May Devotional by Steve Abbott

Introduction

This month my reflections will centre on the Romans reading, given it is so rich with content and worth more detailed attention. Through the pen of Paul, this passage forms part of the Holy Spirit’s unfolding of the implications of the glorious powerful gospel (see Romans 12:1-2 ‘In view of God’s mercy offer your bodies as a living sacrifice…’). The final verse, 12:21 ‘Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good’, could almost act like a summary principle for the whole passage. It also immediately brings to my mind the great prayer of Jesus in John 17 and in particular verse 15, ‘My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.’ Both Jesus and the Spirit intercede on behalf of Christians, so we can almost certainly be sure that Jesus and the Spirit are praying the contents of Romans 12:9-21 into our lives. This reflects the will of God for us as we live in a fallen, sinful society, which is broken and corrupted at its very core.

The passage seems to seamlessly move from providing godly guidance for the internal life of the community of faith as well as its external engagement with those who are outside faith in Christ. This of course makes perfect sense, for Christians ought not to divide their life into sacred and secular partitions. The ‘other-person centred love’ we exercise within the life of the community of faith (12:9-13) needs also to be mirrored in our relationships with those who are not yet Christians (12:14-21).

It is clearly strategic for effective gospel ministry that believers demonstrate an attractive caring concern for each other, reflecting something of the graces of the gospel: sincere love and goodness (12:9); mutual devotion and honour (12:10); generosity and hospitality (12:13). With its myriad of ups and downs, Christians face life with a different set of values than unbelievers. Christians know the sovereign Lord has everything in His control, therefore we are to never lack in zeal for the things of God. We maintain our spiritual energy as we serve the Lord in any and all circumstances. Despite the challenges of normal life and opposition to our faith, we can remain joyful in hope, patient and prayerful (12:11-12). The gospel, ‘God’s mercy’(12:1) is to tangibly shape how we live together in Christ and also how we respond to the hardships which life may throw at us. We show the world a better divine gospel way to approach life.

This of course doesn’t change when we engage with those still outside of the faith community, even those who stand opposed to us and may physically or emotionally choose to intimidate us (12:14, 17, 19-21). Christians are never to forget they were once themselves enemies of Christ and needed God’s grace. Therefore, we ought to treat everyone equally, bless not curse our enemies, celebrate and mourn with them according to the turn of events in their life and not repay evil with evil (12:14-17). There is a concern to live in harmony and at peace with all people, while recognizing not everyone will respond in kind (12:16, 18). Christians know that God will ultimately bring justice and we can leave that to Him and His timing (12:19). Indeed rather than retaliate, Christians move forward with Gospel grace, providing for the needs of their enemies so that they might cause them to change their stance. That is, Christians overcome evil with good (12:20-21). In my view, by quoting Proverbs 25:21-22, Paul reflects what Peter teaches in 1 Peter 2:11-12 ‘Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.’The open living out of our faith exercising gospel graces may lead some of those who oppose us to personal trust in Jesus, whereby they glorify God. Could there be a more dramatic demonstration of evil being overcome by good?

My dear sisters and brothers, may we ensure that both inside and outside the church fellowship, all our relationships are marked by a commitment to fulfill Romans 12:21‘Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good’.

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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

 

 

 

To disobey and die or walk in Christ and live.

Today’s (We 04/11/2015) faithful daily readings are Jeremiah 34 and Romans 12: 9-21

God uses those He sends to be with us and walk with us and in today’s two passages to provide us with directions or patterns for us to live by.  For our Old Testament reading Jeremiah was that person sent to prophecy and witness to the Israelites and their King.  For our New Testament reading God has sent His Holy Spirit to minister to His chosen people who believe in Jesus Christ as our personal saviour.

Time and again we see Jeremiah making clear to those who live in Israel and particularly Jerusalem what is to happen to them as God exercises judgement against them for their disobedience. Here again Jeremiah predicts the carrying off to Babylon of the King Zedekiah and the Princes. For this prophecy he is imprisoned and Zedekiah, together with the people, swear a covenant with God to resile from their sinfulness by releasing the slaves who should have been released after seven years.  This is sworn in the custom of the day by walking between two halves of a sacrificial animal.  But that’s not how the people keep this new covenant with God. They rebel and re-engage their slaves.  The King fails to act to enforce the promise in this covenant that included the people..

God responds.  Jeremiah is commanded to inform the King and all the people that they will not leave Jerusalem,  but the Babylonians who had the city previously under siege, will return to take the city and will put them all to the sword.

Conversely, the Romans passage lists the marks of a Christian.  This passage sits in contrast to the behaviour of Zedekiah,  the princes and the people who acted in their own selfish interests and in doing so, failed God.  Did you read this Romans passage?   Concise, direct language about how we are to live together.   So our path is clear, to follow God and behave as Christians.

Lets have a look at this whole passage sentence by sentence.  (You’ll perhaps recall using this method in secondary school to study prose and poetry.)  This approach is useful here to help us fix in our minds the detail of how we are to live.  Otherwise we tend to read passages like this as if they are a set of instructions for a new gadget; only needed to get the gadget started and then only referred to again when something goes wrong.  (If we can find the booklet!)

Love in action  (NIV-UK 2011)

Love must be sincere.

Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.

10Be devoted to one another in love.

Honour one another above yourselves.

11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord.

12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.

13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need.

Practise hospitality.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.

15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.

16 Live in harmony with one another.

Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.

Do not be conceited.

17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil.

Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.

18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay, says the Lord.

20 On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him;

    if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.

In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.

21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

A prayer:  Dear Lord and Heavenly Father, I commit to walk in these ways as a follower of Jesus and one of your children.  Help me refresh and recall these precepts in my heart and mind so that I may walk humbly and faithfully before you and with my sisters and brothers.  I ask these things so that your holy name may be glorified through our Saviour Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Glenn

 

Be on your guard. Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord.

Today’s readings are Ezekiel 41 and 1 Peter 3.

While Ezekiel continues his detailed tour of the temple Peter closes his letter with a number of encouragements and behavioural standards refreshed or given to us by Jesus.

Yet it is not these that often perplex us.  We know of falling away, of scoffers and those who twist the word of the Bible to meet their own purposes.  We may not always see them for what they are.

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: with the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.

What?

When I am sensitive to my God and watching how God cares for me and those I love and those I don’t know but whom I have been told about, I am aware of the great love God showers on all of us including those who do not yet know him as Lord and Saviour.  I am particularly amazed at the efforts He goes to in providing opportunities for non-believers to become believers. Its not just for non-believers for He loves you and I so much that He not only wishes to provide us with mercy but to restore us to His chosen people.

To provide every opportunity for many to be saved and to grow in grace and knowledge of Jesus.  Yet at a time of God’s choosing to bring judgement on all when Jesus returns as Lord and the heavens and earth are cleaned and changed forever.

14 So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.

May we continue patiently to seek to be ambassadors for Christ encouraging and witnessing to those who do not know Him to come into the Kingdom of God, walking with and supporting and challenging our Christian brothers and sisters, and growing in grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ.

Glenn

 

 

 

 

 

Remember and Obey

Deuteronomy 6:10-12; Mark 5:35-43

10 “And when the Lord your God brings you into the land that he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you—with great and good cities that you did not build, 11 and houses full of all good things that you did not fill, and cisterns that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant—and when you eat and are full, 12 then take care lest you forget the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. (Deut 6:10-12)

In Deuteronomy 6, Moses emphasises to the Israelites how important remembering is going to be when they enter the promised land; remembering who God is, what he has done for them, and how they are to live in response to his grace. Verses 6-9 show the lengths they are to take to remember God’s works and law (teaching them to their children, talking about them all the time, literally inscribing them on or attaching them to their bodies, and writing them on their door frames and gates).

Then comes the warning in verses 10-12. Notice the striking repetition here:

10 “And when the Lord your God brings you into the land that he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you—with great and good cities that you did not build, 11 and houses full of all good things that you did not fill, and cisterns that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant—and when you eat and are full, 12 then take care lest you forget the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. (Deut 6:10-12 – Emphasis added)

“That you did not…” –  makes it so clear that Israel had nothing to do with earning or working for the bounty they would inherit in the promised land. It was all purely a gift from God. They couldn’t even claim to have arrived at the land on their own, for it was God who had brought them there (v. 10, 12).

But in the moment they are enjoying this incredible gift from God, the warning is that it will be easy to forget God and his provision for them. And this doesn’t just refer to a memory problem either – look at Deut 8:1

“Take care lest you forget the Lord your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today”

In other words, forgetfulness manifests in disobedience, while remembering is demonstrated by obedience.

I think we face the same challenge of remembering in prosperous, 21st Century Australia. The reason  “APathetic Christianity” (to quote the book Ian referred to at Fuse) is so prevalent in our country, even in our own church family, is arguably because of our forgetfulness. How can we be inspired by God’s commands to Israel to remember (see Deut 6:6-9), so that we will not forget the glorious gospel of the crucified and risen Christ? What are some ways that you can meditate on the gospel today, or teach it to your children so that they remember and obey wholeheartedly too?

Daniel Budd

Radical Obedience

Today’s lifejournal readings are Genesis 20-22 and Luke 8.

We come to that famous story this morning where God commands Abraham to kill his son Isaac by giving him up as a burnt offering (Gen 22). There’s just no escaping how shocking this command is, and it’s hard to fathom at first why God would ask him to do such a thing. If we remember only a few chapters earlier, God had promised to establish his covenant with Isaac, “an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him” (17:19). That means the promise God had given Abraham, that his descendants were to be as numerous as the stars in the sky (15:5), was supposed to be carried on to Isaac. And now God’s asking Abraham to sacrifice his only son?

No doubt some of this was going through Abraham’s mind as he prepared to offer his son on the altar. What’s striking though is that there’s no argument from him, no back and forth with God like there was when he pleaded with him, in chapter 18, to spare the city of Sodom. No attempt to reason with God in light of the promises he’d already made concerning Isaac.

He just obeyed.

“Be astonished, O heavens! at this; and wonder, O earth! Here is an act of faith and obedience, which deserves to be a spectacle to God, angels, and men. Abraham’s darling, Sarah’s laughter, the church’s hope, the heir of promise, lies ready to bleed and die by his own father’s hand, who never shrinks at the doing of it.” (Matthew Henry)

Such radical obedience should remind us of a couple of things, says Henry in his commentary:

1. God’s love for us – Though remarkable, Abraham obeyed as one would a father or a friend, out of duty and gratitude. The fact is that at the cross, God offered up his own Son to his enemies (Rom 5:10). He was under no obligation, as Abraham was. So if we are “astonished” and amazed at Abraham’s obedience, how much more should we marvel at the grace that God has shown to us in the death of Jesus.

2. Our duty to God – Just like Abraham, we are called to give up everything to follow Christ. We are called to a radical obedience. As Ron reminded us last Sunday, following Jesus means putting our hands to the plough and not looking back (Luke 9:62). Nothing should stand in the way of our obedience to Christ. Anything that might be competing with God for the ultimate delight of our hearts, we need to let go of.

We are reminded of the gospel in so many places in this story – Abraham preparing to sacrifice his own son; God’s provision of a lamb to sacrifice in place of Isaac, as a substitute for him (v13). I hope that we’ll be people who remember the good news of our substitute today, and respond in wholehearted obedience because of the grace God has shown to us.

Daniel Budd