Thought for September 30th

Todays readings… 1 Chronicles 13&14, Ezekiel 26, Luke 23

“TRULY I SAY UNTO YOU TODAY”

Today we read the familiar account of Jesus on ‘trial’ before Herod and Pilate and the determination of the Jewish leaders to have him crucified – and “they were urgent, demanding with loud cries that he should be crucified. And their voices prevailed.” [Luke 23 v.23]   

Today and in recent years the voices and published words of so many are urgent in saying there is no Creator, that life evolved in some way that is impossible for them to understand or explain – and the sayings and writings of such – today – have “prevailed”. 

What a privilege that we are among the increasing few who know how foolish this all is!

Today’s chapter also contains one brief conversation – but it is fascinating and meaningful – and is unique in history.  Jesus is crucified together with two criminals, and one “railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” [v.39].   This was obviously said with no pretension of belief! “But the other rebuked him” [v.40] and made an honest statement and then a most remarkable request!

  The rebuke was, “”Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?  And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.”[v.41] 

And then he asked (and we have corrected the wrong punctuation in the English text – there is no punctuation at all in the Greek) “  His request was, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you today, you will be with me in Paradise.”

Three days later Mary Magdalene encounter the resurrected Christ, and he “said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'” [John 20 v.17] 

Let us daily read the words God’s has caused to be written and preserved: may they come alive in our minds so that we ‘hear’ his Son” saying unto you and I today  – Be faithful and “you will be with me in Paradise.”   The word “paradise” occurs in a challenging way in Rev. 2 v.7, the time when the earth becomes a “paradise” with the returned Christ reigning in Jerusalem.

Thought for September 29th

Todays readings… 1 Chronicles 12, Ezekiel 25, Luke 22

“DO THIS IN REMEMBRANCE OF ME” 

The 71 verses in the 22nd chapter of  Luke’s gospel contain some of the most heart moving passages in Scripture, especially if we can really bring them ‘alive’ in our minds.  How the events and the words that Jesus uttered must have come ‘alive’ in the thinking of his disciples later

May they come alive in our minds as we read – and as this happens – may we effectively meditate on them.

Jesus said, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.” [v.15].   The actual day of the Passover had not yet come, the meal occurred “before the Feast of the Passover “ [John 13 v.1: cf. 18 v.28]. Our Luke chapter tells us this was “the day of Unleavened Bread”[v.7]

The “Passover” they were to eat with Jesus was to be emulated and echoed by genuine believers down through the centuries until our day  In his first letter to the Corinthians, ch. 11, Paul tells them of the action of Jesus, that “when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” [v.24].See this in v. 19 of today’s chapter   In the next verse Paul tells them, “also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

Committed believers in every generation since – seek to “do this in remembrance of” what Jesus did to be a sacrifice for their sins, they usually do this “on the first day of every week” [Acts 20 v.7; 1 Cor. 16 v.2] as was Paul’s practice, but there is no command about a particular day.

Returning to Luke ch. 22 we read the account of the arrest of Jesus in the darkness of the Garden of Gethsemane, they were afraid to do this when he taught “day after day in the Temple”  “But” he said “this is your hour, and the power of darkness.” [v.53] In a sense this “power” has operated ever since!  But not for much longer!

Thought for September 28th

Todays readings.. 1 Chronicles 11, Ezekiel 24, Luke 21

“UNTIL THE TIMES OF THE GENTILES ARE FULFILLED” 

                                                                             
            Quite a number of Bible Readers would know where to find the above quotation!  Can we become too familiar with such passages of Scripture so that they lose their impact for us?  We read Luke Ch. 21 very slowly this morning. 
 
It is evident that the first 24 verses were primarily for those who heard Jesus: and these except for the elderly, were going to experience these “days of vengeance” and “great distress upon the earth and wrath against this people” [v.22,23].
         There is a striking parallel between this and our reading in Ezekiel Ch.24 where the message the prophet sent to Jerusalem is totally blunt. Twice he writes, “Woe to the bloody city” [v.6,9].  Less than 2 years are now left before God acts to destroy the city and the wonderful  Temple  Solomon had built.
The totally unspiritual behaviour of the inhabitants would finally cause God “to rouse my wrath, to take vengeance … on account of your unclean lewdness” [v.8,12].  There are direct parallels to our generation – and we look carefully at the words of Jesus that apply to our generation.
 
        Are the words of Jesus in v.25 & 26 symbolic or literal or a mixture of both?  Jesus’ statement is plain enough that Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.” [v.24] 
 

Thought for September 27th

Todays readings… 1 Chronicles 10, Ezekiel 23, Luke 20

“YOU YOURSELVES MUST BEAR THE CONSEQUENCES” 

Our chapter 10 in 1st Chronicles describes how Saul bore ‘the consequences’ because “he did not seek guidance from the LORD.” [v.14]  The same message emerges from the distasteful parable in our 23rd chapter in Ezekiel. 

At the climax of this ‘ugly’ parable of, “the Lord GOD” says, “….Because you have forgotten me and cast me behind your back, you yourselves must bear the consequences…”  [v.35]

As we have read today’s chapter in the gospel of Luke we saw the parable of Jesus giving warning of the same consequences for the religious leaders who were rejecting him.

Jesus tells the parable of the vineyard and the failure of the tenants to whom it had been let out – and how, in the end, they kill the son of the owner saying, ‘This is the heir. Let us kill him, so that the inheritance may be ours.’ [10 v.14]  They were to “bear the consequences…” for doing this!  Thus the nation of Israel was destroyed – the generation that had rejected Jesus.

What do we see today – what is the scene in the whole world?  God’s word has been made available in every language over the last 100 years – and in some cases, much longer.  Most of today’s generation have turned their back on God’s message! 

The great majority are now denying that there even is a God, a great Creator who has given them his Son to believe and follow as the only way to be “considered worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead” [v.35].  This is the point Jesus made to “those who deny that there is a resurrection” [v.27]

“Those who deny” the wonder of what is revealed in God’s word “must bear the consequences”  There are awesome “consequences” to come, as we will find – and fear – in Luke’s chapter tomorrow for “those who deny” the truths revealed in God’s word.

And those who do not deny them – must wholeheartedly accept` them – there is no middle way. 

Thought for September 26th

Todays readings… 1 Chronicles 8, Ezekiel 22, Luke 19

“BECAUSE YOU HAVE BEEN FAITHFUL” 

Today’s chapter in Luke (19) first records the conversion of a Tax Collector as Jesus enters Jericho – this man “received him (Jesus) joyfully” [v.6]  His declaration and his actions  demonstrate his repentance – but others were grumbling “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” [v.7].   This leads Jesus to declare, “”Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” [v.9,10]

How few seek salvation today!  They do not see themselves as “lost” – indeed, so few know there is anything to be “found”!   Then Jesus tells a parable as he nears Jerusalem “because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately.” [v.11] 

We sense we are living today at a time when “the kingdom of God” will very soon “appear.”

There follows the story about “ten servants” who are each given the same amount of money – “ten minas” and told to ‘Engage in business until I come.’ [v.13]   Then when he returned, having received the kingdom, he ordered these servants to whom he had given the money to be called to him, that he might know what they had gained by doing business.” [v.15] 

One has not used his ‘minas’ and is condemned – but the others are told, “Well done, good servant! Because you have been faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over ten/five cities.’” [v.17] 

This is a simple parable – and its’ meaning is clear.  May our Lord one day (soon!?) say to all who are reading this – who also absorb and mediate on the Scriptures they read, or hear read, each day, and who are then living their lives by “doing business for their Lord, according to their talents, hear their Lord say, “’Well done, good servant! Because you have been faithful in a very little, you shall have …”

Thought for September 25th

Todays readings… 1 Chronicles 8, Ezekiel 21, Luke 18

“A PARABLE … ALWAYS TO PRAY AND NOT LOSE HEART”  

      In this parable, at the start of Luke ch. 18, Jesus illustrates the importance of persistence in prayer.  We must become increasingly conscious that God’s power is such that he sees and knows all. 

David puts it this way, “O LORD … you discern my thoughts from afar.” [Psalm 139 v.2]. Today’s parable in Luke ch. 22 challenges us to consider answers to prayer.   Do we seek to know God’s will for usor are we only thinking of our own wants and desires? 

      Early this month we read of the traumas in Paul’s life.  How urgent his prayers must have been in the many difficult situations he endured, but his Lord led him through them all. 

Soon we will read of Jesus, in earnest prayer to His Father: he does not get the answer he seeks, but the Father’s will has to be done. [Ch. 22 v.41, 42]

      Our way of thinking might cause us to wonder why the Lord led Paul into all these difficulties; but then we look at the outcome and realize that overcoming difficulties is how faith grows, we see in this parable the woman’s faith was, in the end, rewarded.  The ‘punch line’ of the parable is that we should “always pray and not lose heart [v.7] 

    The climax is a question [v.8], “when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”  Will he find those who really know the value and power of prayer; who are praying to the uttermost for a faith that grows as the world is falling apart around them? We must constantly strive to be among those who do not lose heart?

   Now look at the next parable; it is about two different types of men who went into the Temple to pray.  One was telling the Almighty what he did, but of the one whose prayer was heard, Jesus says, he “went down to his house justified,” and our Lord makes the point, “the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” [v.14].   Yes, we ought always to pray – in humility of spirit – even moreas we sense our Lord is about to come. Let us make sure we are among “his elect who cry to him day and night” [v.7].

Thought for September 24th

Todays readings… 1 Chronicles 7, Ezekiel 26,

“REMEMBER LOT’S WIFE” 

The account of the destruction of Sodom and the ‘last minute’ deliverance of Lot and his daughters is a well-known part of Bible history.  Also known – is how” Lot’s wife … looked back” [Gen. 19 v.26] and failed to escape the destruction. “Two angels came” [v.1] to deliver them but “Lot’s wife … looked back” – she was too attached to life in Sodom.

In our 17th chapter in Luke today Jesus made a strange answer to the Pharisees when they asked him  “when the kingdom of God would come” Jesus “answered them, “The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” [v.20,21]  We take that to mean, the unrecognised king of the kingdom is in their midst. 

Jesus then gives his disciples a challenging vision of the future – surely this is real! Jesus first warns them “…they will say to you, ‘Look, there!’ or ‘Look, here!’ Do not go out or follow them.” [v.23]..  This is a warning about false prophets – see Mark 13 v.22.

That warning has applied through the centuries, but now that the Jews are back in Jerusalem – (note ch. 21 v.24) then we need to be prepared for the fulfilment of the awesome words in Luke’s next verse (24) For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day.”

But this was not to happen then to Jesus, for “first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.” [v.25] ‘This generation” has continue until our days. How few genuinely accept him – from their hearts – today!? 

What a graphic ‘picture’ Jesus ends his discourse with!!  It seems to fit so well the attitudes in the world we see all around us today!  Jesus says, “just as it was in the days of Lot—they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, but on the day when Lot went out from Sodom …” [v.28,29] Then came destruction!

Then Jesus says, “so will it be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed … Remember Lot’s wife. Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it.” 

Let us “remember” what happen to “Lot’s wife” let us also “remember” the words of Jesus we read in Luke ch. 9 “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?  For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him (or her) will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes…” [v.24-26]

Thought for September 23rd

Todays readings… 1 Chrinicles 6, Ezekiel 19, Luke 16

“BUT GOD KNOWS YOURS HEARTS” 

Today, in Luke ch. 16, we have what are probably the two parables of Jesus that are the most challenging to understand.  They were not given to believers – but to unbelievers. We note their reaction!  “The Pharisees, who … heard all these things … ridiculed him.   And he said to them, ‘You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.’ ” [v.14,15]

We cannot stress enough the point of Jesus that, “God knows (y)our hearts” – but, we note what Paul told believers at Corinth in his 1st letter (ch. 4,) “do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.” [4 v.5] 

How much to the point are the words Peter wrote, he said, before “the Lord comes”, although genuine believers will, “if necessary you  have been grieved by various trials” – this will be – “so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes … may be found to result in praise and glory and honour at the revelation of Jesus Christ. “ [1 Peter 1 v.6,7]

Because “God knows (y)our hearts” this will happen – how wonderful – how awesome! 

Returning to Luke 16; first 13 verses contain a parable Jesus gives about a dishonest manager – this is a way of describing those who take the ‘broad’ way instead of God’s way. Jesus makes the profound but simple point, “No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

Those who try to – are blind to the fact that “God knows (y)our hearts” 

The huge challenge for us in these last days is well described by Paul in the 15th chapter of his first letter to the Corinthians.  Paul asked, “Why are we in danger every hour?” and warns the believers, “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company ruins good morals.’ ”

Let us be fully awake to the extensive dangers around us today – being awake, because we fully realize that “God knows (y)our hearts.

Thought for September 22nd

“THE SOUL WHO SINS SHALL DIE”

Our chapter 18 in Ezekiel is one that is often quoted in discussions with those who believe that we possess some sort of inner being, a soul, that lives on in some sense after their body dies: but this idea is nowhere to be found in God’s word.  The word ‘nephesh’ in Hebrew, which here and in some places is translated as soul, first occurs in Genesis 1 v.20 – where it is translated as ‘creature.’  It does not mean some ‘spirit’ part of a person. In today’s chapter in Ezekiel we read that “The word of the LORD came to me ….  Behold, all souls are mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is mine: the soul who sins shall die.” [v. 1, 4]

It is made clear again to Ezekiel that the father or son who “has done what is just and right, and has been careful to observe all my statutes, he shall surely live.”[v.19]   It is onlythe soul who sins shall die.” [v.20].  In the next verse we read “But if a wicked person turns away from all his sins that he has committed and keeps all my statutes and does what is just and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die.

But this is not saying, eternally live!   But those who remain wicked – will die eternally!  We have said, many times, there is only the broad and wide way – and the narrow way!  Paul expresses this bluntly as we read at the beginning of the month in 1 Cor. 15. “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” [v.22]  Nothing, “be made” – they do not naturally have a nature that is ‘eternally alive.’  Those before Christ came, who lived by genuine faith, as shown in Hebrews ch. 11, will “be made perfect” at the same time as those “in Christ.”

Finally, we bring to mind Paul’s declaration of faith as his mortal life was ending; “the time of my departure has come.  I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.” [2 Tim. 4 v.6-8].  May “that day” soon come – there are increasing signs it is near.

Thought for September 21st

Todays readings … 1 Chronicles 4, Ezekiel 17, Luke 13, 14

“IF YOU FAIL TO REPENT …”                         

  Sin is not a word people use these days.  People, who do wrong, try hard to avoid any punishment.  Some employ expensive lawyers to defend them.  In the days of Jesus, people more widely believed that God was the ultimate cause of punishment for their sins.  Our reading in Ezekiel shows this, making the point that God had been merciful toward his people. Yet there comes a point when God acts because he sees that people are fixed in their unheeding ways, despite the fact that he keeps showing mercy. In the end God brought total destruction on Jerusalem because of the abundance of their sins and lack of repentance.

  Now Jesus makes a very interesting point in Luke 13, evidently people had been saying that when a tower collapsed in Siloam and killed 18 people (v.4), those people must have been worse sinners than other people.  How did Jesus respond?  “No” he says, “I tell you they were not, and if you fail to repent you will all likewise perish.”

  If we are not on God’s side, trying to do his will, there is no future for us.  Jesus followed up his warning by telling them a parable about a man who planted a tree (v.6-9) and who came for 3 years, looking for fruit, but found none.  It was given one more year to produce fruit and a special effort was made to fertilise it.  If it did not produce fruit it would be destroyed.

Jesus came to the lost sheep of Israel, being the one God sent to make a special effort to fertilize the tree.   Most would not follow him; those who did were largely the common people who heard him gladly.  Forty years later there was terrible destruction.   Wonderfully, in the plan and purpose of God, there is a future for his ‘chosen people’ in these last days.

  And for us?  If we have chosen “to repent” and so to follow him – it is essential we each ask ourselves, am I producing fruit?