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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God who is supreme over all, the seen and unseen.

Today’s (Su 01/10/2017) FDR is Psalm 82 .

It will come as no surprise to you that this is one of the shortest psalms in this book of the Bible.  But my reading suggests it is one of the most debated and written about.

I’d like to draw out two particular points: (i) how its constructed poetically and (ii) how part of it was used by Jesus.

It has three strands of thought with two encapsulated in the prior one so that it is a clear indicator of the simple emphasis that is encouraged by this form of expression.

A  God stands and judges the assembly of the gods. (v1)

B  The gods are confronted over their injustice. (v2-4)

C  The chaos left by the gods is described. (v5)

B  The gods are confronted with their mortality. (v6-7)

A  God is asked to rise in the assembly and judge the earth. (v8)

God stands over all for what He desires.  A just world in which He exercises judgement of all for those things done and not done.  For the chaos created.  God’s authority is emphasised here by the use of the word ‘gods’ to include both the earthly and supernatural over which He has supreme authority.

Jesus, God’s son and part of the Trinity, is recorded in John 10: 30-49 as being charged as blasphemous when He says He and the Father are One (v30).  Jesus goes on to defend himself before those wishing to stone Him (v33-36) using Psalm 82:6 through the interpretation that some mortals are “gods’ or immortal.  Jesus goes on to argue that He was sanctified and sent by ‘the Father’ to do the Father’s works.

Here’s how John records this interchange between Jesus’ accusers, attempting to be His executioners, and Jesus.

John 10:30-39 New International Version – UK (NIVUK)

30 I and the Father are one.’

31 Again his Jewish opponents picked up stones to stone him, 32 but Jesus said to them, ‘I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?’

33 ‘We are not stoning you for any good work,’ they replied, ‘but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.’

34 Jesus answered them, ‘Is it not written in your Law, “I have said you are ‘gods’”[a]? 35 If he called them “gods”, to whom the word of God came – and Scripture cannot be set aside – 36 what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, “I am God’s Son”? 37 Do not believe me unless I do the works of my Father. 38 But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.’ 39 Again they tried to seize him, but he escaped their grasp.

Footnotes:

  1. John 10:34 Psalm 82:6
(Sourced from Biblegateway.com on 29/09/2017.  With thanks.)

 

So we are able to sing in great joy and praise of our Almighty God and His son Jesus:

I know not why God’s wondrous grace

(Sourced from Youtube.com on 29/09/2017.  With thanks.)

May your Sunday be blessed as you praise the Almighty Triune God,

Glenn

Two Kings choose to mock God

Today’s (Tu 04/06/2017) and tomorrow’s Old Testament FDR is 2 Chronicles 25 and 26 and can be read by clicking on the blue link.  (Today’s and tomorrow’s New Testament passage will appear in tomorrow’s blog.)

Other Gods in life (ch25)

Amaziah, as the new king of Judah, begins well.  He deals with those directly involved in his father’s assassination by putting them to death.  This also separates him from any involvement.  Note too, he observes the law that applies here to dealing with sin against other persons and only executes those involved and not their families.  Now to war.  He assembles his own tribes who make a great number (300k) ready for war and hires another 100k from Israel at twice the going rate.

Unfortunately at this time Israel has become apostate.  Although Amaziah is raising a ‘host’ he relies on a reinforced army made up of 25% of non-believers.  (It is thought the purpose was to deal with the sin of the Edomites when they invaded Judah 50 years before.  Considered a sin because the Edomites attacked the people of God.)

This choice to involve the Israelites demonstrates Amaziah’s decision not to rely on the Lord for assistance, but to seek earthly assistance from an apostate mercenary force.  Little wonder the ‘man of God’ is outraged! (v7)

The reading takes us through the victory, in unlikely ways that God brings to the fight, as the ‘believers’ fight on their own with the Edomite southerners.

Sadly, the Chronicles record notes the departing mercenary contingent that raids civilian towns on their unhappy dismissal and returning angrilly home from a bounty of booty they could have expected in plundering the Edomites with Amaziah’s force. (v13)

Unfortunately what then follows  is another poor decision of Amaziah’s.  Rather than destroying the false gods and images of the Edomites where they stood he brings them home to Judah and places them in a special place and continues to recognise them as gods by prostrating himself and making burnt offerings!  At least he did not place these in the Temple of the Lord, yet he worshipped them!

God calls a prophet in His anger to challenge Amaziah!

The prophet asks this rehotorical question.  “Why do you resort to the gods of another people, when they were powerless against you, when you were commissioned by the Lord himself?”  The text records that it was all down hill from here.

For us this should read – “Why do we resort to the powerless gods of others when we know the Lord Himself?”

Too big for his boots (ch 26)

This chapter introduces Uzziah to us and cites his great feat of opening the trade route to Aqab, that had been an aim of Amaziah’s reign (v1&2).  This chapter goes on to record his pleasing behaviour before the Lord, his worship of God and that God made him prosper.  Uzziah was successful before God in fighting, in agriculture and being prepared to defend his people and land (v3 – 15).

Then at v16 Chronicles records Uzziah’s departure from relying on God.  Although he has reached the watershed of his reign and become very successful as God’s earthly representative he becomes arrogant and violates one of the rights of God by entering the nave of the Temple to offer incense.  This is a role of the priests alone, as commanded by God, and is done twice daily in normal circumstances.

Here we see a mark of the respect and fear in which Uzziah was held (v17).  Quickly we see both the priest’s proclamation of judgement and God’s judgement placed on him in the form of a skin disease.  Interestingly the passage records Uzziah’s awakening to what he has done (v20).

God’s judgement includes Uzziah now being isolated from all he has done and his own people and family as prescribed by Leviticus 13:46.  Even when he dies his body is buried rather than placed in the sepulchre of the royal house (v23).

For us the priests’ question can be rephrased, “What arrogance will lead us to deny God his rightful place in all we do?”

Sisters and brothers, although we can see these kings of God’s choosing and their stories as part of Old Testament history they also speak to us .  Through Jesus we too are elect of God and can succumb to the temptations of the evil one to choose other gods or think we are cool enough to treat God with disrespect, even unthinkingly!

A prayer:  Father and Almighty God,  I too am able to turn away from you and pay attention to other things I put in the place in my life that You only should have.  Sometimes these are things I might worship.  Sometimes these are things I might do that push you aside from being central in all I do, think and say.  Help me Father to realise when I have done this.  In Jesus’ name forgive me please Almighty God?  Help me to keep You central in my life in all times.   I ask this in the name of Jesus Christ, my Lord.  Amen

God Bless,

Glenn

The following publication was used to assist in preparing this 
blog: 
Johnstone, William. (1997) 1 & 2 Chronicles Vol 2  in  Journal 
for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement Series 254, 
Sheffield Academic Press, Midsomer North. pp 150 - 169

A pair of Kings, from different houses and judgement

Today’s (Wed 31/05/2017) FDRs are 1 Samuel 26 & 27 and Revelation 17 & 18

As we continue our reading in the books of Samuel about two earthly kings from different families we continue to see a stark contrast between Saul and David.  Saul is now under God’s judgement and has been given over to an evil spirit or demon.  Do you remember after which sin God turned His back on Saul?

David is still making day to day decisions with God’s supremacy and will in his mind.  So he chooses not to take revenge opportunities that he comes into but to leave judgement to God.  Given our first impulses many of us will want to react to offences given. Just like David’s men in both the cave and Saul’s tent.  It is hard to restrain the ‘urge’ to strike out at the person who has hurt us.  Perhaps we’ve been passed over for a promotion or the desired cream task has been handed to somebody else! Perhaps our friends have been told a false story about us or our family that they’ve believed!

In the moment we discover that this has happened to us we often want to teach the perpetrator a lesson!

Jesus teaches us that there, in the flash of a thought to take revenge, we have sinned!  How do we remedy this response in us?

Why do you think we see David acting differently?   Look into Jesus’s teaching and the apostles writings about how to keep ourselves from sinning?

As we read our Revelation chapters today, are you struck, as I am, by the immense forces unleashed on  the earth and its people.

We read, hear or see news of apparent threats from North Korea and this country’s testing of missiles that could carry nuclear war heads onto our country.  War heads that can unleash tremendous destruction and desolation.  What will these end-times forces that God is sending in judgement do?  Why judgement?

Whatever you believe the form of these visions in Revelation are, it is pretty clear they depict the end of the world and its peoples.  The way in which these descriptions occur and are written are similar to any other passages in the Bible where God brings judgement on an individual, on a people, on nations and on countries.  As a direct example look at the earlier Samuel passage where Saul is judged as God withdraws Himself and allows an evil spirit to control Saul.

While David’s prime role in the Bible is to continue the line from which the gracious gift of God is made, that of Jesus Christ in the form of forgiveness for our sins.  This is so that forgiveness comes to life personally in our world.  So too we are reminded by Revelation that judgement can and will come to us all.

David’s life, although faulted, becomes an exemplar for our own life.  To live in faith and hope under the glorious grace and mercy of our Triune God.  Our Father God!

I trust this hymn and its words build you up and encourage you as you seek to live as God asks.  I encourage to go into today with these words and your commitment to our Almighty God on your heart and mind.

I, the Lord of sea and sky

May we be blessed by God and bless each other as we seek to walk together as children of God.

Glenn

Thanks to youtube.com for the clip above.

 

Psalms 53 and 14 – God in third person.

Today’s (Su 05/02/2017) FDR is Psalm 53 and can be read by clicking on this link.

This short Psalm and the earlier appearing Psalm 14 mimic each other in that they largely have the same content.  Unlike many other psalms in this book God is not addressed here in first person but in the third person.

Some commentaries only make reference to Psalm 14 and treat 53 as the same.

So what are we to make of these almost twin images?

The claim in v1 that “ God does not care” is not only expressed here but in Ps 10:4.   Yet that is what we hear from those who appear unable to stand in the weight of evil around us who are ‘benighted’, or put in the deepest dark of night.

In these two psalms, this phrase challenges two basic tenets of the books of psalms; (a) the ability of God to hear prayers, and (b) the ability of God to punish the human wrongs that are lamented in the Psalms.  Also for us, since Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, this phrase challenges Jesus’ promise to forgive our sins and restore us into a relationship with His Father, our Lord Almighty God.

We often hear these views expressed  today.  Through their own personal experience of trouble and hardship some see God as not caring about them or other people’s situations.  So too, we can become trapped by our unfounded guilt, and express or act as if our God does not care.

God’s gift of His Son to us does in fact show God Cares for us.

Verse 53:5 speaks in the leader’s voice of their people and asks an important question for us all as God’s ambassadors:  “Are these who devour and destroy God’s people so witless as to not call on, or pray to God?”  (Here the words are used to convey a regard for the Almighty God, even to just realise there is a God who cares and will bring judgement.)

So at v6, we see the inevitable sentence imposed on those who don’t acknowledge God.  “for God has rejected them.”

Both psalms close with v7, that deliverance will come and God’s people will be restored.

1 Peter 4:10 & 11 puts it like this:

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 11 If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

May God’s name be praised in all the earth.

Glenn M.

 

 

The Messenger killed. Judgement for All.

Today’s (Fr 03/06/2016) FDRs are from 2 Samuel 1 and Revelation 20 .

1 Samuel 2 – As we change books into the second book of Samuel it is worth noting that this book should be read as a continuation of the first although David shortly becomes the major focus.

While there is a sense of unfair treatment for the Amalekite messenger who, it appears was expecting a reward for finishing-off David’s public enemy (v10), David acts with continued great regard for Saul, (God’s appointed King, Jonathan’s father, and previously David’s direct boss) and has the messenger killed.  David continues to pay particular respect to King Saul, not just as his great friend’s father but as the person God carefully appointed to be King over Israel.

Given the breakdown in relationship between David and Saul it would have been very easy to dismiss Saul’s death as a gift and concentrate on Jonathan’s death in David’s dirge.  Yet this is not what David does.  He respects God’s choice of King and the dirge that follows (vv 19 – 27) and expresses his and his men’s grief over the death of both the  leaders yet the defeat of Israel is not included here.  Jonathan rates a particular mention in vv 25 and 26 as befits a very close friend, who was like a brother to David.  This expression, of his brotherhood with Jonathan, brings into the spotlight David’s son-like relationship with Saul.  This Saul who sought to take his life many times is still considered as a father to David!

We can see here a representation of God’s love for you and I.  Despite all we do in sin God still loves us and through His grace has provided His Son, Jesus to stand for us on Judgement Day.

Hypothetically, If we were unforgiving of Saul, as it is easy to be, then David and Saul’s relationship would have ended in a cave where Saul went to relieve himself and David had advantage over him.  NO more running and hiding.  NO more separation from his brother Jonathan.  NO serving the Philistine King.  Oh – and Jonathan would be free of his father.  Seems easy doesn’t it?

Yet, if we were to act as in the above hypothetical, we would be discounting and dishonouring God who had Samuel anoint Saul as King.

As I write this I am convicted that I should examine my own human responses to people whom God has put in my life!  People I have turned from because of some apparent offense!  Equally important, I realise an assessment of my life’s relationship with my God appointed King Jesus Christ is necessary.  Regularly and when prompted.

Revelation 20 – This chapter of Revelation, for me, is the pivot point of this book.  Satan and the Devil, already defeated at death by Jesus’ death and resurrection, is bound and finally (v10) restrained forever.

Judgement follows for me, and us all, everyone (vv 11-15).  In John’s vision, against books recording our deeds and also against the Book of Life.

These verses provide a clear view of the Bible’s expectation of what happens here on Judgement Day.  (I encourage you to refresh or inform your memory about this aspect of our Christian life.)

Matthew 16:27-28

Romans 2:5-11  
[You might like to read this passage more broadly than these six verses.]

2 Corinthians 5:10

A Prayer – Lord and Father, may I respect and treat with care those whom you bring me in contact with in whatever circumstance.  Forgive me Father, in Christ’s name, for those whom I have offended or deliberately hurt.  Help me keep observant and active in my relationships so that I treat your children, and those who do not know you, with the same respect and care that Jesus demonstrated.  I ask these things in Jesus name.  Amen.

Glenn

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