Thought for 30th April

Todays readings.. Deuteronomy 17, Ecclesiastes 12, Acts 8

“ … AND TO THE END OF THE EARTH”

We should be familiar with the words of the Lord’s Prayer that Jesus taught his disciples….”thy will be done on earth”  Our readings today show us how God creates situations to see that his will is carried out – when men neglect to do so!

The last thing that Jesus said to his servants before he ascended into heaven was that they were to be his witnesses “in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth” [Acts 1 v.8].    They had witnessed in Jerusalem very effectively.  A great congregation had resulted but it brought its own problems so 7 deacons had been appointed so that the 12 Apostles could concentrate on “prayer and the ministry of the word”  [6 v.4]. Consider how attempts were soon made to carry out the commission to preach further afield.

With the stoning to death of Stephen there was a big change.  No doubt many had expected Stephen to experience some dramatic deliverance as had happened with the Apostles earlier.  There would be much heart searching because that did not happen.  Now we read there was “a great persecution against the church in Jerusalemand they were all scattered and went about preaching the word” [v.4]

This preaching resulted in conversions in Samaria with men and women being baptised after they had heard “the good news about the Kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ” [v.12]  Peter and John came down from Jerusalem “and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit” [v.15] which implies that the Apostles had special authority in this and no one else, so that the ability to pass on the powers of the Spirit ceased when they died.

The chapter ends with another baptism – an Ethiopian who “had come to Jerusalem to worship” – so he already knew of the true God. God’s spirit made Philip link up with him.  God was seeing that His will was being done.   God was causing “all things to work together for good” [Romans 8 v.28] – that is for the good of God’s plan and purpose: the grieving relatives of Stephen may have seen it in time from that perspective.

Now let’s consider  our perspective!  The gospel is now going, in these last days, to the end of the earth via the wonder of the internet!  What an exciting time in which to live!   But also a very challenging time! What facilities of travel there are!   Consider the opportunities to open up the full wonder of the original gospel! It now reaches everywhere, but is there any real faith and heartfelt conviction among the readers and hearers?  A heart searching question!

Remember what Jesus said about the last days? “Nevertheless, when the Son of man comes, will he find faith on earth?” [Luke 18 v.8]   That is, genuine faith, evidenced by the commitment and actions of those who possess it.

Thought for April 28th

Todays readings.. Deuteronomy 15, Ecclesiastes 7, Acts 5,6.

“WE MUST OBEY GOD RATHER THAN MEN”

The above statement was made by Peter and the Apostles when they were brought before the council.  They were told “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name” [Acts 5 v.28].  The council then then warned the Apostles, saying, “you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.”

How short is the human memory when there are things they prefer to forget!  In Matt. 27 we read of how Pilate “washed his hands” saying, ‘I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.’  And all the people answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!” [Matt.27 v.24, 25]

We wonder when the world experiences the wonder of Christ’s return – whether there will be a denial of having ever believed in evolution!  Let us ponder what we are about to read in Ecclesiastes, “God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil” [12 v.14].  Also Paul’s words in Romans 2 v.16 of “that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.”  How soon now!?

In Acts ch. 5 today we read how Peter, through the power of the Holy Spirit, knew that Ananias and Sapphira were telling lies [v.4] about how much money they had acquired through selling land. They both died because, said Peter, “You have not lied to man but to God.”

Our world abounds with liars!  Oh, very few will admit to lying, they just ‘bend’ the ‘truth’ to suit the occasion!  This spirit can affect us – if we are not fully committed to serving our Lord, for “We must obey God”

The failure to do this – started at the very beginning, causing Adam and Eve to tell lies to their Creator. In the Kingdom era “Satan” will be “bound” [Rev. 20 v.2] and the saints will be able do this because they will then have “the powers of the age to come” [Heb. 6 v,5] and people will find they “must obey God” or they will suffer the fate of Ananias and Sapphira.

Because we truly “know” God’s word we “must obey God” today. Finally, how relevant to these scriptures are the words of Moses to Israel we read today in Deuteronomy ch. 15. “the LORD will bless you in the land …. if only you will strictly obey the voice of the LORD”   [v.4,5].  Let us meditate on the appropriateness of these words for us for we ‘hear’ his voice through His word!  Let as make sure we ‘hear’ it every day.

Thought for April 27th

Todays readings… Deuteronomy 13&14, Ecclesiastes 6, Acts 3&4.

“FOR THE LORD YOUR GOD IS TESTING YOU”

Today’s Deuteronomy reading brings to our attention an aspect of God’s dealings with us we need to understand and appreciate.  This final message of Moses, we are finding very interesting: in a number of places it contains lessons very appropriate to our days. Moses warns the people to beware of simply following some person who forecasts correctly about a “sign or a wonder” and it “comes to pass.”  [Ch. 13 v.1,2]  For if such a person “says, ‘Let us go after other gods … and let us serve them’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer of dreams.”[v.3]   And then Moses makes a point we may struggle to appreciate.

Moses says, “For the LORD your God is testing you, to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.”  Our immediate question might be – why does God need us to do that?   We do not understand this as meaning that God makes this happen, rather that he allows this to happen and he has a good reason for allowing it.  When the people entered the promised land they faced many challenges and had to fight many battles, their faithfulness to their God was tested, they had to prove themselves by their trust in God as they went to conquer the idol worshipping nations with all their humanly attractive bad and immoral behaviour.  These were situations they encountered before they crossed the Jordan and some of them died because they failed the test.

Moses exhorts them, “You shall walk after the LORD your God and fear him and keep his commandments and obey his voice, and you shall serve him and hold fast to him.” [v.4].

They (and we) would not need to hold fast if there were no situations which threatened to pull us away from him; that tested our faithfulness.  Today there are a multitude of such situations.  But what is the quality of faith if it is not tested? Can you identify when there have been times in your life when the Lord has been testing you?  How close are qwe now in 2017 to crossing the Jordan?

The miracles we are reading about in Acts are such that they defy any possibility that human cleverness was involved.  Today we read of a man so lame from birth that he had to be carried each day and laid at the Temple Gate.  He was more than 40 years old and Peter and John said to him, “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk. Peter took him by the right hand and raised him up and immediately he  …” [Ch.3 v.6].

The reaction of the people gave the disciples a wonderful preaching opportunity, but the reaction of the priests was quite the opposite [Ch. 4], they failed this testing. The Bible message is there in every language for all to read, but nearly all, in 2017, are failing the test.  Can you sense God testing youAre you passing the test?

Thought for April 26th

Todays readings.. Deuteronomy 12, Ecclesiastes 5, Acts 2 (Click on link above for free Bible Reading chart)

“EVERYONE WHOM THE LORD CALLS TO HIMSELF”

What sort of person is the Lord seeking to call?  As we completed reading Peter’s speech on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2 today this familiar question surfaced again.  It was a remarkable speech before this great crowd intrigued to hear all these Galileans speaking in their own languages.

Peter quoted from two different Psalms and the prophet Joel to show that the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus, their real Messiah, had been foretold. Of course we only have the essential kernel of his speech, as the record says, “and with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them saying, ‘Save yourselves from this crooked generation.’ ” [v.40]

All generations are ‘crooked’ to differing degrees – but today we live in one that is extremely so!  Now, did all those who heard Peter save themselves?  Peter had previously said, “the promise is for you and your children and for all who are afar off, everyone one whom the Lord calls to himself” [v.39].

This was the promise that was made to David; Peter had quoted his Psalm [v.28] “”You have made known to me the paths of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence”   Back to our question, did all those who heard Peter act to save themselves?  Verse 41 tells us, “So all those who received his word were baptised.”

It is essential for those who hear (or read) to receive into their hearts the word, realizing what it means for them personally – and so be motivated to act.  We are reading in Deuteronomy of those who heard Moses final stirring messages before he died – they received his words and so entered the promised land and were faithful in their lives.

The initial effect on those who received Peter’s words and were baptised was that they “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and prayers” [v.42].  This is still the effect on those who perceive and receive wonder of the inspired scripture message.

Our thoughts then go to those most moving words in Hebrews, “let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.  Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering … all the more as you see the day approaching.” [Ch.10 v.22,23,25] convinced, in faith, we are among those “whom the Lord calls to himself.

Thought for April 25th

Todays readings.. Deuteronomy 10&11, Ecclesiastes 4, Acts 1

“FOR IF YOU WILL BE CAREFUL TO DO …”

What do we all need to “be careful to do”?   Our quotation is from the words of Moses; his final address to the generation who are about to enter the promised land under Joshua (and we know what Joshua means!)

Their parents had died in the wilderness – because of their lack of faith, altho’ they had witnessed all the wonders of the powers of the true God as they escaped from Pharaoh in leaving Egypt and then crossed the Red Sea. There followed by the awesome evidence of the nearness of their God, the only true God, as they encamped before the mountain when the 10 commandments were given to Moses.

We can, indeed we must, absorb these words, being “fully persuaded” that they are a diving message to us – to keep us strong in these last days – and then we will enter the ultimate promised land – to be established when Jesus returns – and how soon now!

Let us ponder carefully and prayerfully the words of Moses we read today in Deuteronomy ch. 11 (v. 22,23) “For if you will be careful to do all this commandment that I command you to do, loving the LORD your God, walking in all his ways, and holding fast to him,   then the LORD will …”   Are we all “holding fast” to our Lord today – and every day?

Let us redouble our efforts to “be careful” to hold fast, and then, in the kingdom, as Moses promised  Israel in the wilderness of those days, also in the kingdom, “no one shall be able to stand against you.  The LORD your God will lay the fear of you and the dread of you on all …” [v.25].  In that wondrous day, we, as saints in the kingdom, will possess “the powers of the age to come”  [Heb. 6 v.5] having been careful to do and follow all the words of spiritual guidance in God’s word. Let us ”be careful” to be motivated to read and absorb God’s word every day.

Thought for April 24th

Todays readings …  Deuteronomy 8&9, Ecclesiastes 3, John 20&21

“AND THAT BY BELIEVING YOU MAY HAVE LIFE IN HIS NAME”

 

Today we read the climax and reached the end of the gospel of John, and what a challenging clix it unfolds to us..  These final two chapters are two of the most heart-warming and heart stirring chapters in the whole of the Bible.

The words of Jesus to the disciple Thomas are words which we should be particularly appropriate to us.  Thomas was one of the twelve but “was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.”

But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” [John 20 v.24,25]

Jesus was ‘present’ [!] to hear his declaration and “eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.”[v.26,27]

The final words of Jesus in the chapter are his statement, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

The chapter ends with the admission by John that “Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” May our belief but total! It cannot be anything less!

Thought for April 23rd

Todays readings.. Deuteronomy 6, Ecclesiastes 2 John 19

“THIS WAS MY REWARD”

The wisest of kings, Solomon, reflects on what his life had really achieved. In reading Ecclesiastes, we perceive his remarkable insight into the meaning and purpose, from a human perspective, of all that we do and all that we possess in our lives. What does Solomon’s insight reveal? He sees he has used his wisdom to accomplish everything possible.

His second chapter details this, “ … my heart still guiding me with wisdom … I made great works, I built houses and planted vineyards … made myself gardens and parks and planted in them all kinds of fruit trees. I made myself pools … had slaves … also great possessions of herds … also gathered for myself silver and gold … I got singers … many concubines … so I became great and surpassed all who were before me … whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure … this was my reward for all my toil” [v.3-11]

Consider carefully his conclusion! “this was my reward” – but we noted even more his next comment, “then I considered all that I had done and the toil I had expended.” And what does he see as the outcome of his considerations?

“Behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind.” Other versions have, “I saw everything was emptiness and chasing the wind” (NEB) “meaningless” (NIV). Solomon saw that life has no lasting substance, yet we all strive after things we can possess and experience, but at the end of the day there is nothing ‘eternal’ in what we have achieved! Solomon then declares “so I hated life” [v.17]

It seems evident he wrote Ecclesiastes near the end of his life. He lacked the vision that his father David possessed. David wrote a Psalm and commented about “men of the world whose portion is in this life” but in the next verse stated, “As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness; when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness.” [Psa. 17 v.14,15] What reward we be satisfied with?

Ecclesiastes makes humans look in the mirror of their minds and consider what they are accomplishing in life. Do you have a ‘mirror’ in your mind? What do you see when you look in it? What they see makes many read and reflect on God’s word more fervently.

Thought for April 22nd

Todays readings.. Deuteronomy 5, Ecclesiastes 1, John 17&18

“EVERYONE WHO IS OF THE TRUTH LISTENS …”

Jesus had little to say to the High Priest who first questioned him; he simply told him, “I have spoken openly to the world, I have always taught in the synagogue and in the temple” [John 18 v.20]. Jesus is challenging them; if I have said things that are wrong, you produce witnesses to show this!

Ananias passes the problem on to Caiaphas, the High Priest. He in turn sends him to Pilate and the drama starts to reach its climax. When Pilate wants to know what he is accused of, they are evasive saying, “If this man were not doing evil, we would not have delivered him over to you.” [v.30]. They need Pilate to approve his death; we get the impression they would not stone him and risk the consequences, as they later did with Stephen.

Pilate questions Jesus again, “What have you done?” [v.35] Jesus responds, “ …my kingdom is not from this world” He means, this world cannot give him a Kingdom, his kingdom will not come as a result of human endeavours. Jesus further perplexes Pilate by saying, “I have come into the world – to bear witness to the truth.” Then he adds, “everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice?” [v.37]. What does he mean?

In chapter 17, we read the prayer of Jesus [v.1]. “Sanctify them (his true followers) in the truth; your word is truth … for their sake I consecrate myself, that they may be sanctified in truth.” [v.17,19] To sanctify means to be made holy, set apart from the rest – from those who do not want to make any commitment.

Only those interested in what is really true – listens – and act on what they hear. The world is full of half-truths and deceptions; this is evident most of all in politics. The message of Jesus is the only really important truth in the world! Pilate’s final question is – “What is truth?” [v.38]

We suspect this is asked in a sense of ridicule, but the context gives no clear clue. Given the machinations surrounding him, one can imagine an attitude of derision – nothing is really true, everyone puts their own spin on what they say! Do we really, from the depths of our heart, seek and believe the real truth? Jesus knows! The way we talk and act – proves whether we do.

Thought for April 21st

Todays Readings.. Deuteronomy 4, Proverbs 31, John 15&16

“LOVE ONE ANOTHER JUST AS I HAVE LOVED YOU”

            Love is probably the most common word in both Christian and non-Christian literature.  It is used in a wide range of situations with many different meanings.  It is usually used in common speech today in a very casual way!  Are those who read God’s word influenced by this?

If we are – it will undermine our appreciation of what this word means in Scripture?  In the Greek there are two different words and the one we focus on is ‘agape’ which occurs so much in the Gospel of John; he uses it 27 times; 9 times in today’s chapters (15 &16).

Chapter 13 today contains a key statement of the Master, “A new commandment I have given you, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” [v.34].  So how did Jesus love them? How did he set an example?

What events and words show this?  He washed their feet and he used this as an example of how to serve one another; however few of us tramp dusty roads in sandals with bare feet.  to make a ritual of this would destroy the lesson as we commented yesterday.  It was one example of love and humility toward one another. Jesus said, “I have given you an example that you also should do as I have done to you.” [v.15].

Not many hours later he would tell them of the ultimate act of  “love” soon to occur – saying “greater love has no man than this” [15 v.13]  Jesus asked, “Who is the greater, one who reclines at table, or one who serves? I am among you as one who serves” [Luke 22 v.27]   So the love that Jesus showed was one of serving, he came as a servant – but will return as a King.  In serving Jesus, we must ourselves seek to show love by what we do.

There will be times when we need to be gentle as he was with his disciples when they faltered, and he said “O you of little faith” [Luke 12 v28]; but read v.22-31 and appreciate the context and our Master’s final point, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”.  We might think of what we want, but our heavenly Father knows what we need. He did not send anyone away, they went away themselves when they found his sayings “hard” [John 6 v.60,66]

When John, years later, wrote his epistles he made one particular point which echoed these words of Jesus, “let us not love in word or talk, but in deedin truth” [1 John 3 v.18] or as the NEB version puts it, “love must be genuine and show itself by actions.”  Let us love one another” as Jesus “has loved” us.

Thought for April 20th

Todays readings.. Deuteronomy 3, Proverbs 30, John 13&14.

“MY PEACE I GIVE TO YOU … NOT AS THE WORLD GIVES …””

What is the peace of Jesus? The world is full of restless hearts and minds, many are looking for the next new experience – others are disturbed because their lives are out of control for one reason or another. Those who have a real relationship with Jesus develop “the peace of God which surpasses all understanding” [Philpns 4 v.7].

Today’s chapters in John continue to challenge us to think through them, but that is the wonder of the Bible, it is a book which never ceases to challenge and fascinate. It is not a book which we can put back on the shelf and say I have got my mind right around it all; I just have it there in case I want to check whether my memory is accurate.

Jesus promised his disciples that after he is no longer with them they will receive “the Helper, the Holy Spirit” and this Spirit “will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” Immediately after this he says, “’Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” [14 v.26,27]

In coming hours, the disciples were to be dreadfully distressed, only John remained close to him after he was arrested [18 v.15] and went in to personally witness his trial. He was the one “whom Jesus loved” [13 v.23], evidently the youngest, so age is no indicator of closeness to Jesus. It is John who, through the Holy Spirit, is able to recall and later write down this intimate conversation; part of which we read today.

After Jesus told them not to be afraid he says, “You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe.” [v.28,29]

Events have taken place in our lifetime which the Scriptures have predicted, especially in the Middle East: the world is fearful and the time is surely coming when that fear will ‘explode’ into world-wide consternation. At that time it will be vital for true believers to have the words of Jesus at the forefront of their minds, “My peace I leave with you … let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

Let us seek to experience that “peace” now – especially in times of personal stress and distress – and be ready for the prophesied “time of trouble, such as never has been” that Daniel (12 v.1) was warned about! But how inspiring are the words of the Almighty in the same verse. “But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book.” Surely, those who possess the “peace” that Jesus supplies – now!