Choose Life

If you’re a fan of Wham in the 1984 then this this image will mean something to you.Those T shirts were everywhere and are still popular today. According to Google  the inspiration for these shirts created by English fashion designer Katharine E. Hamnett might have come from Deuteronomy 30:19

Image result for choose life wham

I cant help thinking though that our 2 readings 2 Chr16, Matt6:19-24 are about choice and indeed part of the life that God offers.

In Chronicles King Asa of Judah starts out really well. “He did what was right and prospered (Chapter 14). There was covenant renewal (Chapter 15) enjoying peace. By Chapter 16 though it starts to go bad. When confronted by an invasion from the Israel he hired foreign Aramean forces using his own and the temple’s wealth. He did this rather than trusting in the Lord and imprisoned the prophet (Hanani) who rebuked him. In his 39th year (of his reign) he was afflicted with a disease, but still steadfastly refused to seek the Lord. He dies 2 years later” (from NIV text notes)

For a large part of his reign king Asa made some great choices in terms of honouring the Lord but sadly did not finish well.

In Matt6: Jesus is speaking to the disciples and the crowd about ” 3 acts of righteousness – giving, praying, fasting” He then goes on to address the issue of money. We are encouraged to store up treasure (spiritual blessings) in heaven (Eph 1:) One is temporary the other eternal. Jesus talked a lot about money and the love humanity seems to have for it.

The mistake we often make is Jesus is not talking about the cash but the desire. You can be not well off at all and have little or no money but still desire and love it. The converse is true too of course……..and everything in between.

In the end it’s about the heart AS IT ALWAYS IS.

Simples really – Look at where your treasure is and there you will find your heart. May we all finish well,  so continue to choose well my friends.

 

 

 

 

But the Lord looks at the heart

Our readings today are 2 Chr 12 and Matt 6:1-4.

2 Chr 12 brings us to the end of three chapters describing Rehoboam’s reign as king. And how does the author sum up 17 years of rule?

And he did evil, for he did not set his heart to seek the Lord (v14)

Rehoboam even get’s a reprieve from being totally destroyed by the Egyptians in verses 6-12 because he and the princes of Israel humbled themselves and acknowledged that “The Lord is righteous”, but at the end of it all his life and reign were summarised as having done evil, because his heart was not set to seek the Lord.

I ask myself how my life would be summarised by the chronicler if it came down to one sentence. Have I set my heart to seek the Lord? What about you?

Matt 6:1-4 talks of reward from God, and of acts done in humility rather than boasting. Is there some sort of divine calculus that says that any good act can only have a set amount of reward, and if you got it from others already, you can’t have any from God? I don’t think God is miserly or stingy; he has no lack of resources; nor does he set a limit on blessing.

Rather, I think God sees behind the action to the motivation. Gifts of generosity done for approval and reputation are motivated by self. Giving to the needy when no one can see is other centred, from a heart that wants to help.

With all the things we could pursue in this life, the approval of others, wealth, pleasure, knowledge, health, perfect appearance, it’s good to remember God’s words to Samuel when he was sent to anoint David as Israel’s king while Saul still reigned…

The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. –1 Samuel 16:7

Are you ready for the revolution?

Matthew 5: 33-48

Today’s reading takes us further into Jesus’ revolutionary and formative teaching to his disciples. Who are they to be? How are they to behave? What should they value?

Jesus takes the Hebrew Scriptures and applies them to the challenges of living under the oppressive rule of brutal Roman occupying forces and the societal injustices of the Roman Empire. His teaching is the manifesto of a radically alternative Kingdom.

Concerning Oaths

Exodus 20:7 prohibits false oaths made in the name of God. Jesus extends this to all vows, wreathed in what the Message Bible calls “a smoke screen of pious talk…You don’t make your words true by embellishing them with religious lace.”  Use words which promote honesty, integrity and simplicity. Let’s say what we mean to each other. Let’s say what is true for us.

Concerning Retaliation

Exodus 21: 24 restricts revenge for wrongs to a proportionate response. Jesus’ exhorts his disciples to use nonviolent responses to injustice and wrongs. Instead of advocating the extremes of either passivity or aggression, Jesus preaches responses which restore dignity and initiative to those living under oppression and in circumstances of low status and power. Roman forces could commandeer labour, equipment, supplies, transportation and shelter from those who they occupied. Roman soldiers were legally able, for example, to force a Jew to carry a soldier’s pack for one mile of his journey. Jesus’ approach is revolutionary. If an aggressor strikes you, takes your possessions, forces you to take their pack for a mile, take back the initiative in your choice of response. Oppressive actions designed to humiliate and intimidate, are turned into opportunities to disarm aggressors, even shame them. Nothing diminishes the value and dignity of every person, no matter how powerless and oppressed, in the ethics of God’s Kingdom.

Love for Enemies

Leviticus 19:18 commands that we love our neighbours. Jesus expands this outrageously to specifically include our enemies. The love of our Father, which is generous, indiscriminate and merciful, is the love which we are to imitate.

In a world which pulls us daily into a dichotomy of ‘winners’ versus ‘losers,’ ‘bad’ versus ‘good,’ ‘West’ versus ‘Muslims,’ Jesus’ exhortation is unsettling and destabilizing. He invites his disciples and us to step into love and life-giving mercy to all, both good and bad; he invites us into the counter culture of the Kingdom of God.

Live with generosity, love and mercy towards others, the way your heavenly Father lives towards you. This is Jesus’ teaching for us today, and his somewhat scary yet exhilerating invitation to live within his radically alternative Kingdom.

Love Jane

Motives of the Heart

Today’s reading is taken from 2 Chron. 9 & Matt 5:17-26

Under Solomon’s reign Israel reaches its climax in the process of redemption that started in Egypt which is clearly seen especially in the building of the temple. Tall tales of Solomon’s wisdom, wealth and extravagance reached all corners of the world and ‘all the kings of the earth sought audience with Solomon to hear the wisdom God had put in his heart’ (v.23). The people, Solomon and the Queen of Sheba rightly see this as a blessing from God and recognize Him as the Source of this prosperity.

Chapter 9 is pretty much an inventory of what Solomon has accomplished. Two hundred shields of hammered gold, steps made of algumwood and the list goes on. Here, it is important to see God’s promises to Abraham being fulfilled by the establishing of the Davidic dynasty through Solomon. Under the blessing of God Solomon becomes a builder who undertakes several projects which included the Temple, his palace and the Palace of the Forest of Lebanon. However, as Solomon continues to bask in the glory and the success bestowed upon him by God he gradually forgets the big picture. Somewhere along the way Solomon stops building for the glory of God and Israel and starts to build for his own glory and vanity.

In Matthew 5 Jesus makes it abundantly clear that one’s outward expression should be the result of an inward godliness. Without God at the center of our motives, any outward action only goes to feed our own pride and self-exaltation. This is what happened to Solomon. Yes he built a Temple for God – probably his most acclaimed accomplishment, and continued to build to prosper Israel. However thanks to his over-sized harem his heart changes and is no longer set on God.

Solomon’s story is so much our story today. During those joyful seasons when we’re seeing success after success it is so easy to take all the credit and forget the Source of our prosperity. For us seasoned Christians the people around us may not even notice that subtle change in our hearts because, like the Pharisees, our outward faith or ‘religiosity’ may sometimes be what really defines us. But as Jesus puts in Matthew 5 it’s not what you do outwardly that is of the highest importance, but it’s the motive of your heart that counts, the very posture of your heart which needs be to set entirely on desiring Him and Him alone.

Sam, KIC

The Temple of God

2 Chronicles 7

This chapter records three things of particular importance.

First, it records the coming of the presence of God to the Temple which David had planned and which Solomon built. This was like the coming of the glory of God to the wilderness tabernacle recorded in Exodus 40:34-35.

Next, it was the place where repentant Israel was to come to experience God’s renewed mercy and forgiveness.

Finally, its ruin would become and appalling witness to God’s departure from his people if they worshipped and served other gods.

There is no account of a similar coming of the glory of God on the second temple built by the exiles returning from Babylon. But God’s presence did in fact come to that Temple enhanced by Herod in Jerusalem when God, the Son came to that complex and to the people of God.

Though rejected by many, those who welcome Him become His temple (1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19; 2 Corinthians 6:16). It is we who believe in Him who are the location where His Spirit dwells

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:17-18)

Who Are the Truly Happy?

Matthew 5:1-12

Here is the Lord’s summary of those who are truly happy. Some observers may think the very opposite but these are they who look to God and in so looking are blessed indeed. There is a sharp contrast between the values of God’s Kingdom and those of our surrounding culture.

Prayer and the Whole of Life

2Chronicles 6:12-42

This magnificent prayer makes life before God a whole-of-life affair. These people were the people of God and God was to be their first and final resort in all aspects of their life..

Solomon reckons on God as a promise keeping God and so we find Him to be also. We live by and upon His promises.

The great and prayerful George Mueller wrote: “… the first thing I did, after having asked in a few words the Lord’s blessing upon His precious word, was, to begin to meditate on the word of God, searching, as it were, into every verse to get blessing out of it. … The result I have found to be almost invariably this, that after a few minutes my soul has been led to confession, or tho thanksgiving, or to intercession, or to supplication; so that, though I did not, as it were, give myself to prayer, but to meditation, yet it turned almost immediately more or less to prayer. When thus I have been for awhile making confession, or intercession, or supplication, or have given thanks, I go on to the next words or verse, turning all, as I go on, into prayer for myself or others, as the Word may lead to it.”

The Sovereign Lord of all listens to our prayers and we are shaped as we pray.

Jesus Begins His Public Ministry

Matthew 4:23-25

The Kingdom that Jesus proclaimed and whose powers he demonstrated has come, not yet in its fullness, but it has come. The final rule of God has broken into our fallen world and it is being peopled by those who become new creations through faith in Jesus.

We who look to Jesus wait expectantly for that final day knowing that as Paul wrote: “… we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

Overcoming Temptation

The passages for our Faithful Daily Reading today are 2 Chronicles 4:1 – 5:1 and Matthew 4:1-11. Pastorally, I judge, that the Matthew passage might be far more helpful to comment on.

In this reading we see Jesus recalling verses from the Old Testament and quoting them to Satan. Jesus was victorious. Have you tried doing what Jesus did and it hasn’t worked? I wonder, “Why?”.

Perhaps the answer lies in the distinction between magic and faith. Magic is using an object or chant in a desperate attempt to ward off evil or control circumstances. Faith on the other hand is a quiet confidence that what God says is true enough to act on. We have to be careful about using Bible verses as a magic talisman, waving them around to desperately repel temptation (but we wouldn’t do that would we?).

But when we look at Matthew chapter 4, we see that Jesus used Scripture in quite another way. He went into the Word, found a principle or truth, and said in effect, “I will now live by this truth.”

Jesus saw the Word of God as truth, and was determined to act on that truth. It was this exercise of faith that gave Him victory over His temptations. And it is just the same exercise of faith that will give us the victory when we are tempted today.

So, we have to look for the key to our victory in the Word of God (really, where else would we find it?) – but not use our Bible as if it is a magic formula. Rather, let’s take God at His Word, act on what He says and let God use our faith to give us the victory over temptation.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer has a good word on “Temptation”, and I quote it here…

“The Bible tells only two temptations stories, the temptation of the first man and the temptation of Christ, that is, the temptation which led to man’s fall and the temptation which led to Satan’s failure. All other temptations in human history have to do with these two stories of temptation. Either we are tempted in Adam or we are tempted in Christ. Either the Adam in me is tempted – in which case I fall. Or the Christ in us is tempted- in which was Satan is bound to fall.”

Have a great day,

 

Peter Clark.