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.

What Can I Do For You?

The readings set down for today are Nehemiah 7:4-73 and Matthew 20:17-28. (I am going to include the incident where the two men receive their sight in verses 29 -34, because it seems to me that it fits).

It is hard to get into our thick heads isn’t it? If we want to be great – then it will come through serving. We are slow learners, but so were Jesus’ disciples.

James and John didn’t understand. They asked their mother (or so the other disciples thought) to ask Jesus for the top positions in His Kingdom. We can just imagine Jesus shaking his head, and telling the two that they had no idea what they were asking. The high positions in the Kingdom of Jesus call for drinking His cup (vs. 22-23). That cup was for Jesus death on the cross (vs. 17-19).

Jesus explained that high position in the secular world means having authority: it means lording over people. Jesus on the other hand came to be a Servant and, like a slave, to put the good of another before His own (vs.25-28). I suspect the disciples still didn’t understand what Jesus meant. Perhaps we wouldn’t understand either, if it weren’t for the indicent with which this chapter ends.

Jesus led His disciples away from Jericho, up the road that led to Jerusalem and His crucifixion. How sad and distressed He must have been,  because He knew what lay ahead. As He left, two blind men, hearing from the crowd that Jesus was near, cried out urgently. The crowd tried to hush them. But they shouted all the louder. And Jesus stopped. He called them over to Him, and He asked, “What do you want Me to do for you?”

And at last we understand. Greatness in the kingdom of Jesus is stopping for the needs of others. It is setting aside for the moment our own hurts and concerns, to listen, and then to ask, “What do you want me to do for you?”

We may be small in the eyes of other people, but if we follow Christ’s example of servanthood, we will be great in the eyes of God.

 

John Wesley wrote, ” Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, and long as you can.”

Why not begin each day asking God for an opportunity to serve.

 

Have a great day,

 

Peteer Clark.

“I will build a great wall — and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me”

Now…… Matthew 19:1-12 I don’t know how I got another passage on marriage/divorce and what message the people selecting the passages are trying to send me… Only recently in my April FDR did I ponder the 1 Corinthians 6:12-20 passage in which Jesus’ instructions here are quoted. Even going back to November 2015 I was given 1 Corinthians 7:1-16. Yeah I get it….

But I digress….. Excuse the Trump quote as a title. Hard to not think about anyone else when it comes to building walls at the moment. Nehemiah 3 is a chapter on rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem. On a superficial level it’s as exciting as a genealogy – it’s kind of a name drop of all who contributed. Like linear notes on an album or credits in a movie. I think it’s important for a couple of reasons though:

  • There is a common vision for the task of accomplishing God’s work. There is an ultimate outcome all the people listed are working towards.
  • The work is divided so everyone knows what they need to do and to do it with excellence – without contention and separate interests.

We have been commissioned greatly in Matthew 28. Jesus says “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

It’s been exciting to come off the World Mission Conference with a increased focus on what our task is as followers of Jesus… to be on mission to make disciples of all the nations! We should have that as our common vision for the task of accomplishing God’s work at FAC.

And how do we do this? By dividing the work according to our gifts and skills which is beautifully articulated in 1 Corinthians 12 with the body of Christ teaching from Paul (and was recently preached on by Myles as part of our Power of One series).

Let us be unified in the vision of the task God has purposed us for and let us be celebrating the unity and diversity of the body of Christ we have in our church!

DO SOMETHING

The title of this psalm Maschil, means ‘ a psalm that gives instruction – instruction in what? 

Actually it instructs believers in how to act when in any distress – that is to turn to God in prayer. 

So, have you ever felt like this?

Perhaps the Eugene Peterson paraphrase The Message makes the emotion stronger –

You walked off and left us, and never looked back.  

God how could you do that?

We’re your very own sheep:

how can you stomp off in anger?    v1

 

 

One commentator suggests that if the Asaph of David’s time wrote this psalm it would have been prophetic pointing to the time when Jerusalem was actually sacked/ obliterated by Nebuchadnezzar and the Chaldeans, or perhaps the author was another Asaph from that time and who wrote like Jeremiah, from exile. Remember Jeremiah’s long lament that we read in the middle of July?  It is a comfort to hear someone else feeling that in spite of constant appeals God is distant and unwilling to engage at all on our behalf.  Yes this Asaph felt abandoned!  Yet he knew God had the power to rescue but  wasn’t acting on his people’s behalf; but still he prayed,

Why do you hold back your hand, your right hand?

Take it from the folds of your garment and destroy them.     v11

 

Back to The Message:

Why don’t you do something?  How long are you going 

to sit there with your hands folded in your lap?     v11

 

However Asaph’s faith and knowledge of God’s faithfulness and purpose encourages, strengthens, restores him in the midst of his pain and suffering – both for himself and for the nation –

God is my king from long ago;

he brings salvation the earth.   v12

 

This writer agonises over God’s apparent disinterest, but most likely being aware of the people’s disregard of God he anchors himself in God’s character 

(v12) and reminds himself while at the same time reminding God of his almighty power, and care for his creation in the past.

Maybe when we feel abandoned, or when the pressure is too great, or sickness overwhelming we can settle our hearts by focussing on God’s good character and look back over his great actions not only in our own personal lives but also reflecting on the whole  purpose of Christ’s coming to earth and all the steps that remind us of his salvation for now and for eternity.

While we all want God to act on our behalf will we do something too in times of trouble?  Praying is a solid basis for connecting with our Lord God.

 

 

Peter and Elizabeth.

A new book – Nehemiah

Today’s (Sa 05/08/2017) FDR is Nehemiah 1 and Matthew 18:10-20

Beginning a new book today we can take a brief but broad view of what we are about to read for the next few weeks.

Nehemiah is a book largely about renewal, in this case principally about the wall for the defence of Jerusalem.  The wall that is used to control and regulate the way of life inside the city by the use of its gates in accordance with ritual and commercial processes inside the city.

For us though, there is a strong reason to see this account as a broad euphemism for our own renewal and protection against being drawn into sin and keeping our walk with God righteous.  The image of the wall and the struggles of Nehemiah to establish a rebuilding operation are much like our own struggles to keep evil out of our lives and to walk in the paths of our God.  So too its possible to see in this record’s course our own use of defences and primarily the acts of relying on God for both guidance and sustenance for the whole journey.   For example, the acts of adding weapons to the work parties on the walls mimics our need and adoption of prayer, in faith, and actions that seek to keep us from falling into sin.  Yet there are plenty of distractions in our lives to sin and so too Nehemiah and the people are constantly buffeted by opponents.

Enjoy Nehemiah and encourage each other in our own lives before God and each other.

Glenn

 

 

But we have sinned!

Today’s (Fr 04/08/2017) FDR is Ezra 10 and Matthew 22:1-14

Ezra 10

As we open the last chapter of Ezra we are struck by Ezra being in a confessional mode.  For something serious enough to again remove the Israel nation from its earthly home and worship place.  Israel could again loose Jerusalem, Judah and the Temple!  Ezra 9 disclosed this sin.

The banishment to Babylon came after God’s judgement on a people who had filled their land with abhorrent practices.  Their guilt for accepting this judgement is finally accepted by Daniel. (See Daniel’s prayer at Dan 9:4-19.)

Like other Old Testament leaders such as Josiah, Mordecai and Esther and Jehoshaphat, Ezra adopts an attitude of confession and prayer while seeking to make right what is wrong.

Moses tells us in Deuteronomy 30:19 what use the Law is before God. “This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.

Even today the law has the same purpose. Martin Luther too, gave this strong argument based on the same Deuteronomy passage: “… that by the words of the law, man is admonished and taught, not what he can do, but that what he ought to do; that is, that he may know his sin, not that he may believe that he has any strength.”

Then Ezra’s people, lead by their leaders, agree to a way to set themselves right before God and they spend a number of months carefully going about rectifying the abhorrent practices so that they may walk in God’s paths of righteousness.

Sending away their wives who were taken from other non-God fearing peoples and their children was a practice we would find very difficult in today’s post resurrection age.  Essentially, Ezra and his people are removing those who would not believe from among the tribes of Israel.  Here a cleansing of God’s people is being undertaken.

Matthew 22

This passage too is about conviction and choice.  Choice to obey or not.

As the King sends out his servants to bring in guests, each time he is refused.  Each time his royal invitation is disobeyed. So each time the King makes a more generous invitation to those less likely by earthly standards to be invited.

Jesus’ parable mimics His own work among us.  Even after the wedding celebration is filled the King finds those who did not respond correctly to his invitation and this person is bound and cast out of the wedding.  Here are echoes of Jesus’ parable about the sheep and the goats and the sorting out of the ‘faithful’ at judgement time by removing those who mimic the sheep of Jesus.  (see Matthew 25:31-46)

John 1:12-13 makes it clear why there is only one way to become and remain a sheep in Jesus’ flock, or a member of His church.

12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

May each one of us walk prayerfully and carefully in the paths of our Lord Jesus Christ and encourage and support our sisters and brothers to remain faithful.

Glenn

Grieving Over Our Sin.

The readings set for today are Ezra 9 and Matthew 17:24-27.

When Ezra arrived in Judah, he learned that many Jews had taken foreign wives. This was a clear violation of Old Testament Law, and Ezra was appalled. But rather than strike out angrily at those who had sinned, Ezra identified himself with the sinners and confessed to the Lord. He did not speak of “their” guilt, but of “our” guilt (v.9:7). He did not condemn their “disregard” for God’s laws, but cried out that “we have disregarded the commands” (v.10). Rather trhan stand self-righteously in judgment, Ezra cried, “Not one of us can stand in your presence” (v.15). Ezra’s heart was broken by the sin he found, and he accepted partial responsibility for the failure of men he had never even met.

We can’t read Ezra’s prayer of confession in this chapter without sensing the depth of this godly man’s anguish and shame. He was deeply hurt by the sins of his people: hurt for them and God. The reality of Ezra’s hurt, expressed openly in weeping, prayer, and confusion, moved the men and women of Judah to confess as well – and to purge the sin from their lives.

So the next time we see sin in the body of Christ, let’s be a little slower in pointing the finger (or not point it at all). Let’s realise that if the church was what God called it to be, and if we were the Christians God called us to be, our brother or sister might not have fallen. Rather than judging, let our hearts be broken for the sin and damage to the church.

It would be good if we could grieve over other people’s sin as well as our own.

Have a great day,

Peter Clark.