It’s Better Together

Romans 7

Death brings separation. It separates soul from body, people from people and it is a constant reminder of the awful separation of mankind from God. Humans have long wanted to be immortal, to overcome the great leveller and limiter of death. The One who gave us life holds the keys to life and death and he desires life for us to the full (John 10:10). However death is still a feature of this fallen world and although the bible reframes death for Christ’s followers as falling asleep it is still to be expected in the life of a Christian.

In Romans 7 Paul explains another way the war between life and death is at work – within us. The life that God’s Spirit brings to our hearts is at odds with our unredeemed (hence sinful) habits, limitations, diseases and other incoherencies. God’s life brings unity. It unifies where there is division; it integrates the heavens and the earth bringing praise to Him from all creation. Unfortunately though we cannot enjoy that reality in its fullness while death, disunity and double-mindedness continue within us. How wretched we are. We cannot win a war that is within us any better than saving ourselves from drowning by pulling on our own hair. Who will win the battle? Only Jesus (Revelation 17:14). He has claimed victory when he rose from death to life. His life for yours. His life within you. His life will bring life to your need for unity and integration of heart, mind, soul and strength. That’s one reason why his yoke is easy and his burden is light. It’s a narrow path but the wide one leads to destruction. Do you come to Jesus often and drink of his living waters?

Matthew

[Originally posted on 27/10/2015 by Matthew Broadbridge]

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Hard words, poor decisions, good decisions

Today’s faithful daily read is Jeremiah 26 and Romans 6:15-23

Oh what a scene we see before us today in Jeremiah! Faithful Jeremiah proclaims the word of God to Judah and lays a choice before them, repent and live or continue in stubbornness and reap the consequences. In my experience, hard words tend to have one of two effects on me – either in humility I receive them and weigh them against my heart or alternatively I harden my heart further, dig in my heels and reject any notion that I need to change. To Judah’s peril the ‘priests and prophets’ pursue the latter path, seizing Jeremiah and proclaiming ‘You shall die!’

For me this passage shows draws out two things.

  • The contrasting responses of God’s ‘people’. The ‘officials of Judah’ and ‘all the people‘ (v8) are incensed and demand Jeremiah’s death when challenged about their sin, however ‘some of the elders’ and ‘all the people’ (v16) then defend Jeremiah as he is dragged before the assembly. It appears ‘all the people‘ flip flop in response to winsome arguments? Perhaps each crowd was comprised of different people? At any rate, we do see two kinds of responses to Jeremiah’s words.
  • The faithfulness of Jeremiah to the word of God – even at the likely cost of his own life ‘…behold, I am in your hands. Do with me as seems good and right to you…’ (vs 14). Jeremiah does not sway and repeats his call to ‘.. reform your ways and your actions and obey the Lord your God

In dealing with this passage I am reminded again of the need for humble and continual repentance – especially when challenged about my sin – and also of the need to hold fast to the word of God, no matter the consequences. Furthermore, perhaps like the Berean’s I should diligently search the scriptures for myself for truth rather than being swayed easily by winsome arguments (Acts 17:11)

In our reading from Romans, Paul exhorts believers to live under grace – not as slaves to sin but slaves to righteousness. He contrasts the benefits of being ‘slaves to God’ (v22)… resulting in holiness and eternal life …compared with being slaves of sin…resulting in death. The chapter concludes with a verse well worth memorizing

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Thank you Jesus for releasing us from the wages of sin and giving the gift of eternal life through your death on the cross! May our lives reflect your glory!

[Originally posted on 26/10/2015 by stevebowdz]

Jer 25, Rom 6:1-14

Jeremiah 25 New International Version – UK (NIVUK)

Seventy years of captivity

25 The word came to Jeremiah concerning all the people of Judah in the fourth year of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah, which was the first year of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon. So Jeremiah the prophet said to all the people of Judah and to all those living in Jerusalem: For twenty-three years – from the thirteenth year of Josiah son of Amon king of Judah until this very day – the word of the Lord has come to me and I have spoken to you again and again, but you have not listened.

And though the Lord has sent all his servants the prophets to you again and again, you have not listened or paid any attention. They said, ‘Turn now, each of you, from your evil ways and your evil practices, and you can stay in the land the Lord gave to you and your ancestors for ever and ever. Do not follow other gods to serve and worship them; do not arouse my anger with what your hands have made. Then I will not harm you.’

‘But you did not listen to me,’ declares the Lord, ‘and you have aroused my anger with what your hands have made, and you have brought harm to yourselves.’

Therefore the Lord Almighty says this: ‘Because you have not listened to my words, I will summon all the peoples of the north and my servant Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will bring them against this land and its inhabitants and against all the surrounding nations. I will completely destroy[a] them and make them an object of horror and scorn, and an everlasting ruin. 10 I will banish from them the sounds of joy and gladness, the voices of bride and bridegroom, the sound of millstones and the light of the lamp. 11 This whole country will become a desolate wasteland, and these nations will serve the king of Babylon for seventy years.

12 ‘But when the seventy years are fulfilled, I will punish the king of Babylon and his nation, the land of the Babylonians,[b] for their guilt,’ declares the Lord, ‘and will make it desolate for ever. 13 I will bring on that land all the things I have spoken against it, all that are written in this book and prophesied by Jeremiah against all the nations. 14 They themselves will be enslaved by many nations and great kings; I will repay them according to their deeds and the work of their hands.’

The cup of God’s wrath

15 This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, said to me: ‘Take from my hand this cup filled with the wine of my wrath and make all the nations to whom I send you drink it. 16 When they drink it, they will stagger and go mad because of the sword I will send among them.’

17 So I took the cup from the Lord’s hand and made all the nations to whom he sent me drink it: 18 Jerusalem and the towns of Judah, its kings and officials, to make them a ruin and an object of horror and scorn, a curse[c] – as they are today; 19 Pharaoh king of Egypt, his attendants, his officials and all his people, 20 and all the foreign people there; all the kings of Uz; all the kings of the Philistines (those of Ashkelon, Gaza, Ekron, and the people left at Ashdod); 21 Edom, Moab and Ammon; 22 all the kings of Tyre and Sidon; the kings of the coastlands across the sea; 23 Dedan, Tema, Buz and all who are in distant places[d]; 24 all the kings of Arabia and all the kings of the foreign people who live in the wilderness; 25 all the kings of Zimri, Elam and Media; 26 and all the kings of the north, near and far, one after the other – all the kingdoms on the face of the earth. And after all of them, the king of Sheshak[e] will drink it too.

27 ‘Then tell them, “This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: drink, get drunk and vomit, and fall to rise no more because of the sword I will send among you.” 28 But if they refuse to take the cup from your hand and drink, tell them, “This is what the Lord Almighty says: You must drink it! 29 See, I am beginning to bring disaster on the city that bears my Name, and will you indeed go unpunished? You will not go unpunished, for I am calling down a sword on all who live on the earth, declares the Lord Almighty.”

30 ‘Now prophesy all these words against them and say to them:

‘“The Lord will roar from on high;
    he will thunder from his holy dwelling
    and roar mightily against his land.
He will shout like those who tread the grapes,
    shout against all who live on the earth.
31 The tumult will resound to the ends of the earth,
    for the Lord will bring charges against the nations;
he will bring judgment on all mankind
    and put the wicked to the sword,”’
declares the Lord.

32 This is what the Lord Almighty says:

‘Look! Disaster is spreading
    from nation to nation;
a mighty storm is rising
    from the ends of the earth.’

33 At that time those slain by the Lord will be everywhere – from one end of the earth to the other. They will not be mourned or gathered up or buried, but will be like dung lying on the ground.

34 Weep and wail, you shepherds;
    roll in the dust, you leaders of the flock.
For your time to be slaughtered has come;
    you will fall like the best of the rams.[f]
35 The shepherds will have nowhere to flee,
    the leaders of the flock no place to escape.
36 Hear the cry of the shepherds,
    the wailing of the leaders of the flock,
    for the Lord is destroying their pasture.
37 The peaceful meadows will be laid waste
    because of the fierce anger of the Lord.
38 Like a lion he will leave his lair,
    and their land will become desolate
because of the sword[g] of the oppressor
    and because of the Lord’s fierce anger.

Footnotes:

  1. Jeremiah 25:9 The Hebrew term refers to the irrevocable giving over of things or persons to the Lord, often by totally destroying them.
  2. Jeremiah 25:12 Or Chaldeans
  3. Jeremiah 25:18 That is, their names to be used in cursing (see 29:22); or, to be seen by others as cursed
  4. Jeremiah 25:23 Or who clip the hair by their foreheads
  5. Jeremiah 25:26 Sheshak is a cryptogram for Babylon.
  6. Jeremiah 25:34 Septuagint; Hebrew fall and be shattered like fine pottery
  7. Jeremiah 25:38 Some Hebrew manuscripts and Septuagint (see also 46:16 and 50:16); most Hebrew manuscripts anger

Romans 6:1-14 New International Version – UK (NIVUK)

Dead to sin, alive in Christ

What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning, so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with,[a] that we should no longer be slaves to sin – because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.

Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. 10 The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.

11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13 Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. 14 For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.

Footnotes:

  1. Romans 6:6 Or be rendered powerless

Psalm 117 – Singing Signposts

Psalm 117


Praise the Lord, all you nations;
    extol him, all you peoples.
For great is his love towards us,
    and the faithfulness of the Lord endures for ever.

Praise the Lord.


 

Psalm 117 is the shortest Psalm in the Bible. In fact it is the shortest chapter also, (narrowly beating three other Psalms, 131, 133, and 134, and Esther 10, all with three verses). Yet in just these two verses there is wonderful truth staring us in the face that might be easy to miss. To help unpack that truth I’m going to take these verses in reverse order.

Continue reading

Good News, Bad News, Bad News, Great News

During his long prophetic ministry, Jeremiah witnessed many historical events in this turbulent time in Judah’s history.  The vision described and explained in Jeremiah 24 occurs after Jehoiachin and the cream of Judah have been carried off into exile by the Babylonian army under Nebuchadnezzar in 597 BC.

To those left behind, it would appear that they were the lucky ones.  They still had their homes, their way of life, their temple, and their God. Whereas the exiles had been dragged away to be slaves of the latest superpower who conquered their lands and would probably never see their nation and families again. But the vision that the Lord presents Jeremiah of the two baskets of figs shows them how wrong their thinking was.

Two baskets of figs are placed before the temple of the Lord. One basket had very good figs, like first-ripe figs, but the other basket had very bad figs, so bad that they could not be eaten (v2).

First the Good News – the Lord explains to the prophet that those taken off into exile from Judah will not be forsaken. God will tend them like a gardener and “they shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart.”(v7)

Now the Bad News – as close as the people left behind in Jerusalem were to the temple, they were not close to God. In their complacency, they were exactly like that basket of rotten figs on the steps of the temple.  They are the ones who were not worth taking.

History goes on to show that King Zedekiah foolishly surrounded himself with a group of citizens who persuaded him to form an alliance with Egypt and to resist any further submission to Babylon. That policy, brought about the second siege of Jerusalem, the murder of the vast majority of the population, the destruction of the temple, and the reduction of the whole city to a ruin. In the long ran, the ones remaining in Judah would have by far the worst fate. The one and one half year siege they endured was one of the worst in history, the inhabitants even being reduced to cannibalism.

In the second reading from Romans 5:12-21 Paul explains how it is that Jesus can save us all. The Bad News is the sin of one man – Adam brought death, punishment and judgement of all of humanity. But the Good News – the Great News is Christ in his obediently laying down his life has the power to give mercy, grace, forgiveness and life to all who believe.

[Originally posted on 23/10/2015 by glennblackley]

Wrath and mercy!

Today’s readings May 11: Jeremiah 23 and Romans 5: 1-11.

What a contrast!

Do you ever wonder why God gets angry, withdraws from His people and allows them to suffer? Shouldn’t the all-loving God put up with His people’s wilful disobedience, immorality and defiance? Shouldn’t He accept their leaders’ blatant false teaching and disregard of justice and care for the needy?

Our age would like that too wouldn’t we – knowing there is a perfect God but being able to suit ourselves, do exactly what pleases us but expecting God would be there to come to our rescue in a crisis!

We’ve been reading Jeremiah over the last few weeks – his urging, his railing against the people’s behaviour, their love of idolatry. Now, the leaders want him out of their way and the people want to continue as they are.

That however is not God’s way! He is righteous and requires a standard of living that reflects (even in small measure) all His qualities if we claim to belong to Him. His wrath is strong and real against those who falsely represent Him, but His mercy is great v3, which we see more clearly in the Romans passage. So read on!

Romans 5: 1-11

What could be a happier situation?

Abraham’s faith was counted to Him as righteousness and this declaration applies not just to him but to us! Our faith like Abraham’s is ‘counted’.

We

* are justified by faith

* are at peace with God through Jesus

* have access to God’s grace

* live in hope – even in suffering

and we have the gift of the Holy Spirit who floods our lives with God’s love.

Now justified and in relationship with God our Father surely we will want to return that great love by living in ways that honour Him. It is a daily, steady stepping forward in awareness of His presence.

To God be the glory.

Peter and Elizabeth.

Romans 4: 17

Jeremiah 22, Romans 4


Romans 4:17 (New International Version)

17  – the God who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not.

This snippet from Romans 4 reveals two great truths. In reverse order they are
(1) God calls into being things that were not
and
(2) God gives life to the dead.
These two truths may be stated succinctly by saying that God is Creator and God is Redeemer.

God is creator. This is evident in the first page of the Bible, the first sentence of scripture: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth”; that is, God created everything. It is echoed in the last book of the Bible: “you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being”. The creation and continued existence of all things relies on God. God literally “calls into being” – it is by God’s word that things materialise into existence. The answer to the fundamental question of philosophy – Why is there something rather than nothing? – is God.

God is redeemer. God retrieves the trapped, the broken, the lost, the discarded. God revivifies. God gives life to the dead. This aspect of God’s character focuses in Jesus and flows on to us. Paul continues on in Romans 4 to say that God “raised Jesus our Lord from the dead” and expanding further, he says that Jesus “was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification”. In Jesus dying and rising we who were dead in sins have been given access to life.

The immediate application Paul gives to these truths relate to Abraham and Sarah, both good as dead when it came to procreation.  Things that were not – offspring for Abraham and Sarah –  were spoken into being by God’s promise, God’s effectual word. Yet the story of the genesis of Isaac from essentially nothing illustrates two of the most significant abilities of God: to generate something from nothing, and to wrest life from the dead.