Almighty God who was and is and will be, forever.

Today’s (Su 04/03/2018) FDR is Psalm 107

The last few month’s have seen many we know or with whom we have had contact, being called home by God to be with Him in glory. Some who were close to us and some who were close to our brothers and sisters.  Billy Graham tells us that he’s not dead, but that he’s changed his address.  So too have those we know  or those who are our friends or relatives.

Some who are our brothers and also dads, husbands, grandads and great grandads.  Some who were our sisters and also mothers, wives, grans or great grans.  Whatever our own personal relation, those who have gone home were close to us and close to our remaining sisters and brothers.  Some have been children, youths or younger adults of our families or families we know.  Those who are daughters and those who are sons.  But are no longer here.

Psalm 107 holds four vignettes that remind us that in times of trial and desolation, or stress and depression, we, on recognising our difficult and stressful circumstance, should turn to God and call on Him in prayer seeking His Grace so that we may persevere.  Then, when we recognise the grace He supplies, to worship and thank Him offering praise for lifting us up from the depths.

We may never find ourselves literally wandering in a desert wasteland (vv4-9), forced to dwell in a place of deep darkness (vv10-16), sick to the point of death (vv17-22), caught in a tumultuous storm at sea (vv23-32) but we can feel as if  these things have occurred to us.  Particularly buffeted by the physical separation from loved ones by death.

God will and does redeem and pour out His grace and love on us from all directions.  More often than not from surprising places and people. (Yes this is my experience and my witness.)

So we are reminded:

17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate [or reflect] 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 (NIVUK)]

Now, how to go on?   How to live in this life that always changes?

There are a few concise guides and many books but, you can read and live as
the Bible says in Colossians 3:1-17  {Just click this link to make a start.}

Yours in God’s grace and love,

Glenn

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On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand

In this passage Jesus ends his sermon on the mount. His final message is probably very well known to many people, even those who don’t know its context or origin.

For us reading this familiar passage it is good to be reminded of the truths behind this proverb. One important aspect is that it is useless to call ourselves Christians unless we put into practice what he has taught us as well as what we are to believe.

It is good to take a look at ourselves and check the foundations our lives are built on. Will we be able to weather the storms, the vicissitudes of our life or will we be washed away? We know the distractions of life, the stresses, the chaos or just plain bad decisions, all lead us away from Jesus. These are all part of our life at some time or another. How we react to these situations or to our own sinful decisions depends on the strength of our foundation.

Our life built on Jesus as our Rock secures us a firm foundation, as long as we take our beliefs and knowledge of who Jesus is and put them into practice. Our own motivation is who we are in Jesus. As I write this, I’m thinking about my own foundations: they sometimes wobble, or small fissures or cracks undermine the strength or even pieces break off and form little mounds of sand. It’s not that I don’t have faith in a loving God, a mighty Creator, a redeeming Saviour but instead of seeking His wise counsel…… well you know the rest.

To be able to weather the storms of life, to please our Lord and glorify Him, we must encourage each other to be real and authentic Christians remembering our lives are transformed and solidly built on His foundations.

For your enjoyment today and to help focus on our Saviour:

My hope is built on nothing less

Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness

I dare not trust the sweetest frame

But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

On Christ the solid rock I stand

All other ground is sinking sand.

Encouragement, New and Old – What changes?

Today’s (Mo 06/03/2017) FDR is Proverbs 23:22-35 and Jude 1:17-25

We have all been told we live in a new year and yet two months after the event we still type 2016 for our date!  Yes we should be writing or typing 2017!

As I begin to delve into some study of the New Testament Greek language I learn again of the previous writing methods.  Perhaps you learnt about quills and feathers, about scrolls made from skins and parchments, about clay and chalk, about stone tablets and pottery?  You probably were even told about fountain pens and journals.  Some of us, of which I’m one, learned to write with pencils and rubbers, (now called erasers), then went on to take notes with fountain pens and early biros, called Bics after their manufacturer.

I’m told that early Greek records of the New Testament books were hand written in capital letters!  For some of we called this printing to define the different form of writing from running writing or perhaps more correctly script.

All of this in just a short few years, on our human timescale.

Both of our passages today describe in current language the long term truths of living in a world of apparent truth and evil.  Of living in a world that seems to repeat the same mistakes as it has in years gone before.  No; repeating the same mistakes as centuries have gone before.

Our Proverbs passage presents us with three sayings promoting some wise behaviour and avoiding some sinful behaviours.  At first glance the wise behaviours seem mundane and the sinful somewhat.  But if we put on our Daniel chapter 5 perspective, the one that Ron (Irving) challenged us with in the Figtree morning services yesterday, then this passage is part of the obedient life we want to live before our Almighty God.(1)

Also, from yesterday’s FDR, we will see the heart of a man of God who chose not to take the “opportunity of a lifetime” to kill the man harassing him, but who chose to allow Saul to leave the shared cave and so wait on God to provide David with his God-promised kingship. (David and Saul.)

Our second passage from Jude describes much of our challenges to live as Christians today.  At first to persevere against those who do not have the Spirit.  To seek to help our sisters and brothers to walk with Our Lord, building ourselves up in the process.  To seek to bring others to a saving knowledge of Christ and to do so carefully.

Probably the gift in this passage is the beautiful blessing (or doxology) and active commitment of ourselves to our Father’s protection that occurs in the last two verses.

Take a moment to pray this prayer for yourself and your family and friends.  Perhaps you’d prefer to sing it.  Here’s one YouTube(2) example: Now unto Him

Christians in many different churches and groups use this blessing in their parting at their service’s end.

Glenn

(1) Ron’s 10am sermon yesterday will be available here shortly: Ron’s Sermon
under the heading Daniel – Here I stand

(2)  The example of the doxology mentioned in this blog has been
provided by direct link from YouTube

 

 

 

Slow Burning Wood

Ezekiel 8
2 Timothy 1

If you had access to the fountain of youth would you keep it to yourself or share it? If you had found the secret to immortality would you tell anyone? If you knew the source of a power that could end death and bring the dead to life…but we do! We know him and he looks like Jesus.

“the power of God...has been revealed by the appearing of our Saviour 
Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality 
to light through the gospel,”
2 Timothy 1:8-10.

Ezekiel 8 continues to paint the vivid horror of priestly hearts that have turned away from God. The greatest miracle in the world is not physical youth, life or beauty, but the defeat of ugly sin – a much greater need and potential benefit by far. That power of God is implanted in us via Christ’s action and submission to the cross. It is a power not so outwardly noticeable in my daily life, but just as a piece of wood contains all the energy that is released when it is burned, so we also contain the imprint of God’s power that burns in us when we have faith. For this reason Paul exhorts Timothy to ‘fan into flame the gift of God which is in you.’ (v6) for if we do this people will notice we are inescapably different and either fall on their knees before Christ or persecute us in feeble resistance to the power of love that dwells within our hearts.

Matthew

Psalm 12

The first few psalms are a great way to be oriented to God and to find True North in Him among the craziness that pervades our world and sometimes creeps into our church. I was reminded of the two greatest commandments here and noticed how the behaviour of David’s neighbours was diametrically opposed: ungodly, proud, obstinate, unfaithful, uncaring and uncompassionate. The focus is on words but the consequences are more visible (oppression and neglect). David, the greatest King of Israel, finds it too much. “God save me!” is his prayer. Ultimately our hope for justice and protection can only be located in God.

Words that are worthless do more harm than good. Broadly speaking untruth can be experienced as lies, insincerity or simply distortion and exaggeration. A myriad of un-helpfulness abounds in false claims, manipulative flattery, deceitful double-talk, boasting, threatening and proud ungodly stubbornness. We don’t have to look far to find examples I think not much has changed (such as much marketing, political spin-doctoring, sensational news items, heretical Christian books the list goes on).

David’s response was not a lengthy engagement in a statement of his defence. Just two words “Save me!” Then God’s active word changed everything as the Psalm continues (and also in many other places in the bible). God’s words by massive contrast are always valuable, effective and trustworthy because of his faithful heart of integrity. God does not change; He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow (Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 13:8). God’s power is immensely greater than the silly boasting of the arrogant. In the face of rotten social behaviour true justice demands cleansing. David called for his neighbours’ destruction in the Old Covenant paradigm. In the New Testament Christians are called to see themselves as salt – to be an antiseptic that lives among the morally unbound. I’m also reminded that to stand firm as in 1 & 2 Thessalonians takes effort, so as not to be blown away or lost in conformity.

In Revelation the church is constantly under threat of attack as she seeks to witness. She is not promised immediate deliverance out of evil, but helped in her suffering to hold fast faithfully to her true identity – to remain the community of God’s people. We are the people of ‘the God of the Bible’ who is faithful and true, who loves completely yet does not leave the guilty unpunished.

Of Jesus in John 6:68, Simon Peter replied, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life.”

References

Paul G. Apple, Commentary on Psalms, Baltimore.
Jim Jarrett, Psalm 12, Calvary Chapel, Palo Cedro.

Would the real Messiah please stand up!

Luke 7:18-23

Why did John the Baptist ask Jesus to confirm who he was? I guess the easiest answer is because who Jesus really is, is really important! 🙂 Some people thought he was a prophet. Other people thought he was a trouble-maker. Some people thought he was demon-possessed and a few others thought he was God in human form – God’s Son.

John heard about Jesus’ miraculous healings – and apparently asked Jesus straightaway if he was the “Expected One”. John had sent messengers because was already in prison at this time. His greatest ministry in his whole life was to point to the Christ – indeed it was the greatest ministry of any mere mortal – and John had already testified to Jesus’ divinity at the time he baptized him. So I always assumed that John the Baptist had already known who Jesus really was. Maybe his expectations of the Messianic ministry that came next were being confounded by Jesus’ humble and gentle treatment of the rebellious creatures on earth. Remember John’s preaching style was very direct: “you brood of vipers!” Even though Jesus had and has all authority to condemn sinners he has kept choosing to restrain himself even today. So perhaps John was really confused about God’s big plan to show grace towards nasty people. Jesus later refers to John as the opposite of a “reed swaying in the wind” so he is clearly not a pushover and entirely the sort of person who would hammer home a point. I do not think John’s faith or personality would have been easily dissuaded or discouraged. One could even suppose that John was tactfully prompting Jesus to start taking forceful action, so to easily release John from prison!

Whatever John’s reasons for asking were, Jesus’ answer also strikes me as a little odd. John had just heard reports of the miracles and Jesus instructs his messengers to go back and report the miracles again! But not just any report – it’s shaped to identify Jesus against the silhouette of Isaiah’s prophecies (Isaiah 35:5-6; Isaiah 42:6-7; Isaiah 61:1-3). So the value of that specific message was heavily reliant on its subtext: I am doing exactly what Isaiah prophesied the Messiah would do. I am sure that was a very encouraging response to hear in the dreadful suffering of an ancient prison. I notice that Jesus omitted the part about setting captives free – probably a wise move when the message would be delivered in front of prison guards! Maybe Jesus emphasized the first half of that reference to imply the latter half about bringing freedom?

I for one am glad that resurrection, healing and liberation tend to follow my Jesus around every day. When I seem to lose patience with the messed up ways of this world and feel like questioning our all-powerful God about why He allows so much decay and destruction to continue, this passage gives me hope – that it’s all part of a much bigger plan for grace to triumph. When good people are in prison, who is blessed? It is us who draw nearer to Jesus and do not shrink away from him.

Matthew

Acknowledgment – I have been richly blessed by a sermon on this passage titled “Who’s Who” by Neil Chambers given at Bundoora Presbyterian Church, Melbourne which is available for podcast.

Strength in Stress

Today’s life Journal readings are from Jeremiah 52, Psalms 143-144 and Revelation 1.

Ever had some soothing words of comfort in the middle of a storm? Words that give strength in times of stress? We all need them! Perhaps its the encouragement of a parent, spouse or friend to persist when the world feels as though it will fall apart. Perhaps as you struggle at work or in school to develop a new skill or get through a tough time, a coworker, boss, teacher or peer offers words that lift you up and help you keep going.

Sometimes words aren’t enough. Assuring words like “you’ll be ok” or “you’ll get there” while important and helpful at times prove to be not enough.

At other times words are confusing. Encouraging words can point us to walk down a road that seems hard. In those times, we need to evaluate these words to determine what action to take.

How do you evaluate such words? We can evaluate the content, searching for reasonableness or wisdom. We can evaluate the potential outcome vs the perceived cost weighing up what’s to lose or gain. Or we can evaluate the one who speaks – determining if their words are trustworthy and true.

Revelation speaks words of encouragement into some pretty major storms for the early Christians. Facing incredible persecutions, the Revelation is given as a blessing. 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 (Rev 1:3). It’s easy for us to get a bit freaked out as we come to read Revelation, yet the whole point is to bring encouragement and blessing to those facing trouble. Encouragement because in the greatest of battles, Jesus has won!

Yet, as we shall see, these words of encouragement are not an easy path to immediate triumphant victory. Rather, it is encouragement to patient endurance, even to the point of death, for the faithful followers. We know from history that many followers did just that. And we know that the church grew because of their faithfulness to death.

As those believers evaluated the words they heard, no doubt they reflected on who was speaking. “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” (Rev 1:8)

The one who is, and who was, and who is to come. The first and the last. In a world where others were claiming such power, and seeking to demonstrate it through persecution, these are telling words. In a world where people questioned and denied the reality of the one true God these are comforting words. In a world like ours, they remain strengthening words.

While I may not face persecution anything like that of the early believers, I am strengthened in a similar way to them by knowing the reality of the God who is and was and is to come. When I consider it is he who sits on the throne, he who has conquered, and he who continues to reign, I am strengthened to patiently endure also, not because everything is made better or my stressors are taken away, but because the one who calls for patient endurance, he who is and was and is to come, is trustworthy and true.

Ron Irving.