Thought for March 31st

“IF THE LORD DELIGHTS IN US”

There is a climax point in most lives – a cross roads where a decision has to be made as to which path we will take!  We read yesterday in Numbers of the conflicting reports of the twelve who had gone up to spy out the land, a 500 mile journey in 40 days.  Today we read of the reaction of the mass of the people to the discouraging reports of ten of them; we also read of the confident urging of the two who had returned with positive reports

             It is clear that these two have confidence in God, whereas the others only see the situation through the eyes of the flesh.  The latter want to choose a leader to take them back to Egypt – the focus of their thinking is the variety of food available in Egypt- they push out of their minds the memory that they had been slaves.  All the experiences of worshipping the LORD, the wonders at Sinai and the tabernacle has had no lasting impact on their minds! 

              Does the same happen today? Do humans have the same order of priorities – even though they may read God’s word from time to time – even quite regularly?  We suspect it does. 

We now note (and mentally absorb) what the two faithful spies say! If the LORD delights in us, he will bring us into this land and give it to us … only do not rebel against the LORD.  And do not fear the people of the land, for they are bread for us; do not fear them.” [Ch.14 v.8,9]   But the mass of the people want to stone them, to silence such talk!  We have situations today where people try to silence the true message of the Bible. In centuries past some of those who have given the true message have been stoned, even burnt at the stake! 

But the glory of the LORD appeared” and the situation changes.  He declares, “How long will they not believe in me in spite of all the signs I have done among them?  I will … disinherit them …” [v.11,12] And the same will happen at the return of Christ when the door is shut on the foolish virgins. (Matthew 25 v.10)  Let us make sure “the LORD delights in us” when “the glory of the LORD appear(s)”

Thought for March 30th

Todays readings.. Numbers 12&13, Proverbs 8&9, Luke 22

“WHOEVER FINDS ME FINDS LIFE”                                         

        Today we read nearly 50 verses in Proverbs on the wonderful value of Godly wisdom.  It is written as though wisdom is a person – and of course the Lord Jesus is the one and only perfect example of such a person. Solomon himself was invited by God to ask for a gift and was commended because he asked for “a wise and understanding heart” [1 Kings 3 v.5-12]

        We picked out several powerful points in these proverbs. 

        Wisdom says, “I love those who love me, those who seek me diligently, find me.” [8 v.17] Wisdom has to be sought for!  “I wisdom dwell with prudence, and I find knowledge and discretion.  The fear (awe) of the LORD is to hate evil.” [v.12,13]

          We can add to this wisdom’s further words, “wickedness is an abomination to my lips. All the words of my mouth are righteous; there is nothing twisted or crooked in them” [v.7,8].  And surely that applies to written words also, such as emails! Wisdom grants “an inheritance to those who love me” [v.21] 

           Our Bibles’ reveal the nature of that inheritance. It is very obvious that Jesus is a living example of true wisdom.

           Verses 22 to 30 give us a powerful account of the absolute knowledge and wisdom that was used in creating all that exists on this earth.  “Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth” [v.23] In these days scientists are discovering more and more of the boundless extent of the interlocking working of nature, so many forms of life are utterly remarkable and, what’s more, they depend on one another. But tragically, so many have a blindfold over their minds, failing to see it all as the handiwork of God.

            In the final 2 verses of Ch. 8 wisdom says, “For whoever finds me finds life, and obtains favour from the LORD, but he who fails to find me injures him (or her)self, and all who hate me love death.”  

           Let us seek and “find” Jesus – as the embodiment of wisdom. We can read v.32,33 as being his words, “… blessed are those who keep my ways.  Hear instruction and be wise, and do not neglect it.

Thought for March 29th

Todays readings.. Numbers 11, Proverbs 7, Luke 21

“FOREBODING OF WHAT IS COMING ON THE WORLD”        

    Foreboding is not a word we use much these days, the dictionary says it means – ‘have a premonition of something evil or harmful.’  Jesus used it (as translated by the ESV) in our reading today [Luke 21 v.26] in forecasting, just before he returned, “distress of nations in perplexity … people fainting with fear and foreboding of what is coming on the world.”

    In our younger days there was always a good degree of optimism of even better times that lay ahead because of the new inventions in many areas. This was not just in the things we buy for our homes, but the better fertilisers and great productivity in many areas. Clever scientists and inventers were making life better and better – and when Communism collapsed as the Berlin wall came down in 1989 it seemed the world was entering a new golden era of peace and prosperity.  How dramatically the scene has changed!  There is an increasingly uncertain sound about the future; a multitude of voices ‘twitter’ their concerns and lack of solutions.  We saw some comparison in this as we read Numbers Ch. 11 today. 

    The Israelites had had a wonderful and miraculous deliverance from captivity in Egypt. There was a “honeymoon” period at Mr Sinai and a special tabernacle was built using the gold they had taken from the Egyptians.  Then “manna,” the bread from heaven, was provided as their staple food.

     But today’s chapter starts, “And the people complained about their misfortunes … oh that we had meat to eat!  We remember the fish we ate in Egypt that cost nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions …” [v.1,4,5].  Compare that to today!  Few have anything to genuinely complain about!  Yet are they really happy and content?

     Two hundred years ago nearly everyone believed in a Creator as the source of all blessings, 100 years ago, the majority of people still believed but today the big majority have turned their backs on the God of the Bible, man is now his own ‘god.’ Soon we will read what happened to the faithless Israelites in the wilderness and we are starting to see a parallel to this in our days – with its sense of “foreboding of what is coming on the world.”

    Finally in today’s chapter in Proverbs there is valuable advice, “Keep my commandments and live … call insight your intimate friend” [v.1,4].  Let us have increasing “insight” into the ways and purpose of God and “ponder the path of our feet” each day. May we walk “the path of the righteous” and then we will not be full of “foreboding of what is coming on the world”?

Thought for March 28th

Todays readings.. Numbers 10, Proverbs 6, Luke 20

“STAY AWAKE AT ALL TIMES”

We say that suicide is how people destroy themselves, but our reading in Proverbs today shows there is another way.  We read “He who commits adultery lacks sense; he who does it destroys himself.  Wounds and dishonour will he get and his disgrace will not be wiped away.” [Ch. 6 v32,33]  

Adultery is not a word you hear much of today, like the word ‘sin’, the western world in particular does not think in this kind of language anymore, not like when we were young.  Attitudes have changed so much in our lifetime, indeed in earlier centuries adultery could carry the death penalty as the laws of England were based on the laws of Moses.

The world is being destroyed by its permissive attitudes.  AIDS is a curse man cannot cure, he can only hold it at bay for a time, and there are plenty of other sexually transmitted diseases that create serious health problems.  Man destroys the quality of his life because he thinks he can flout Godly principles.

Tomorrow we will read of Christ’s warning to “watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the cares of this life and that day will come upon you like a trap.  For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth” [Ch.21 v.34,35]  Jesus also says, “There will be great earthquakes and, in various places famines and pestilences … ” [v.11]  

So God will make life more and more miserable for Godless human beings, just like he did for the nation of Israel when they just went through the motions of serving their God and their hearts were far from Him.  

Remember, that day, Jesus said, “will come upon you like a trap.”  In a sense, human beings are destroying themselves – the so called Christian world in particular;  they are committing spiritual adultery. 

Finally we particularly note how Jesus concluded his message by saying, “stay awake at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man”  [v.36]    Are you awakeWide awake?

Thought for March 27th

Todays readings.. Numbers 8&9, Proverbs 5, Luke 19

“A HOUSE OF PRAYER”

  Our readings in the book of Numbers and the Gospel of Luke include references to cleansing.  In Numbers we read yesterday how they consecrated the tabernacle now that it had been set up, offerings were made by each of the 12 tribes.  It was about to be used for the first time to celebrate the Passover.  It was now the first month of the second year after leaving Egypt [Ch. 9 v.1-4].  Today we read that the Levites who were to officiate over the Passover had to go through a cleansing process.  Moses is to “sprinkle the water of purification upon them … wash their clothes and cleanse themselves” [8 v.7].

         In our Luke reading we have the dramatic story of Jesus entering Jerusalem riding on a colt.  There is great rejoicing by the multitudes, but as the Master draws near to the city he weeps over it saying “would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace!” [19 v.42]   Then enters the temple, the place where God dwells, as the “tabernacle” had been over 1,500 years earlier.  

          Some urgent cleansing is needed! “He entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold, saying to them, it is written, my house shall be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of robbers” [v.45,46].

           We particularly note how Jesus calls it a ‘house of prayer’ rather than a house of worship.  What is the difference?  Human attitudes create the difference. All too often places of worship centre on those officiating – and the pomp and ceremony involved. 

            It reminds us of the little story we read yesterday of the two men who went up to the temple, one was a Pharisee and he said in his prayer “God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all I get” [18 v.11,12] 

            He suffered from “I” trouble.  It says he prayed with himself, his prayer just went round and came back to himself; it never went up to heaven.  It illustrates that our hearts need cleansing when we come to worship and the wonderful temple yet to be built, as a “house of prayer” – what a purpose it will serve!.   But until then let us make sure our hearts are in a cleansed state each time we come together to sing praise and worship in whatever situation that may be.  I hearts should have been cleansed by the personal prayer we offered this morning!

Thought for March 26th

Todays readings.. Numbers 7, Proverbs 4, Luke 18

“THE PATH OF THE RIGHTEOUS IS LIKE … ”   

    Life is a pathway and the Book of Proverbs has many observations about the nature of this pathway and the challenges to those who walk upon it.  Of course, the fact is that everyone is walking on it!  Today’s chapter (4) has much to say about the responsibility of fathers to give instruction and guidance to their children as they find their pathway in life.  Solomon reflects on the guidance he received.

    “When I was a son with my father tender … he taught me … Let your heart hold fast my words … and live. Get wisdom, get insight … do not forsake her and she will keep you; love her and she will guard you.  The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight. Prize her highly … “ [v.3-8]

    Let’s try to understand the full meaning of insight.  In the 400 year old A V version it uses the word “understanding” – yet in the A V there are 7 different Hebrew words all translated mostly as ‘understanding.’- But our ESV version uses ‘insight’ for this Hebrew word biynah. Our Dictionary defines insight as “A perception of the inner nature of a thing” – we could say, the knowing the true reality of what a thing means.

    With wisdom of this nature, “the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day.” [v.18].   There is a growth pattern in our lives in developing wisdom, so that it is a true insight, a real inward vision, into the meaning of our lives before God. 

    Solomon builds up this chapter to a climax of thoughtful perception. “My son, be attentive to my words … keep them within your heart. For they are life to those who find them, and healing to all their flesh.  Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life … Let your eyes look directly forward … Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure.” [v.20-23,25-26]  

     How very much to the point is that advice today as we are confronted by a flood, one could say a tsunami, of fleshly human ways, not only in words, but so often before our eyes every day. May our eyes, especially “the eyes of our hearts’ [Eph. 1 v.18] be fixed on him more and more then our feet will not stray from “the path.”

Thoughts for March 25th

Todays readings .. Numbers 6, Proverbs 3, Luke 17

“PAY ATTENTION TO YOURSELVES”

Our ch. 17 in Luke starts with Jesus telling his disciples – “Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come!”  Are we a means by which others may be tempted?  A great deal (as far as we can gather) of what is on TV portrays ungodliness – and is therefore a temptation, (mainly subconsciously) to emulate godless ways! Let us hear Jesus speaking to us and saying “Pay attention to yourselves!”

We must “pay attention” to what we do, where we go, what we watch and what we read!  What example do we set others?  This applies most of all – to our example to the younger generation!   

A different line of thought opens out for us from v. 20: we read with great interest what Jesus said when he was “asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come.”   Jesus spoke of those who would say, “’Look, there!’ or ‘Look, here!’ Do not go out or follow them.”[v.23].   It will not be a matter of constantly looking is case you (we) miss seeing the king of the kingdom coming!  We must, more than ever “Pay attention to (y)ourselves!”

The next verse is awesome! “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.” 

We are in awe of the comparison that our Lord then made with Lot’s experience – 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, fire and sulfur rained from heaven and destroyed them all—so will it be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed.” [v.29,30]   Is that a literal 24 hour day?  It was for Lot! 

The verses which follow make it clear it is all going to happen quickly. Do we enjoy and “love” the life we are now living? Are we planning for more and more interesting experiences?  Let us hear Jesus telling us to “pay attention to yourselves”  Finally,  ponder the words of Jesus – that John quoted in his gospel. “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life…. If anyone serves me, the Father will honour him.” [John 12 v.25,26]

Thought for March 24th

Todays readings.. Numbers 5, Proverbs 2, Luke 16

“ONE WHO IS DISHONEST IN VERY LITTLE” 

    Honesty seems to be an increasingly rare commodity in the 21st Century.  Cheating the Govt at least a little is a common practice.  There is surprise when one hands back money when you have been given too much change when making a purchase!

    We read today a parable Jesus told about a manager who worked for a rich man, this manager was doing his job poorly and “wasting his possessions” [Luke 16 v.1]. 

This man had his mind fully set on this life and learning he was going to lose his job he “summoned his master’s debtors one by one” [v.5]. He comes to an arrangement with them to reduce the records about how much they owe his Master: this will obligate them to give him some support when he loses his job.

    The rich man commends “the dishonest manager for his shrewdness” saying, “for the sons of this world are more shrewd in their dealing with their own generation than the sons of light” [v.8]. This appears to be a cynical statement and is followed by a strange statement, “And I tell you make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into eternal dwellings.” [v.8,9]

    The point Jesus is making is that the “eternal dwellings” of the unrighteous are tombs – and some elaborate tombs have been found by archaeologists, including tombs of the High Priests family which are miniature replicas of the Temple. This is the only future they can expect because they have made money (and the things it can buy) their objective in life. 

We specially note Jesus’ words,  “One who is dishonest in very little is also dishonest in much.  If you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches?” [v.11]   

    His final point is “You cannot serve God and money.” [v.13].   “The Pharisees, who were lovers of money heard all these things and they ridiculed him.  And he said to them, ‘You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts.” [v.14,15]  They were blind to the all-seeing eyes of God. We must not be blind and we must also be honest and true in our thinking – in much more than money, absorbing the true impact of Jesus words about the “one who is dishonest in very little”

Thought for March 23rd

Todays readings.. Numbers 3, Proverbs 1, Luke 15

“LET THE WISE HEAR AND INCREASE IN …”

Today we started reading the proverbs of Solomon and the opening chapters in particular, are really heart challenging.

Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance, to understand a proverb and a saying, the words of the wise and their riddles.  The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge.…” [v.5-7].   Solomon then observes that “fools despise wisdom and instruction.” 

Nearly all today would be horrified to realise that God sees them as “fools” because they despise the reality of God’s existence and the “wisdom and instruction” in his word, preferring instead the “wisdom” (!?) of TV  and videos and modern ‘action’ novels that include descriptions of godless ways of living.

Solomon says, “Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching, for they are a graceful garland for your head” [v.8,9]  “A graceful garland”! Poetic words that describe healthy thinking.  The result for us today are healthy ways of thinking and acting..   

Then, from v.10, Solomon has wise words of warning that are particularly necessary today. “My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent.  If they say, “Come with us, let us lie in wait for … the innocent …” [v.10,11] 

The challenge to us is that our world is largely full of those who do not believe in God:  they live by their own standards – which are not necessarily bad – but few give any thought or time to “hear and increase in learningabout their Creator and His Son,-  who seeks to be their Saviour. 

Does this spirit rub off on us? Does it lessen our desire to be “wise … and increase in” the knowledge of God?  Let us make sure we are among “the wise.”

Thought for March 22nd

Todays readings.. Numbers 3, Psalms 148-150, Luke 13&14

“WERE WORSE SINNERS … BECAUSE THEY SUFFERED IN THIS WAY?”  

    In reading Luke 13 today we pondered the challenging conversation Jesus had with “some present” about the cause of recent tragedies.”  Jesus challenged the conclusions some had drawn about the cause of these events?  In particular, he asked,  when a tower fell down and killed 18 people was because they “were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way?” [v.2]   

Jesus answers his own question, “No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” [v.3]. 

We have seen some terrible events in recent years: there have been many extreme weather events causing fires and floods, also awesome earthquakes and tsunami’s leading to much damage and loss of life.    We have also seen in past  the use of human inventions of greatly destructive power used to destroy other humans in great numbers – and tragedies of plane crashes – some with many passengers.

    Now atheists have scoffingly said over the years that if there really is a loving God he would do something to stop such tragedies. This is the cynicism of the scoffer who is devoid of understanding the nature of the God revealed in the Bible.

The comment of Jesus we read today is significant: “do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem?  No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” [v.5]

    Most did not repent and Jerusalem and its Temple were destroyed 40 years later.  History was repeating itself from more than 600 years before. At that time Ezekiel had written, “Repent and turn away from all your transgressions lest your iniquity be your ruin … make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! … I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord GOD; so turn and live.” [18 v.30-32]

    The message is the same today!  Indeed it is more urgent today than ever before as it is increasingly clear to diligent Bible readers we are reaching the climax of human history.

How long before that climax is reached we do not know, but there is tobe a time of trouble such as has never been … and none of the wicked shall understand, but those who are wise shall understand” [Daniel 12 v.1,10]. 

God’s word is the only source of that wisdom, let us be among the “wise” who “understand.”  The time left to “make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit” is nearly over.