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.

Why run?

One of our FDRs for today (Su 03/04/2016) is Psalm 11.

For some who study the Psalms this is a difficult passage as its form and word usage is different from those regular forms found in other psalms.

Written as if the author is placing themselves in the Temple we see refuge being taken in the Lord (v1) and the Lord being both in His holy place, most likely the Temple, and in Heaven at His throne (v4a).

So the author won’t take the advice of his friends and flee from the Temple and  perhaps to flee, away from God’s refuge, means to put oneself in danger of those lying in wait.

The middle group of verses places God, in Heaven and in the role of Judge who sees all and also from where He can deliver very harsh punishment.  In this Psalm the punishment mentioned ranks with that delivered on Sodom by supernatural forces.

In the last verse the word ‘righteous’ is repeated twice which implies that God is fair in judgement.  Finally the use of the words ‘behold His face’ in  the closing lines suggest again that the author has placed themselves in the Temple at prayer where it would be possible to see God’s face.

Yet today is no different.

We are placed after Christ’s resurrection, in which we receive everlasting life with God through our faith in Jesus.  Should we take some of our friends advice and flee from God’s side then we too make ourselves vulnerable to those who want us to fail in faith and turn to wickedness or sin.  We too have a promise that we shall see God if we stand firm.

Perhaps the New Revised Standard Version’s (NRSV) title for this psalm defines it best as “Trust in the Lord and do not panic.”

A Prayer – Lord as my life is tossed around with all the differences, pressures  and changes in life, guard me that I might not loose my way and flee from your side.   Keep me mindful of Your presence with me always and your never ending grace and love that sustains me.   Help me to hear my Christian friends and pastors as they seek to encourage me to walk on your narrow path tending and building my faith in you.   Protect me and make me deaf to those temptations of the evil one that will offend you and draw me away from your presence.  Through Christ my Lord.  Amen.

Glenn M

Your belief matters!

Today’s readings are Genesis 37 and Luke 10:1-24 .

While both these passages have much to look at and study I want us to focus on the issue of belief. Our belief.

Not just what, but why.

It’s apparent, if we were to read the whole account of Joseph, that we are reminded of the dreams he recounted to his brothers came true in that he did become like a king to his family. So much so that he was instrumental even crucial to their surviving a terrible drought and famine. Yes even to his whole family bowing down before Joseph. While this later and other events in between had outcomes that achieved God’s purposes these first few verses in chapter 37 seem horrific.

A late teen boy, favourite of his dad and owner of a special gift from his dad, he has become a thorn in his brothers sides as he recounts his dreams that appear to give him supremacy. So he is sold off into slavery and his coat is used as evidence of his grisly end. V20 demonstrates the mocking and destructive intent of the brothers’ actions.

Even these malicious actions of his brothers do not destroy or divert Joseph from the role chosen for him by God and fulfilled by God through Joseph.  As you read on in the coming days note carefully how often God is reported as being with Joseph.  Why do you think this is so?  Is it more than God needing Joseph to complete His will?

Jumping into our New Testament reading of Luke 10: 1-24 we see the 72 being sent out to heal and minister to people in the name of Jesus and with little else.(v2-12). Also their return in triumph that they were able to accomplish healing of many kinds (v17-19)

Yet in a single comment Jesus puts their joy into perspective.

20 However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.’

For me there is a salient lesson in both these passages that has a very practical outcome demonstrated by the passage from Matthew 14:28-32.  As Peter seeks to walk on top of the waters to Jesus. Jesus commands Peter to do so and he commences strongly in faith.

When his faith falters through fear of the wind so does his ability to stay on top of the water and Peter begins to sink.

Does that happen to you too as it does to me? Like it did to Peter.  As my faith in my amazing God falters through fears of things already taken care of by God, so those things that show weakness and sinfulness have a place to enter my life.

A prayer: Gracious heavenly Father, you who are the most high God, whose love goes on forever. Strengthen each one of us in our faith in you like the 72 you sent out so that we may continue with your mission in the places you have appointed for us.  That we may rejoice that our names are written in heaven.  Through your Spirit empower us also that we will fearlessly do your will while carefully looking after those who do not yet know your saving grace.  These things we ask in the name of Christ and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Glenn Murray

Half a dozen questions.

Today’s (Fr 04/09/2015) readings are Esther 3 and Matthew 16:13-28

There are three parts of each of today’s readings that I want us to focus on by asking questions about each part.   I’ll leave you to consider your answers and I hope you will post some of them briefly here.

Esther

Surely Queen Vashti knew what her King might do if she refused to appear before him and his guests?  Today would we call this a feminist response? (Esther 1)

What of Esther? Taken into the harem she made sure she would please the King by studying what might please him. Then ensuring she did. (Esther 2)

Mordecai had much at stake.   His adopted daughter taken from his side,  to the King’s harem,  then to become the King’s favourite?  Why did he hold so strongly to his beliefs and faith in the face of commands to put the King before God? (Esther 3)

Matthew

Today,  at this time, who do you say the Son of Man is? Why?

What of Peter?  One moment, the son of man is the Christ, and then he seems to dispute Christ’s prophecy about His coming persecuction and crucifixion?  Could you or I react exactly like Peter in these circumstances?

The IVP New Testament Commentary Series makes this statement concerning our commitment in answer to Jesus’ challenge in verse 27:

“John dared to believe that God’s eternal riches outweigh any cost in the present, so he became a true disciple of Jesus Christ.  Yet how few disciples we have; except for going to church and paying tithes, many Christians today do with their time and money much the same as what morally upright non-Christians do.”

What are our individual places in respect to v27 and this observation?

May the Lord grant each of us insight to see ourselves as He does and clarity of mission to serve Him in the ways He requires for His glory.

Glenn

Down from the high moment and working

FDR for 30/01/2014

Our reading today is from Luke 9:37-45.

Just eight short verses that demonstrate Jesus, down from His and the disciples mountain top, is back doing what He came to do amongst us.

Yesterday, Ron drew our attention to or own coming down from those mountain top moments and getting back to what we usually do. Its worth recalling again, the affirmation of Jesus as God’s son in Luke 9:34 and 35 and God’s instruction to listen to Him. Not to put too fine a point on it even Jesus gets back to His mission.

A child’s demon is exorcised. And the disciples have a reminder of what Jesus was here to do. (Although the meaning of this is hidden from them! v45.)

Many of our younger families will feel a sense of the return to normal today as school recommences and routines are renewed. Our older families without school age children will notice the changes to daily routine around them. For some of us, changes to people, perhaps colleagues in our workplaces, or traffic patterns mark a return to ‘normal’. Even simply getting out of summer break clothes back into ‘work’ clothes means a return to normal. Our TAFE and University teachers and students are preparing to get back to their normal work, if they haven’t had summer school. Even our retired colleagues will notice the return to work mindset that has occurred or is occurring as the back to work change rolls across our Australian scene.

From my recollection this is the third start to a new year we’ve experienced in the last three months with one more to come.
1. Advent began the new Church year four weeks before Christmas.
2. January 1 began the new calendar year.
3. The new school year is commencing or has already commenced.
4. The new university year will commence in the next few weeks.

Perhaps you are over new beginnings already for the coming year. Perhaps we’ve landed back in the routine of our lives with a bit of a thump?

Yet straight after the grandeur of being seen in the company of Moses, who led the Israelites as God’s people for so long, and Elijah, also God’s faithful servant amidst famine, murder and corruption, God’s Son steps down off the mountain top to meet us where we are.

A father worried about his very ill and suffering son. Jesus acknowledging and predicting the deathly path set before Him to save each one of us.

As we have begun or begin the year in front of us, we will worship, study, pray, sing, and ponder together much of what God says through the Bible to us. Our pastors and colleagues will bring to us challenges and learning. We will walk with our friends and new friends, our brothers and sisters, and those yet to know Jesus as their Saviour, through good times, through difficult times, through struggles of our own.

Through things we understand and things for which there appears no understanding.

While this passage demonstrates both; something understood, the healing of the son; and something not understood, the path to death for our sins; we need to hold onto both.

Jesus knows exactly what we need. As He did for the healing of this man’s son. As He does in dying for our sins so that we might have eternal life.

Here in Jesus’ example, we have a model for our own lives as His followers and servants. As we walk in the usual or routine to look out for those around us we are called to serve. For each God given opportunity in 2014 to support our brothers and sisters, to learn more and experience more of our great God and to help those who don’t know Jesus to see Him through what we do and say. Enjoy the mountain tops and the glimpses of God’s great creation, enjoy the working place we are set in and the great and mundane we are asked to serve in.

May the Lord bless each of us and all of FAC as we seek to serve and minister in all we do.

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.