God always provides a way

Jeremiah 21

There’s a positive outcome to this glum passage. Did you notice it as you read?

As we have learned already in this book, Jeremiah was an exceedingly courageous prophet. He was called to do a very difficult task – proclaiming God’s justice upon an unrepentant and apostate Judah. Over 40 years he was popularly resented and sometimes the subject of violence. He was seen as a pro-Babylon traitor: in fact he was a true patriot.

On the other hand Zedekiah was a weak and indecisive king who was dominated by his nobles. Their pro-Egypt policy resulted in this siege.

Displaying little confidence the king sends junior representatives to the prophet. He’s looking for a miracle to help him out of his predicament. But Jeremiah made it plain that God’s wrath was coming upon them since every aspect of their society was corrupt (v 12, cp. 22:1-9). Not only the Babylonians but God himself was fighting against them.

God did not need to send a plague – an ancient besieged city had public health problems that made this a natural outcome. Even those not succumbing to the plague will be killed by the besiegers. God’s awful retribution for disobedience appears to show no mercy or pity or compassion.

Yet in all this prophesied carnage God does set a way of escape. In this God reveals his mercy and pity and compassion. But it appears to be an act of treason – abandoning the rest of the city to its fate. And yet this cannot be treason as the people fleeing are obeying the direct command of God. It is the rebellious people who refuse to take God’s “way of escape” (1 Cor 10:13).

There is always a choice. Here it is simply life or death. Death if they remain, life if the leave the city and surrender to the Babylonians. Those who left would become slaves. But the core realisation is that those who surrendered lived to take God’s purposes into exile.

Romans 3

This is one of the pivotal chapters of the Bible. It is a reality check. We humans are in a world of trouble. In its bluntest form, all humankind is separated from God by personal rebellion. But in his love God has forged the way to fix the shattered connection.

Here Paul continues the discussion with his imaginary objector.

The Jews did have an advantage. They were privileged to have revealed to them the commandments of God. They were God’s special people. So they could not do as they like: they must do what God likes! Yet time and time again we read that they neglected or ignored these special duties. In fact by neglecting God’s revelation they were worse than their neighbours to whom God had not revealed himself.

But God remains faithful even in spite of their unfaithfulness.

The objector tries again: “So my sin then is really glorifying God!” It’s like saying than an unfaithful husband is proving how much he loves his wife. That insensitive husband is merely covering his desire to do what he likes.

Whatever way it’s looked at, we humans are rebelling against the standard set by our Creator. We deserve God’s wrath – his pure, perfect antagonism to evil.

What a dark picture! There is no way we can be good enough to approach the holy God. As Paul expresses it, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (v 23). We imagine an archer aiming at his target … and missing! Even if we aimed at perfection we have all wandered from the law of God.

God’s way of reconciliation is shown in the next verse: “all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood – to be received by faith” (vs 23, 24).

God’s law remains; it is not pushed to one side. The difference now is that he who accepts Christ by faith willingly seeks to apply God’s standard of living. Yes, he will still fail. But repentance and forgiveness through that faith repairs his relationship with God.

Thank you Lord for providing Jesus as the way out of my predicament.

[Originally posted on 20/10/2015 by Nev]

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A new book and a visiting schedule

Today’s (Fr 31/03/2017) FDR is taken from 1 Chronicles 1 and Romans 15:22-33

Chronicles

The book of Chronicles largely provides a picture of times during David’s reign and how the reign of Solomon and David  was a period of united monarchy.   However, to reach these records the authors have spent considerable effort in listing the genealogy from Adam to David.  This genealogy occupies mostly the first nine chapters but the description of the times stretches from book 1 into book 2.

Often we find genealogies boring and of little interest.  Yet it has been suggested to me that these are an opportunity to observe and prayerfully give thanks for the careful detail our Almighty God has gone to link the first family with the family of Christ our Savour.  We are linked to Adam!  All the promises made to the Israel of old, and the new Israel of Christ’s saving grace (including the Gentiles of the New Testament) are ours too.

Holding these thoughts in mind, I was not surprised to have the same person recommend that the best way to treat these genealogies is to pray my way through them giving our Lord thanks for his provision of these men and women as ancestors of the New Covenant.

Our recent reading in the book of Ruth shows us another example of how God intervened in a refugee’s life so that Ruth became part of the lineage, or ancestors of David and later Jesus.

Can I encourage you to pray over these names as we read together through these genealogical lists each day?

A Busy Schedule

Paul is headed for Rome via Judea where he wants to leave the financial gifts given by the church in Illyricum.   His staging point of Rome is because he’s aware of some house churches there. His close friends and partners in the Gospel, Aquila and Priscilla had returned there to continue their ministry.  Then on to Spain to spread the word of God and encourage others to become part of the persuasive argument for men and women to become Christians.

A busy Christian, amongst other Christians, working for the continued extension of the Gospel to all parts of the world.  Notice in verses 30 – 32 Paul expresses some of his concerns about how the work he is doing will go.  Just like you and I concerned about the day to day things as we strive to serve God in all we do.

A Prayer – Heavenly Father, we too look to serve you in what we do so that your name might be glorified and brothers and sisters are added to the number of people who know our Lord Jesus as their personal saviour.  Father, guide us and encourage us to do your will in our lives, and to be courageous enough to speak to others of your great love and the complete atonement for sin available through Jesus Christ.  Lord, show us how we can serve our fellow members of your church and be an encouragement and support for those in difficulty, much as Paul was able to do. Almighty God, we ask these things in the name of Jesus, our saviour. Amen.

Reminder – Tomorrow, Saturday 01/04/2017, from 7am to 9am is the monthly Figtree Community Prayer meeting in the Foyer of the church.  We encourage you to join us and pray for those things God places on your heart.

Glenn

The meaning in ceremony.

I have a confession.

A painful one.

An embarrassing one (in some contexts at least).

Brace yourself…

I love a good Anglican prayer book church service.

There. It’s out. Feels better already.

It’s taken a long time to get to that point. Earlier in my life those same prayer book services drove me away from the church. To the teenage me they were boring, repetitive and meaningless.

Pomp without Purpose.

Ritual without Relevance.

Moments without Meaning.

Today, we read of the instructions for the passover in Exodus 12:1-28. Before jumping too quickly to consider the significance of the passover for Christians just stop for a moment to consider how this played out.

We know that the Israelites acted obediently (v27-28) and (SPOILER ALERT) that God did release the people from  Egypt.  There escape story is for the days that come but for now imagine the years between this story and the death of Jesus (which we will come to shortly).  Whether wanderers in the desert, inhabiters of the inherited land or aliens in exile the Israelites were to “obey these instructions as a lasting ordinance” (v24) and to pass the meaning of them onto their children. The ritual came with a story that carried much meaning.

No doubt across the centuries there were children and adults who stopped celebrating the passover, or at least stopped explaining it’s significance and meaning.  Yet some remained faithful not just to the ceremony but to the meaning. The story of God and his redemptive acts through the passover lamb, the story of how he rescued his people from slavery and liberated them to live together under his rule in the promised land… this story remained in the narrative of Jesus’ time.

It wasn’t a long lost story that Jesus played into, it was a known and experienced story which Jesus fulfilled.  In Mark 14 we see the size of this festival (v1-2) and the disciples total engagement in it (v12f).  At that passover, Jesus speaks of his own body and blood. His blood would be poured out for many. His disciples may well have remembered John the Baptists description of him as the ‘Lamb of God’ (John 1:29).  Regardless, Jesus takes all the meaning of the passover and shows himself as the new passover lamb who is rescuing God’s people from slavery and liberating them to live under his rule.

Take a moment this morning to remind yourself of the magnitude of the story in which we live – this incredible story of God redeeming the world, forgiving sin, and liberating his people for a new life and new purpose.  And next time we celebrate the Lord’s Supper together, allow its meaning to draw not only you, but those whom may ask the what and why questions, back into the grand story of our incredible God and his purpose for the world.

God always provides a way

Jeremiah 21

There’s a positive outcome to this glum passage. Did you notice it as you read?

As we have learned already in this book, Jeremiah was an exceedingly courageous prophet. He was called to do a very difficult task – proclaiming God’s justice upon an unrepentant and apostate Judah. Over 40 years he was popularly resented and sometimes the subject of violence. He was seen as a pro-Babylon traitor: in fact he was a true patriot.

On the other hand Zedekiah was a weak and indecisive king who was dominated by his nobles. Their pro-Egypt policy resulted in this siege.

Displaying little confidence the king sends junior representatives to the prophet. He’s looking for a miracle to help him out of his predicament. But Jeremiah made it plain that God’s wrath was coming upon them since every aspect of their society was corrupt (v 12, cp. 22:1-9). Not only the Babylonians but God himself was fighting against them.

God did not need to send a plague – an ancient besieged city had public health problems that made this a natural outcome. Even those not succumbing to the plague will be killed by the besiegers. God’s awful retribution for disobedience appears to show no mercy or pity or compassion.

Yet in all this prophesied carnage God does set a way of escape. In this God reveals his mercy and pity and compassion. But it appears to be an act of treason – abandoning the rest of the city to its fate. And yet this cannot be treason as the people fleeing are obeying the direct command of God. It is the rebellious people who refuse to take God’s “way of escape” (1 Cor 10:13).

There is always a choice. Here it is simply life or death. Death if they remain, life if the leave the city and surrender to the Babylonians. Those who left would become slaves. But the core realisation is that those who surrendered lived to take God’s purposes into exile.

Romans 3

This is one of the pivotal chapters of the Bible. It is a reality check. We humans are in a world of trouble. In its bluntest form, all humankind is separated from God by personal rebellion. But in his love God has forged the way to fix the shattered connection.

Here Paul continues the discussion with his imaginary objector.

The Jews did have an advantage. They were privileged to have revealed to them the commandments of God. They were God’s special people. So they could not do as they like: they must do what God likes! Yet time and time again we read that they neglected or ignored these special duties. In fact by neglecting God’s revelation they were worse than their neighbours to whom God had not revealed himself.

But God remains faithful even in spite of their unfaithfulness.

The objector tries again: “So my sin then is really glorifying God!” It’s like saying than an unfaithful husband is proving how much he loves his wife. That insensitive husband is merely covering his desire to do what he likes.

Whatever way it’s looked at, we humans are rebelling against the standard set by our Creator. We deserve God’s wrath – his pure, perfect antagonism to evil.

What a dark picture! There is no way we can be good enough to approach the holy God. As Paul expresses it, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (v 23). We imagine an archer aiming at his target … and missing! Even if we aimed at perfection we have all wandered from the law of God.

God’s way of reconciliation is shown in the next verse: “all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood – to be received by faith” (vs 23, 24).

God’s law remains; it is not pushed to one side. The difference now is that he who accepts Christ by faith willingly seeks to apply God’s standard of living. Yes, he will still fail. But repentance and forgiveness through that faith repairs his relationship with God.

Thank you Lord for providing Jesus as the way out of my predicament.

 

Ephesians 3:6

Proverbs 15, Ephesians 3:1-13


 Ephesians 3:6  (New International Version)

 This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.


“Mystery” occurs many times in Ephesians, several times in today’s passage (Ephesians 3:1-13) and is the focus of this verse (Ephesians 3:6). “Mystery” here is not an unsolved enigma, like a murder mystery, or an unexpected connection, like pepper improving strawberries. Rather, this mystery is something that was once hidden but is now unveiled. An open secret.

The mystery concerns the gospel. The mystery involves the Gentiles – thus most of the population of Figtree. The mystery is the status the gospel gives the Gentiles and is stated in three ways:

  • Heirs together with Israel – those who will inherit the good things God has in store. There is no effort or merit needed to be an heir, it is simply the position of being the child of a parent; in this case, the adopted child of the heavenly Father.
  • Members together of one body – living tissue in the body of Christ, bricks in the building in which God lives by his Spirit.
  • Sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus – for no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ.

These are three different aspects, but the one common theme is getting it together: heirs together, members together, sharers together; Gentiles and Israel, together, the community of faith.

Rest

Hebrews 4:1-13; 2 Samuel 14

This passage from the book of Hebrews helps us to see that rest is at the very heart of our Christian hope. Rest now, that comes by grace through faith in Jesus Christ (v2), and rest in the future, the final Sabbath rest for the people of God in eternity (v1, 9, 11).

Yet this rest needs to be “entered” into (v6). The author, fearful of the spiritual state of his hearers (v1), warns them by pointing to the exodus generation, who failed to respond in faith to the promises of God. Because of their unbelief and disobedience, God’s wrath was kindled against them (v3). The lesson for the Hebrews? They’ve received good news just like the Israelites, but this good news is even better news, it is the good news about Jesus Christ.  So respond to this gospel with faith and repentance!

That’s where we need to start too. Are we clinging to Jesus by faith? There is true, glorious rest to be had for those who do (Matt 11:28).

But we also must be wary that we don’t grow complacent. While salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, the author suggests that it’s only those who persevere in the faith to the end who will be saved (v11; see also 2:1, 3:14, 4:14). We are to strive to enter that rest, to “press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called us heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Phil 3:14). As we persevere, the Bible tells us the amazing truth that our very perseverance, like our faith, is a gift from God, as he works in us what is pleasing to him (Heb 13:20-21). And what incredible rest awaits those who do indeed persevere until the very end (see Rev 21:1-4)!

Father, help us to cling to Jesus by faith today, and to press on towards the goal with fear and trembling. Please stir in us an increasing passion and fervour for our Lord Jesus, and keep us safely in your hands until you call us home. Amen.

Daniel Budd

Living faithfully in light of the gospel

Luke 10:38-42; 1 Thess 1:8-9

I’m really enjoying working through the Gospel Transformation Bible with Lily at the moment. It’s a wonderful tool that is helping us to see Christ in all of Scripture. Here’s a sample of the notes. I hope they help you to marvel at the gospel this morning, and live passionately and faithfully today in light of this glorious news.

Luke 10:38-42

“This short story reveals the ever-present temptation, even among believers, of substituting religion for the gospel. We could define religion as human activity pursued in an attempt to please God. The gospel, however, is the message of God’s gracious love toward us and the invitation to orient our lives toward him. Rather than focusing on doing—even doing good things such as serving—the one thing that is “necessary” and the “good portion” (v. 42) is to sit at the Lord’s feet and listen to him. We can in fact be “distracted with much serving” (v. 40). Before the gospel is a call to doing it is an invitation to the presence of the Lord. To follow Jesus as a disciple means to be with him and listen to him. This abiding with and depending on the Lord alone enables us to take up our cross daily and follow him (9:23).”

1 Thessalonians 1:6-10

Having received the gospel of Jesus Christ by the calling of the Holy Spirit in accord with the Father’s sovereign plan, the Thessalonians became imitators of the apostles and of the Lord Jesus Christ (v. 6). Our imitation of Christ is a natural consequence of the Holy Spirit’s work of regeneration. We seek, trust, pursue, and imitate Christ because Christ sought, found, pursued, and rescued us. Thus Paul rejoices in the Thessalonians’ faithfulness as they serve as an example to believers (v. 7), sound forth the word of the Lord, possess a faith that goes forth everywhere as a shining light to a dark world (v. 8), show generous hospitality, and serve the living and true God, having repented and turned from serving idols (v. 9).

The Thessalonians know the gospel and live faithfully in light of it to such a degree that Paul admits that he and his companions “need not say anything” (v. 8). The Thessalonians’ faith shines so brightly that people everywhere know who they are and the truth of the word they proclaim. From the very beginning, even amid much affliction, the Thessalonian church has been a gospel-centered church, reflecting the light of Christ and the gospel with the joy of the Holy Spirit (v.6) and awaiting the return of the risen Christ who “delivers us from the wrath to come” (v. 10). The gospel story of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection culminates in our final deliverance from the wrath of God (5:9). First Thessalonians is a message of good news from start to finish.”

Daniel Budd