guys graduated to fibreglass boards and then to Shelly’s – the surf beach around the corner. But I stayed stuck at Bateau Bay – the boy who could not surf.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and all your mind, and all your soul.

When the Pharisee’s asked the question “What is the greatest commandment” they may have expected something more complicated from Jesus – something more involved. Instead Jesus responded with a short simple statement: Love the Lord your God  as No.1!

At face value it sounds simple. Certainly the statement is easy enough for the youngest child to understand. However, while Jesus command might roll off the tongue mastering a wayward heart is something else entirely.

This simple command is impossible to do.

And it gets harder. As Jesus goes on to explain in verse 39 the outworking of loving God is to love others as ourselves. I find I am so hopelessly self-absorbed that I even have difficulty loving the one person on the planet I hold dearest in the world – my wife. What hope have I of loving my neighbour – a complete stranger – or worse – loving those who hate me?

Clearly the ancient Israelites had difficulty giving God rightful place in their lives too. The summary passage in Judges 2 and 3 this morning describes the endlessly repeating cycling of rebellion – judgement – salvation – restoration, over and over again, generation after generation, as the Israelites tried and failed to serve God in their own strength.

We, like the Israelite’s, are addicted to sin. The First commandment is simple to say but impossible to do. Trying to be “good enough” will never be “good enough”.

The flawed surfer

Decades after I had given up any hope of a professional surfing career I discovered why I was never able to surf. My well-meaning parents had bought me a board without a fin! My surfing career was flawed from the outset – doomed to be a lowly body boarder all of my days!

Likewise we have no chance of completely loving God because we are hopelessly flawed.  Our sin-addicted hearts will never allow us to completely serve God and love others. We will always fall short of Jesus first command.

We need to be born again. We need a new heart. We need a supernatural intervention. And the great news is that we can have that new start in Jesus.

A new Heart

Praise God for Jesus. Thank God that while we were still His enemy, he sent Jesus to pay for our sin, to put his spirit in our hearts, and start the work of giving us a new heart – changing our affections and desires to incline toward him.

Because of Jesus we can know what it is to “delight in the Lord” not simply obey him out of duty.

Because of Jesus we can know the unspeakable joy that comes in serving the Lord free from guilt and shame.

Because of Jesus, while we are far from perfect, what can experience what it is like to love others self-sacrificially as Jesus loved us, and return to Him again again for forgiveness and strength when we fail.

What is impossible with man is possible with God. God can change us – and He does.

This morning.

Praise God for sending his son Jesus to die for us. Thank Him for the new heart he places in those who trust Him. Pray that he might continue to change us so that we may love Him wholeheartedly.

The things that are God’s

Our readings today are Judges 1 and Matthew 22:15-33. By virtue of the way our reading plan has moved around, our Old Testament reading in Judges is a big step back in history from Nehemiah. While Nehemiah’s mission was to rebuild the walls of his beloved Jerusalem, in Judges 1, we see Judah being the first to go up against the Canaanites in battle, in the conquest of Jerusalem, since God had “given the land into his hand”.

Yet even in this first chapter of Judges we begin to see that the conquest of Canaan is not going to be straight forward, Continue reading

Israel’s God – Judge of All the Earth

Psalm 76

Our God is great, glorious and majestic. Human efforts to attack and harm God, human efforts to kill God, human efforts to defeat and humiliate God, are doomed to fail. Political leaders of the earth, no matter how bloated with their own importance and power, are at His mercy. Violent and murderous militias of humans fall powerless and still before the rebuke and judgement of God.

Our God saves. He is not aloof, secure, and distant from the pain of his creation. Across the earth our God hears the cries of all the oppressed, and establishes judgements in their support. The rage and injustice displayed by humans only serves to provide more opportunities for God to display his saving love.

Our God saves. In Jesus, God humbled Himself, unthinkably, to allow humans to attack, harm, kill, defeat and humiliate Him. All for the oppressed of the earth.

Our God is awesome. Human wickedness does not have the last word. The resurrected King saves, once and for all, his creation, oppressed under the terrible curse of sin and death. Our God has risen, to establish judgement and to rescue.

Today this ancient song calls us, as a community, to honour our glorious God, and invites us to declare our loyalty to His reign of justice and love. In this world groaning under hatred, bigotry, and senseless violence, we proclaim our allegiance to the God who saves, and His Kingdom.

Lord God, be with those who are oppressed this day by grief, violence and injustice. Your Kingdom come, Your will be done!

Jane

 

He is Faithful, we are Sinful, His Grace Covers Us

Today’s reading is taken from Nehemiah 11 & Matthew 21:23-32.

The Israelites through the ages have been a people who have had front-row seats to witness the faithfulness and patience of the Lord. Time and time again these ‘stiff-necked’ people tested Him beyond reason. Starting with the ‘golden calf’ incident at Mount Sinai all the way to the Asherah Poles in Josiah’s day, the people responded to His faithfulness with scorn.

Reading Nehemiah 11 the first time round will not give you much, just a list of names which are not the easiest to pronounce. However, what unfolds here is part of the restoration of Jerusalem and the revival of Israel. You see God had made a covenant with Abraham in Genesis 12 and created Israel, a chosen nation through his seed. Turned out this nation had a knack for sinfulness and at every turn they challenged God’s authority and purposes. God himself famously states: “I have seen this people, and they are a stiff necked people”. However, not for one moment did God forget his promise to Abraham to make him into a great nation. Although like a father disciplines his child, God disciplined Israel. But never did He throw in the towel and say ‘Okay, I’ve had enough!!’

Throughout the Old Testament God displays his faithfulness and patience to a sinful people despite their explicit rebellion. A part of Israel’s disciplining was the exile to Babylon and Assyria, and after the time was completed emerged a remnant that ensured the Abrahamic covenant didn’t end there. Nehemiah 11 is a record of how God in His Grace restores a people that constantly rejected him.

Now fast forward the story of Israel to the Gospel of Matthew. Chapter 21 reveals to us that not much had changed with these people. They were still as determined to question God’s authority as they were in Nehemiah’s day. God, however had been faithful to Israel and had preserved them through the centuries and had now brought to them their Savior, the culmination of the Abrahamic covenant, to finally reverse the curse of Genesis 3. But even here, His chosen people responded to His relentless faithfulness with contempt.

But because of His grace, even then, God refused to throw in the towel and say ‘Okay, I’ve had enough!!’, but instead decided to lay down his very life ‘for the joy that was set before him’. This is what His faithfulness to the Israelites looked like, and this is what His faithfulness to us looks like today. That ‘while we were still sinners He redeemed us’ through the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross. Our God is faithful, although once sinners we have been set free from the bondage of sin by His grace that covers us every time we stumble. Let us be a people determined to trust in Him and not question His authority, to worship Him and not replace him with useless idols like the Israelites did at Mount Sinai.

Have a listen to this song. Blessings!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X9E5Yck_cvQ

Sam, KIC

Humble Confession

Humble Confession

Nehemiah 9:1-37a

The passage is a sustained confession of spiritual failure and an acknowledgement that their history of exile was the consequence of their failure of loyalty to the God who had made them his people.

In our own daily lives there are ample occasions to be disloyal to the God who has called us in Jesus to be His children. Confession and repentance are not matters for the past only. Here now in Australia, Christians face a serious challenge to the universally and millennia held view of the nature of marriage. In the future it could well become a punishable offense (as it has in other places) to maintain that ancient and universal view and to express in public the Bible’s position on marriage and same sex unions.

Jesus Cleanses the Temple

Matthew 21:12-17

Matthew, Mark and Luke each record this event while John has a similar account but placed earlier in the ministry of Jesus. There has been sustained discussion about the reasons for this difference.

Jesus drew on three Old Testament passages in this segment. The first is from Isaiah 56:7, the second from Jeremiah 7:11, and the third from Psalm 8:2.

The first quotation comes from a passage in which Isaiah speaks of God including in his people members of others nations who serve Him and love His Name. His temple will be a place for all nations. Jesus’ command to take the gospel to all the world and make disciples from the nations is the further expression of this same truth.

The second quotation is from God’s word to Jeremiah in which ancient Israel is challenged to begin to practise obedience to God and not to place confidence solely in the physical presence of the Temple. The applicability of Jesus’ words is obvious.

The third Old Testament passage quoted by Jesus links the gratitude and praise of those whom Jesus healed to the infants mentioned in the Psalm. Sadly the leadership saw the deeds of Jesus but would not accept what they conveyed.

Let us pray that we will always be attuned to what God is doing in His world.

Humble Confession

Humble Confession

Nehemiah 9:1-37a

The passage is a sustained confession of spiritual failure and an acknowledgement that their history of exile was the consequence of their failure of loyalty to the God who had made them his people.

In our own daily lives there are ample occasions to be disloyal to the God who has called us in Jesus to be His children. Confession and repentance are not matters for the past only. Here now in Australia, Christians face a serious challenge to the universally and millennia held view of the nature of marriage. In the future it could well become a punishable offence (as it has in other places) to maintain that ancient and universal view and to express in public the Bible’s position on marriage and same sex unions.

Jesus Cleanses the Temple

Matthew 21:12-17

Matthew, Mark and Luke each record this event while John has a similar account but placed earlier in the ministry of Jesus. There has been sustained discussion about the reasons for this difference.

Jesus drew on three Old Testament passages in this segment. The first is from Isaiah 56:7, the second from Jeremiah 7:11, and the third from Psalm 8:2.

The first quotation comes from a passage in which Isaiah speaks of God including in his people members of others nations who serve Him and love His Name. His temple will be a place for all nations. Jesus’ command to take the gospel to all the world and make disciples from the nations is the further expression of this same truth.

The second quotation is from God’s word to Jeremiah in which ancient Israel is challenged to begin to practise obedience to God and not to place confidence solely in the physical presence of the Temple. The applicability of Jesus’ words is obvious.

The third Old Testament passage quoted by Jesus links the gratitude and praise of those whom Jesus healed to the infants mentioned in the Psalm. Sadly the leadership saw the deeds of Jesus but would not accept what they conveyed.

Let us pray that we will be attuned to what God is doing in His world.

Humble Confession

Humble Confession

Nehemiah 9:1-37a

The passage is a sustained confession of spiritual failure and an acknowledgement that their history of exile was the consequence of their failure of loyalty to the God who had made them his people.

In our own daily lives there are ample occasions to be disloyal to the God who has called us in Jesus to be His children. Confession and repentance are not matters for the past only. Here now in Australia, Christians face a serious challenge to the universally and millennia held view of the nature of marriage. In the future it could well become a punishable offence (as it has in other places) to maintain that ancient and universal view and to express in public the Bible’s position on marriage and same sex unions.

 

Jesus Cleanses the Temple

Matthew 21:12-17

Matthew, Mark and Luke each record this event while John has a similar account but placed earlier in the ministry of Jesus. There has been sustained discussion about the reasons for this difference.

Jesus drew on three Old Testament passages in this segment. The first is from Isaiah 56:7, the second from Jeremiah 7:11, and the third from Psalm 8:2.

The first quotation comes from a passage in which Isaiah speaks of God including in his people members of others nations who serve Him and love His Name. His temple will be a place for all nations. Jesus’ command to take the gospel to all the world and make disciples from the nations is the further expression of this same truth.

The second quotation is from God’s word to Jeremiah in which ancient Israel is challenged to begin to practise obedience to God and not to place confidence solely in the physical presence of the Temple. The applicability of Jesus’ words is obvious.

The third Old Testament passage quoted by Jesus links the gratitude and praise of those whom Jesus healed to the infants mentioned in the Psalm. Sadly the leadership saw the deeds of Jesus but would not accept what they conveyed.

Let us pray that we will be attuned to what God is doing in His world.