Any Indolent Knaves Out There?

Psalm 118 – what a wonderful read! A wealth of song writing and poetry material. It is worth reading daily to enjoy reminding ourselves we are not in this life alone. This good, good Father loves us from before we were created, and now and to eternity. What comfort! Such love! We need not fear the future or worry about the past but live each day appreciating every gift from this all knowing and faithful Lord.

As I read this Psalm lines of songs pop into my head:

Give thanks to the Lord for He is good, His love endures forever

Christ alone, cornerstone, weak made strong in the Saviour’s love

I will give thanks to you, O Lord among the heavens

This is the day, this is the day that the Lord has made.

I read the following quote from Enduring Word by David Guzik: Though this was [likely] David’s Psalm it was also Luther’s Psalm.

“This is my own beloved psalm. Although the entire Psalter and all of Holy Scripture are dear to me as my only comfort and source of life, I fell in love with this psalm especially. Therefore I call it my own. When emperors and kings, the wise and the learned, and even saints could not aid me, this psalm proved a friend and helped me out of many great troubles. As a result, it is dearer to me than all the wealth, honor, and power of the pope, the Turk, and the emperor. I would be most unwilling to trade this psalm for all of it.” (Martin Luther, cited by Boice)

Luther went on to say about verse 5 Out of my distress I called on the Lord :

“Thou must learn to call, and not to sit there by thyself, and lie on the bench, hang and shake thy head, and bite and devour thyself with thy thoughts; but come on, thou indolent knave, down upon thy knees, up with thy hands and eyes to heaven, take a Psalm or a prayer, and set forth thy distress with tears before God.” (Luther, cited in Spurgeon)

Such faith in action! Let’s hope and pray we recall this Psalm when any indolent knaves we know are facing problems in life. May we be prepared to get down on our knees and call on our Saviour as a first resort.

Re-read the psalm again and think about our God and Father, his never-ending love and all he has done for us with the death of his Son, and be thankful.

Iris

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The burial of Jesus

As I read the account of the burial of Jesus I was impressed by the  bravery of Joseph. It was Joseph alone who approached Pilate after all that had happened. According to Jewish custom Jesus body could not remain on the cross overnight, particularly when the next  day was the Sabbath. The Roman custom, on  the other hand, was to let bodies  of crucified criminals hang in view of all until they rotted away. This was to act as a deterent to others. So Joseph goes to Pilate to ask for the body.  Apparently no family members of Jesus nor any of his close friends, the apostles, had the courage to ask for the body of Jesus. It would be a dangerous time show your allegiance to a crucified criminal. Perhaps Pilate felt guilty in the first place after the warning from his wife. But why would he feel guilty over the death of a mere Jew?  Pilate ordered that the body be given to Joseph. The body was laid in Joseph’s own tomb. The entrance was covered with a heavy disc shaped stone that rolled in an inclined channel cut into the rock making the tomb easy to close but difficult to open, thus preventing grave robbers. The Jewish authorities were fearful that Jesus’ disciples may come and steal the body and then proclaim that Jesus had risen from the dead. It is amazing that Jesus continues to threaten the Jews even from the grave. Remember those magician shows where the magician go to all attempts to convince the audience that the allusion is in fact magic and believable. Some escape artists rival Houdini in their ability to free themselves from the impossible. I see a similar situation with the burial of Jesus. The Jews go to extreme efforts to prevent the removal of Jesus’ body. So they ask Pilate to place guards on the tomb to ensure that his disciples themselves could not steal the body and then say that Jesus had risen, as he had said he would.  So the tomb was strongly sealed to ensure the body stayed where is was lain. The Jewish rulers took all precautions to prevent any removal of the body. By going to such extremes they were in fact being used by God to prove the truth of the resurrection. This was like God himself eliminating all other possible explanations other than Jesus really did rise from the dead.

Ross  Bloomfield

 

Psalm 115

Psalm 115 is one of the psalms sung at the Passover and may well have been sung by Jesus and his disciples during their Passover meal. This psalm begins by directing glory to God. It is almost like singing the well-known hymn “To God be the Glory.”

It is the heaven taunts of “Where is their God” which causes the Psalmist to present a defence of Israel’s God. Perhaps the words of this Psalm were with Jesus as he was mocked by the crowds at his crucifixion.

What an argument the Psalmist puts against idolatry. A mere statue crafted from human hands. But a statue that remains mute, deaf, blind and paralysed. The argument could be taken even further. Since the maker is always greater than the things he makes, these idols must be honoured less than the artist who made them. How stupid! How could people worship idols which are less than themselves? A man creates a ‘god’ and then bows down and worships it as his spiritual superior. Did these ancient pagans assign to their ‘gods’ the power to create new life, control the world or to heal the sick?

The Christian response is how could you have a personal relationship with a mere statue? Can a mere man make a statue which would love you enough to die for your sins? That type of idol worship has now been replaced by other more modern forms of idol worship.

The modern response is to say that idol worshippers are as stupid as the idols they worship. In their arrogance they would say such thinking has to be rejected in the 21st century, thinking. No scientific thinking person could accept such thinking.

However during the recent cricket ball tampering scandal, an ABC journalist Stan Grant, headlined “Australia’s cheating scandal is about more than cricket”.

He writes, “In a world of fake news, politicians who lie and bankers who have fleeced customers, why do we expect athletes to be defenders of our collective morality?”

“Sport is not our saviour. It doesn’t exist on some higher plain. It is a reflection of us.”

“Our cricketers are products of our age, where the individual is exalted above society.”

“American political scientist, Patrick Deneen, says our society is ‘caught in a trap of its own making’, where the worship of the individual has created a moral psychic vacuum.”

This is no accident: this is the world we have created.”

Yes I believe the journalist to be right. Now we live in a society without absolute divine morality. As a result we will then live in a society that has rubbery ethics. As our society departs from Christian belief we need to be aware of the subtle ways in which idol worship is becoming part of daily life. So in v8, the psalmist warns that idol manufactures will become like the idols they have created with no promise of eternal life, as will all those who trust in them.

The psalm ends with great encouragement for believers. God will be our help and shield. We who serve the living God will ourselves live on, unlike those who worship lifeless objects.

So in verse 18 we get a promise of the afterlife. It is we who praise the Lord, both now and forever. Even eternity cannot exhaust the reasons why God should be glorified.

Ross Bloomfield

The Generosity of God

Today’s readings are Jeremiah 10 and John 2:1-12 and I encourage you to read both of these before we begin; however, I will be focussing on the passage in John.

This story for many of us will probably feel quite familiar. It’s a pretty typical Christian trivia fact that turning water into wine was the first of Jesus’ miracles.

However, upon reading this story again I see something I hadn’t quite noticed before. Jesus didn’t actually want to perform this miracle. He says, “Woman, why do you involve me? … My hour has not yet come.” (v. 4). You see for Jesus at this stage in his ministry it was not the time for the people to truly understand who he was. Jesus’ ‘hour’ was the time when he would be identified as the Messiah and glorified (John 12:23); hence put to death. It was not his time, there was still things for him to do before he was revealed.

However, Jesus is kind, and he is generous. Despite his reservations he still graciously decided to act. Not only did he act, but he produced the best wine. You see in those days, for someone to run out of wine at a wedding was disgraceful. It would have brought shame upon the bridegroom. But Jesus spared them that humiliation by providing them with (a lot) of choice wine.

The other thing to note here is that this was not a huge public display. When the master of the banquet drank the wine it says, “He did not realise where it had come from, though the servants who drew the water knew.” (v. 9). This miracle was not for the glorification of Jesus or to be a sign of his great power (even though it was). Jesus acted out of compassion, on the request of his mother, to bless the bride and bridegroom. And I think that is amazing. It wasn’t for himself, Jesus did it out of his own great generosity even though it was a potential inconvenience to his own plan.

Isn’t that our God? He is so generous and he cares about our everyday lives. The things that, in the grand scheme of things, won’t matter for long, but he still cares. I find that hugely encouraging, how invested God is in our everyday life and how much he wants to bless us.

I hope today you take the opportunity to thank God for his incredible generosity, and remember to bring him everything in your life, even the seemingly small things.

 

P.S. If you have some extra time, take the opportunity to look through the other places in John where the ‘hour’/ the ‘time’ is spoken about (John 4:21-23; 5:25, 28-29; 7:6-8, 30; 8:20; 12:23, 27; 13:1; 16:2, 25, 32; 17:1).

 

Jeremiah 7-8:3 and John 1:19-42

Todays readings are Jer 7:1-8:3 and John 1:19-42

I suspect it’s generally true that we commit sin when we think we are out of sight or when we have become so blind and deaf to the truth that we consider our life choices are okay with the LORD God even though they are not. This is what we see in the Jeremiah reading today. As the prophet is at pains to point out, Israel, the people of God have stopped listening and paying attention to God’s word (7:13, 24, 26-27). They have stopped listening to God’s many true prophets (7:25) and have listened to the lies of the false prophets (7:8) embracing the worship practices of the surrounding nations (7:9) even allowing their gods to be worshipped in the LORD’s Temple (7:30). They even engaged in the most despicable and unthinkable practices of offering their children as sacrifices (7:31). But nothing was hidden from the LORD God. As the sobering and disturbing words of 7:11 state, ‘But I have been watching! declares the Lord.’ The result: The people of God are now under the LORD’s personal wrath (7:29, 8:3) and their current places of idol worship will be renamed ‘The Valley of Slaughter’ (7:32-34). Israel: people, kings and officials, priests and prophets will all be humiliated and banished, longing for death over life (8:3).

It would be easy for us to think how foolish this ancient people of God were for failing to remain faithful to God and to walk in obedience (7:23). But we would do well to search our own hearts for as John Calvin, the great Swiss reformer wrote: ‘the human heart is a factory of idols’. A stroll through a large Westfield or Stockland Shopping Centre would quickly confirm Calvin’s statement. We westerners worship clothes, personal grooming (from pedicures to hairstyles), food, gadgets of all shapes and sizes, footwear, entertainment, coffee and cakes, ‘health’ drinks, massages, holidays, etc etc. Maybe we could say today that the human heart is a perpetual factory of idols! We who claim to follow Jesus are not immune to the allurements of these many and varied idols. Take a moment right now and ask the LORD to show you the idol or idols, which have your attention and distract from your undivided loyalty and obedience to the LORD’s call on your life echoed in Jeremiah 7:23 ‘Obey me, and I will be your God and you will be my people. Walk in obedience to all I command you, that it may go well with you.’

My personal idols are: ……………………………

Ask the LORD to forgive you for worshipping the false gods of our generation and to empower you by His Spirit to walk in step with the Lord Jesus, who declared in the wilderness of temptation ‘It is written: Worship the Lord your God and serve him alone.’ (Luke 4:8).

We can confidently pray in such a way because of the teaching of the final prophet in the line of prophets like Jeremiah. John the Baptist provides us with the powerful sacrificial identity of Jesus Christ: ‘Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’ (John 1:29, and again in 1:36). Jesus would become sin for us so that the wrath of God could be exhausted at the cross and forgiveness and pardon could flow down to us. We see in this grace filled declaration just how serious idolatry is. It requires that the very Son of God (John 1:34) be banished on our behalf so we could be brought back into fellowship with the Father. And even more, it is through this Jesus, the Lamb of God, that we can now receive the very same Holy Spirit that rested on Him (John 1:33). All this so that we might be empowered to walk in fellowship and resist the constant temptations to worship the multitude of contemporary idols. Take some time to thank God for the Lord Jesus and his personal sacrifice that ‘takes away the sin of the world!’, even yours and mine.

Tell The Story!

Psalm 114

When Israel came out of Egypt, Jacob from a people of foreign tongue,
Judah became God’s sanctuary, Israel his dominion.

The sea looked and fled, the Jordan turned back;
the mountains leaped like rams, the hills like lambs.

Why was it, sea, that you fled? Why, Jordan, did you turn back?
Why, mountains, did you leap like rams, you hills, like lambs?

Tremble, earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob,
who turned the rock into a pool, the hard rock into springs of water.

 

We live in a time where movie makers thrive on the idea of an impending doom or apocalypse and the idea of a hero that brings salvation from that pending doom. I can’t deny that I love the story line of a series or movie with a good ending: where good triumphs over evil. It always begins with a sense of oppression, sadness and obscurity but ends with rescue, joy and glory for those who stick to the right side of love and justice.

The notion that good will triumph over evil forms the basis of all human sense and sensibilities. Movies doubly keep us in suspense and confirm our assumption and need for an idyllic ending: that good will and has to triumph over evil. Well, Psalm 114 represents eight lines of what could be a modern day Apocalypse story that was relevant for the people of its time and for us today: A story where God’s people triumphed over their enemies.

We have come to know the story of the great rescue of God’s chosen people as the book of Exodus, but it could have very well been the book of the first Apocalypse; It just depends on which side of the story one would have found themselves at the time.

Oh what it must have been like to see the events (queue the Apocalyptic music): the Nile turning blood red, locusts filling the land and seas parting and closing- to name a few. This was the magnitude of what Israel experienced before they came from out of Egypt (Psalm 114: 1). What a terror it must have been for those who were not so favored as to have God make His sanctuary among them (v. 2). We often forget that the same God who’s presence caused the seas to part for the Israelites’ escape (v.3) and that caused Mount Sinai to tremble when the law was given to Moses (v.4), is the same God who promises to return for His people who accept Him, in the person of Jesus for another event of Exodus proportions (as described in the book of Revelation). Imagine the cosmic amazement, like the scurrying and excitement of great mountains and vast waters- mysteries once aloof, now agog and reduced to frisky lambs! That will all be caused by His physical presence (v. 7&8) among His people.

The Israelites were bound by the shackles of Egyptian slavery and, in an uncanny parallel, this world- our present reality- is bound by the shackles of sin; albeit for the redemptive work of Jesus on the cross that gave gentiles like you and I a certain peculiar status- the favor of having God present and living in us, making us the place of His dominion!

Reflect for a moment, when the Israelites crossed the red sea that God amazingly parted to ensure their rescue, the sea had to return to its oneness, in a way that only God could have allowed. Those who pursued them were awe- struck, but were swallowed up by the sea that was once parted. God’s presence recued His people, while at the same time brought the ruin of the enemies of His people. At the climax of our present story, we will all be awe-struck by the Author, the God of Jacob. Some will be awe-struck and terrified and others awe-struck with a thrilling sense of the presence and victory of God.

The difference between us and the Israelites is that we live in a post crucifixion and resurrection world where we have the directors’ script. In other words, we know the ending of this Season, where good triumphs over evil. God will remain with His people and Good will reign forever (Revelation 21: 3b- 5a).

When Christ returns to rescue us it will also be a time of ruin for His enemies. The symbiotic relationship between the recurring themes of rescue and ruin throughout the bible, can be deduced from this Psalm…the beneficiaries of either, will depend on which side of the story line you will find yourself on the day of the next great exodus of Gods’ people: when Christ returns for His Glory in the greatest story ever told.

And so it should be! TOLD! To everyone! No one wants to be the unfortunate characters in a ‘Left Behind’ series! Salvation is simple! Let God into your heart, mind and soul, confess Jesus and receive the favor of God making his sanctuary in you, then go out and tell the story.

… and let it never be forgotten.

“Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”

Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.”

– Revelation 21: 3b- 5a

Alicia Johnson- KeiraVille International Church

Take the Water of Life – No Charge

Disclosure – I haven’t read any Harry Potter books. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe haven’t made it to my shelves. Books about dragons, plots with supernatural themes don’t capture my interest. Finally, I have never watched any Star Wars movies!

The book of Revelation then is a struggle but as long as I keep reminding myself of John’s opening words: The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.

We’ve read in past FDR posts that the imagery throughout this book is apocalyptic. This world as we know it will end whenever God decides the time is right. Unlike the supernatural themes in popular fiction (but what would I know about these…) which are figments of a wonderful imagination, this final chapter of Revelation contains a real message, God’s last message to all of us. To all humankind.

Here at the end of God’s word we have come full circle. We are reintroduced to the tree of life which featured in Genesis 3 with Adam and Eve. Paradise has been restored by this all powerful God. The opening verses are a beautiful description:

 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb  through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign for ever and ever.

Beautiful images – clear, flowing water, bright as crystal, cascading from His throne reflect the glory of God. It is accessible to all. Tall trees, shiny green foliage, branches laden with ripe, juicy fruit in constantly changing varieties entice the passerby. Nothing tawdry or worn but everything beautifully crafted.

Another picture – the majestic throne of our Creator and the Lamb waiting for our presence, their face visible to all. Us being welcomed into His presence, worshipping Him face to face.

Every scene is lit by a wonderful bright light emanating from the glory of our Lord’s face. No more darkness. The curse on humanity and the earth because of Adam and Eve’s disobedience will be finished. No more sin. Paradise restored. That is worth reading!

Verses 6-21 form a conclusion or summary to the whole book. They emphasise the authenticity of the book as a revelation from God and the imminence of the return of Christ.

Verse 7 “And behold, I am coming soon. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.”

I gather this is Jesus speaking and His return is imminent. I’m not sure how to keep the sayings of this book of Revelation as I don’t understand all the references or imagery. Perhaps it means I’m to have read and be diligent in keeping God’s words from throughout the whole bible. I think then that the purpose of the book of Revelation is not to entertain or satisfy the curiosity of readers about their future and heaven in general, but to reveal God’s glory and dominance over the world and encourage us to live for Him as we wait for His Son to return. These prophecies are to be proclaimed, not sealed up, so all people have the opportunity to know about God, so they will have no excuse when He comes to judge them.

Verse 11 Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy is not a command, but rather a statement of fact and a warning. People’s characteristics generally are fixed and unchangeable, especially after a lifetime of habitual action. At the end it will be too late to change.  Verse 12 Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay everyone for what he has done.

Verse 17 The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. Let us all quench our thirst with this free gift of the water of life as we eagerly await the return of Jesus.

Thank you Lord God for your love for us and the grace you have poured out on us already. May our thoughts, words and actions honour you every day.