Thought for September 30th. “I FIND NO GUILT IN THIS MAN”  

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

   Pilate was the most powerful man in Israel in the days of Jesus.    But he was strangely helpless in carrying out his own desire to let Jesus go free, though he said I find no guilt in this man, (Luke 23 v.4) adding, “nothing deserving of death has been done by him” (v.15) “I will release him” (v.16 and again v.22) 

After all these declarations, it is strange how Pilate gives in.  When we compare the different gospel records we get a clearer picture, one issue being that Jesus was claiming kingship.  Pilate queried him on this, but said Jesus, “My kingdom is not of this world (or age)”

   So Pilate, the most powerful man in Jerusalem was indifferent to truth and justice and gave in to the demands that Jesus should be crucified; the biased and prejudiced jealous men got their way. 

There is a parallel today to what happened at that time..  Like the voices of the prejudiced religious leaders of that age, so today we have the insistent voices (and writings) of the atheistic and agnostic intellectual leaders – and throughout my lifetime they have been getting louder!  

   The great majority argue that evolution is true, there is no God.  They are no better than the Jewish leaders in the time of Jesus who blindfolded their minds to the heavenly power Jesus displayed.   

When you add all the evidence together from Scripture – and the background of secular history in the first centuries the intelligent mind becomes certain it all happened. We have a firm foundation for our faith that Jesus did rise from the dead and is the coming king and is the only eternal hope for our godless world.

   Just as the resurrection of Jesus astonished the Jewish leaders – and those still alive died in the later destruction of Jerusalem, so the return of Jesus will astonish the world – also those who do not believe the Bible and are not ready for his coming; instead being convinced there is no God. All will perish, but many only after they have seen the folly of their beliefs: many will first see, in some measure, the wonders of his kingdom – and the fulfilment of the prayer, “They kingdom come, thy will be done on earth.” 

   What do we really believe?  Are we influenced by the spirit that surrounds us, as Pilate was?  If we are, we are not ready for his coming!  That will be a tragedy, and the “guilt” will be ours.

Thought for September 29th. “PRAY THAT YOU MAY NOT ENTER INTO TEMPTATION”

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

This is an intriguing statement by Jesus; it would seem they are his last words to his disciples before his arrest. We read them today in Luke ch. 22 v.46. We are not told whether the disciples put them into practice? Surely the words of Jesus are applicable to us today! 

It was not the first time Jesus said these words to his disciples.  When “they went as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him.  Earlier in the chapter we read, “when he came to the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” .[v.40], he then went and knelt down and prayed.

This repeated request to make a specific prayer is surely a lesson for us, especially how the challenges of our godless world close in more and more – surrounding us! 

How real the surrounding power of God needs to be to us in these last days. Let us take into our hearts the wonderful words of Paul.  He told the men of Athens about the one and only true God they worshipped as “unknown …that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us,  for ‘In him we live and move and have our being’.” [Acts 17 v. 27,28] 

We must meditate in awe at the reality on what Paul means!  Our thoughts go to Psalm 66, presumably by David.  Is this not a hymn to be used in the kingdom age!?  Surely true believers can use it now to some degree. Shout for joy to God, all the earth; sing the glory of his name; give to him glorious praise!  Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds! So great is your power.” [v.1-3]

Then in v.8-10 we are encouraged to pray, “Bless our God, O peoples; let the sound of his praise be heard, who has kept our soul among the living and has not let our feet slip.  For you, O God, have tested us  And so the disciples were tested – and Peter, for one, failed the test; for the moment he failed to “Pray that” he “may not enter into temptation.”

Let us apply the lesson to ourselves, especially as our world is becoming so utterly godless and is now hemming us in on every side!  May our minds and hearts be fixed ever more firmly on the words of Scripture – such as the closing words of this Psalm, “If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened. But truly God has listened; he has attended to the voice of my prayer.  Blessed be God, because he has not rejected my prayer or removed his steadfast love from me!”

Thought for September 28th. “DISTRESS OF NATIONS IN PERPLEXITY”

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

Our ch. 21 in Luke’s gospel today contains the awesome prophecy Jesus gave of events on earth when he is about to return.  The meaning of v.24 is clear to us – that “Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.”  It is no longer “trampled underfoot” – but it is not clear that some parts of the old city are yet under complete Jewish control – but surely “the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.” 

At that time Jesus said awesome events will occur; there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world.” [v.25,26]  Will the “roaring of the sea” be literal

This is one of those passages of Scripture that we keep at the ‘back of our minds’ in case a literal application will suddenly occur. We must note that the very next words are – “And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.”

Human nature is such that, unless we have a genuine faith developed from a prayerful heart-felt acceptance of the Divine word we will share in the “distress” and “perplexity” that is causing everyone else to ‘faint with fear.’ Those possessing genuine faith will “straighten up” and “raise (y)our heads, because (y)our redemption is drawing near.”[v.28] and we will not be overwhelmed by the distressand “perplexity” that surrounds us.

Thought for September 27th. “SO ALL ISRAEL WAS RECORDED IN GENEALOGIES”

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

   One of the most boring parts of the Bible to read are the lists of names in genealogies.  We completed reading yesterday the first 9 chapters of 1 Chronicles which are full of such lists, tracing lines of descent. Ch. 9 starts with the words “So all Israel was recorded in genealogies.”   Why were all these records kept?    The significance of keeping them became evident when the Jews returned from captivity for some could not prove their line of descent “whether they belonged to Israel.” [Ezra 2 v.59].

   Being an Israelite brought special privileges and today, belonging to a nation is important. After World War 2 when so many millions died (20 million it is said) there were many Stateless people, especially parentless youngsters when people are “stateless” – it is a real problem.   We see the desire of some today to be accepted as members of another nation, Australia is very much favoured, and it is currently an issue, as to whether or not you are a naturalised citizen if you want to take any part in politics..

   Now our key question is, is the value of knowing your genealogy – when you are “in Christ” – is it of any value? The answer is clearly, ‘No.’   When Jesus Christ becomes our brother, spiritually, then his father becomes our father – and that is the only genealogy that counts.  And how much does it count!  Nothing in our lives can equal this citizenship!

   We note however that the early church had those he still saw importance in knowing lines of descent.  Paul mentioned this in writing to Timothy saying “to teach” that they should not “devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies” [I Tim.1 v.3,4].  He wrote the same to Titus saying he should teach believers to “avoid controversies, genealogies … they are unprofitable and worthless” [3 v.9] 

Today it has become something of a fad in some countries to know your line of descent and we are to some extent bombarded by organisations offering to find this out – at a price of course.

Let us concentrate our on our relationship – of being “in Christ” – that matters above all else.

Thought for September 26th. “SLAUGHTER THEM BEFORE ME”

Todays readings… 1 Chronicles 9, Ezekiel 22, Luke 19.

Today in the 19th chapter of Luke we read one of the last parables of Jesus; it is usually called, ‘The parable of the Ten Minas’ – a ‘mina’ is an amount of money – which is said to be about 3 months wages for a labourer.

The parable features a “nobleman” who “went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and then return.” [v.12]  As he went away his servants were each given “ten minas” and were told, “Engage in business until I come.’ [v.13]   But the citizens, as distinct from the servants, “sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to reign over us.’” [v.14]

Let us make sure we are effectively using our “minas” – that is – our opportunities and talents.

How depressingly true is the attitude in the world today – just about everyone thinks this life is all they have and want to do indulge in their own thing – and what a variety of ‘things’ there are available to them!   How distracting this often is – especially for the younger generation – they ask themselves – do I really believe there is a “nobleman” who is going to return – and how soon now?  Tomorrow?  How well am I using my talents?

There is a saying that “Tomorrow never comes.”  But one day it will – and how soon now!?  And then, what of the “citizens” who do not want” Christ to return to reign (and prevent the continuation fleshly sinful ways)?  We cannot envisage what the literal application is of edict to “slaughter them before me” will mean in reality for those who have been totally godless! 

The LORD gave Jeremiah an awesome prophecy “against all the inhabitants of the earth” which we read last month.  The prophecy pictures the day when, “disaster is going forth from nation to nation, and a great tempest is stirring from the farthest parts of the earth!  “And those pierced by the LORD on that day shall extend from one end of the earth to the other.”[25 v.32,33] Is this the “slaughter” the parable is referring to!?

What an awesome time awaited those who rejected and crucified Jesus – how many would experience the destruction of Jerusalem!? 

Our final thoughts come from  the words of Jesus in today’s chapter; as “he wept over” Jerusalem,!  He said, “Would that youhad knownthe things that make for peace!  But now they are hidden from your eyes” [v.42] Let us help each other to make sure they are not “hidden from (y)our eyes.”

Thoughts for September 25th. “THEY UNDERSTOOD NONE OF THESE THINGS”

– Luke 18:33-34.

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

Today in Luke ch. 18 we read how Jesus “taking the twelve, he said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished.  For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon.  And after flogging him, they will kill him  [v.31-33].

Then comes the comment, “But they understood none of these things … they did not grasp what was said.” [v.34]  This reminds us of the old saying, ‘We only hear what we want to hear.”  We could add to that ‘We only read what we want to read’!  So many imagine the phrase ‘immortal soul’ occurs in the Bible – but it doesn’t! Did you note what we read 3 days ago in Ezekiel ch. 20 (v.4 and 20)?  Of how many today can it be said, “they understood none of these things” ?

Back to the words of Jesus, his final words to the disciples were, “…and on the third day he will rise.” Utterly wonderful!  It was the absolute conviction in this – that kept Jesus ‘in a mentally positive state of mind to complete his obedience to his Father.    And what will keep us going, when the fulfilment of the words we will read in Luke ch. 21, are unfolding before our eyes.  Let us make sure we have “understood … these things”!

And what are these words we must make sure we “understand”?  The words of Jesus are blunt! “…there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding … For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming…” ” [v.25-27]

Let us make sure we absorb the prophetic words of Scripture as fully as possible – so it will be true of us that it will be said us, if we are alive at that time (and how soon now) that weunderstood … these things”.

Thought for September 24th. ‘AS THE LIGHTNING FLASHES AND LIGHTS UP THE SKY”

 Todays readings.. 1 Chronicles 7, Ezekiel 20, Luke 17                  

    We wonder why the Pharisees asked Jesus “when the kingdom of God would come?” [Luke 17 v.20]  The reply of Jesus implies they were interested to know what “signs” would indicate its approach. How did Jesus reply? “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed.” Shortly after he warned his disciples, “they will say to you, ‘Look, there’ or ‘Look here!’ do not go out and follow them.” [v.23].   We have seen some people gathering in expectation on a certain day which their leaders were predicting!

    It will be impossible to miss the fact that Christ has returned, for as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to another, so will the Son of Man be in his day,” [v.24].  Jesus then compares that day to the days of Noah.  Life was proceeding as normal, people were “eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark” [v.27].  

Noah is described by Peter as a preacher, “a herald of righteousness”(2 Pet. 2 v.5] but they ignored him, although they must have marvelled (scoffed?) at the massive ark he and his sons were building!  Maybe some helped – especially if there were wages to be had. Many make money printing and selling Bibles today!  Maybe some thought, if what he says proves to right, we will get on board when it rains with no sign of stopping.

    Notice what it says in Genesis about “the day” of the flood.  Life was proceeding as normal. Nothing happened the day Noah entered the ark and the door was shut!  “Noah and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives with him went into the ark … and after seven days the waters of the flood came upon the earth.” [7 v.6,10]  We can compare this with the blunt comment of Jesus in Luke, “Remember Lot’s wife” [v.32]  It was too late when the floods were rising – the door to the Ark was shut.   

    Ponder the threefold comment Jesus makes about “One will be taken and the other left” [v.35].  Human instincts toward self-preservation will be of no avail on that day, only those with “the full assurance of faith” [Heb.10 v.22] will be ready when the angels come as lightning lights up the sky. This may be literal, or it could be symbolic of dramatic events beyond human imagining.   We watch present world events with increasing awe!  The political actions are becoming more unpredictable. In addition to this, weather extremes and seismic activity with earthquakes and the threat of volcanic eruptions are adding to the worries of the world.

Finally we ponder the warning recorded in Hebrews ch. 10 (from v.25) of the need to redouble our efforts to lead Christ-like lives “all the more as you see the Day drawing near. For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire …” It will be too late to change when “as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky.”   

Thought for September 23rd. “YOU CANNOT SERVE GOD AND …”


 Todays readings.. 1 Chronicles 6, Ezekiel 19, Luke 16

Today we read the most challenging of the parables of Jesus – yet its’ primary meaning is unmistakable.  Jesus uttered it in relation to our purpose in life – how it comes down to one of two things.  Jesus sums it all up in today’s reading in Luke.  “No servant can serve two masters … he will be devoted to the one and despise the other”   He ends by bluntly saying, “You cannot serve God and money” [16 v.13].   What is it to “serve” money?

    This is not the most common Greek word for ‘serve’, in writing Acts Luke only uses the word in Ch. 20 v.19 when he quoted Paul’s words to the Ephesian elders (and Luke was with him at the time),  he told them, “You yourselves know how I lived …. serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials … I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable …”   This was serving indeed! 

      In writing to the Romans about issues over the law of Moses Paul says, “but now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so now we serve not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit.” [7 v.6]   But the commitment involved in this kind of serving is parallel; it is the same!  It is most interesting to  note that the one place where John used this Greek word in his gospel (8 v.33) it is translated as “enslaved”!

     Those Jesus sees as serving money he sees as being enslaved to it.  It is the ‘be all’ and ‘end all’ of their thinking.  Today, it is a matter of the things money can ‘buy,’ the pleasure and pride of owning the best of everything, of taking fabulous holidays, etc., with a token gesture toward others to ease their conscience, even fitting in a visit to church.

    Those who serve God, see how temporary and misleading is the expectation of rewards of serving money.   People who decide to serve God have a “bigger mind”, i.e. a bigger vision of thought. That famous chapter of Hebrews 11 selects the example of Moses when, surrounded by wealth as the adopted grandson of Pharaoh, ”he  chose to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin.  He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt” [v.25-26]  

   What do we consider to be of greater wealth today?  Less and less would make Christ their choice.  Some, foolishly, try to have it both ways. If we are “lukewarm” – as did those at Laodicea, let us remember the message of Jesus to them – read Revelation 3 v.15-16.

Thought for September 22nd. “The Soul that Sins will Die”

Todays readings.. 1 Chronicles 5, Ezekiel 18, Luke 15

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.

Thoughts for September 21st. “SALT IS GOOD”

Todays readings.. 1 Chronicles 4, Ezekiel 17, Luke 13&14 

    There are many parables and challenging sayings in today’s 2 chapters in Luke’s gospel. Jesus’ utterance of just 3 words are very thought provoking: “Salt is good” [14 v34] 

      This immediately reminds us of what Jesus said in his ‘Sermon on the Mount’ after what we call the ‘Beatitudes’ Look at Matt. 5 v.13, – he said “You are the salt of the earth” to illustrate the role his genuine followers; were to have, to talk and live and act so as to become a good influence on those around them. How successful are we in doing that?

     In the passage in Luke, Jesus then adds, “but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored?  It is of no use either for the soil or for the manure pile. It is thrown away.”   So if we are not having an influence in adding a beneficial flavour to the lives around us how can we expect to have a place in God’s kingdom and serve him there as the world as a whole at last learns righteousness, (see Isaiah 26 v.9)

      How many are there today that Jesus would see as “salt”?  In Luke 13 we saw the response when someone asked Jesus, “Lord, will those who are saved be few? [v.23]  This question caused him to tell a parable about “the narrow door” and how vital it is to “strive to enter” through it.  The Master bluntly says, “For many I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.”  He then adds many will “begin to stand outside and to knock on the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us,’ then he will answer them, ‘I do not know where you come from.” [v.25]  

      Jesus would be aware of the lesson of Noah in the ark, and how “the LORD shut him in” [Gen 7 v.16] Noah did not close the door!  We can imagine the scene as the rain poured down and the floods grew – what would be the mood among the scoffers then!

     His parable continues – those knocking at the door will say to him,  “We ate and drank in your presence and you taught in our streets” [v.26] and some/many of later generations may well say, ‘we owned a Bible and read it sometimes’  But he will say, “I do not know where you come from” – he cannot see any “salt” in them!

       Let us make sure we are good salt!