Thought for October 31st. “A CHOSEN INSTRUMENT … TO CARRY MY NAME”

Todays readings.. 2 Chronicles 29, Daniel 9, Acts 9

We have a mentally absorbing set of readings today. They are most spiritually stimulating – and challenging!.  In Chronicles ch. 29 we read of the ascension to the throne of Hezekiah – and in the “first month” he opened up the Temple and ordered the Levites to begin a process of thoroughly cleansing it ready for use.   We think of the return of our Lord to reign.  We cannot begin to imagine how his reign will start – but it is certain it will be utterly awesome!  Surely he will waste no time in setting in train events to cleanse the world of all its’ present filth!

In Acts ch. 9 we read of the dramatic conversion of Saul, soon to be called Paul.  As he nears Damascus he hears the voice of Jesus!  Will we hear his voice – at his return?  How?  The gospels tell us, “… the powers in the heavens will be shaken … then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory … then he will send out the angels and gather his elect …” [Mark 13 v.25-27]

When Paul hears his voice he is taken into Damascus – blind!  Ananias, ” a disciple at Damascus” [v.10] is told to find Saul!  He objects, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints … ” [v.13], but he is told, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.” [v.15]

‘Food’ for our serious meditation here!  What is it to “carry” Christ’s “name”? Do we do that? Is this not to represent Christ in some way? Did not Jesus set an example! “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” [John 14 v.9]   So, whoever sees you or me, sees ….?  Food for our deepest meditation!

This takes us to our final thought today in Daniel ch. 9 and this prophet’s remarkable prayer.  It is one of the most detailed in Scripture.  A particular highlight for us is v.15. “O Lord our God, who brought your people out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, and have made a name for yourself, as at this day …” 

That word “name”has the sense of making a reputation.  The aim of many people today, especially politicians, is to make a ‘name’ for themselves!  They sort of ‘trumpet’ their name!   Most ‘names’ are increasingly ungodly!  In utter contrast – our aim must be to make sure we “carry” Christ’s “name” – following, to at least  some degree, in the footsteps of Paul as he fulfilled the role the Master destined for him –  to carry my name before the Gentiles ….”

Thought for October 30th. “DO YOU UNDERSTAND WHAT YOU ARE READING?”

Todays readings.. 2 Chronicles 28, Daniel 9. Acts 8

What a challenge it is to understand some parts of the Bible – for it is a message God caused to be written and preserved.  The question in our title today should sound familiar to most of us.  We came across it in Acts ch. 8  where we read that “an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza …. And he rose and went. And there was an Ethiopian” who “had come to Jerusalem to worship” [v.26,27]  So he evidently believed in the true God.

We are told he was reading part of the prophet Isaiah, “he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.”  Philip asks him, “Do you understand what you are reading?” Let us read and absorb the scripture very day in case someone asks us to explain some part of the scriptures that God inspired to be written and preserved.  The Ethiopian was puzzling over a person he was reading about in the book of Isaiah who is described as being “like a lamb before its shearer is silent … in his humiliation justice was denied him.  Who can describe his generation?  For his life is taken away from the earth.” [v.32,33]

      He asks Philip, “Does the prophet say this about himself or about someone else?” [v.34].  Philip explains, and “beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus.”   

The whole world has now been given the whole of the word of God – all 66 books of it, in just about every language. Remember what Jesus said; “Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required” (Luke 12 v.48) 

     People in the ancient world were challenged by the faith of Noah in the huge ark he and his sons built over many years!  Does the word of God really challenge us?  It challenged the world when it was first printed! Let us read some of it every day – and our understanding will grow and – and – like the Eunuch, we will start to think and to ask, “What prevents me from being baptised?” [v.37]  And if we are already baptised and have experienced the feeling he did after his baptism in “going on his way rejoicing” [v.39] we are surely finding less and less to rejoice about in much of what surrounds us in our world today. We must read God’s word every day and we will understand what we are reading the more that we read it.

Thought for October 29th. “DO NOT HOLD THIS SIN AGAINST THEM”

Todays readings.. 2 Chronicles 26&27, Daniel 7, Acts 7

     What sin?  The above words were uttered by Stephen as they took up stones to throw at him; he knew he was going to be killed. His speech in response to the High Priest, which we read today, was increasingly provocative – rather similar to how Jesus repeatedly uttered provocative parables about the Pharisees in the weeks prior to his arrest: for e.g. Luke 20 v.9-20.

      The more you read the more you sense the challenging nature of the Master’s teaching.  It reminds us of Moses in the wilderness and his increasing frustrations with the people.  The time came when he said, “Who is on the Lord’s sideCome to me.  And all the sons of Levi gathered around him” [Exodus 32 v.26]   These were the priests, the relatives of Aaron. 

As Moses became dismayed with the people then, similarly our Lord and our Heavenly Father must be dismayed today: how many who claim the name of Christ, who have come out from the world, are keeping genuinely close to the their Saviour in their wilderness journey?  The wilderness is increasingly negative – and readily hostile if provoked – to believe there is a God they need to, simply have to, fear!

     Stephen’s speech was a history lesson reminding them of God’s involvement throughout the history of their nation – it reaches its’ climax when he challenges his hearers “Which of the prophets did not your father’s persecute?” [v.52].  In every generation those who are really on the Lord’s side, stand out – because they stand apart

      Yet, the essential lesson we must take from this chapter is that we leave all attitudes of judgement to our Master.  Stephen emulated his Lord, as he cried out as the stones began to hit him, “Do not hold this sin against them” – these were his last words before he fell asleep – until the resurrection – his next conscious moment!

       How many, especially the Pharisee Paul, then called Saul, will be there at the resurrection – among the sheep and the wheat – because Stephen’s dying prayer was heard.  Paul’s word’s to the Philippians are so appropriate and challenging, – that “we may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world”  [2 v.15]  Let us all shine as brightly as we can.

Thought for October 28th.  “BE STRONG AND OF GOOD COURAGE”

 Todays readings.. 2 Chronicles 25, Daniel 6, Acts 5&6

  In Daniel Ch. 6 today we have clear evidence that this wonderful man, now in his old age, was a man who had a regular prayer life.   We read of those who are jealous of the opinion the king holds of him and look for ways to discredit his loyalty to the king. They confer together and decide; “We shall not find any ground for complaint against this Daniel unless we find it in connection with the law of his God.” [v.5]

     They persuade the King to issue an ordinance banning the making of petitions (i.e. prayers) “to any God or man for 30 days except to you O King” [v.7].  Now “when Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem.  He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God as he had done previously.” [v.10]

   Those jealous of his standing reported this to the King which, because such laws are regarded as immutable, led to Daniel being put into the Lion’s Den; his miraculous preservation followed.  The most significant part of this story for us is that Daniel was a man of constant prayer, daily in communion with the only true God. In chapter 10 we will read of his distress at the awesome visions given to him: a heavenly being then comes and says, “O man greatly loved, fear not, peace be with you: be strong and of good courage.” [v.19]

   In our Acts reading, we note the reasons why the disciples decide to appoint deacons.  The number of believers being baptised and joining the church had become so many that the need for more and more organisation was becoming necessary. 

With their appointment the disciples now said, “we will devote ourselves to prayer and the ministry of the word” [6 v.4].  What an example this is to all who seek to effectively follow Christ and it reminds us how those baptised on the day of Pentecost, how they “devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and prayers.” [2 v.42] 

How well do we follow these examples?  We must each search our hearts to give a true answer to this question – our answer will show whether we have become – or are becomingstrong and of good courage.” 

Thought for October 27th.  “HIS KNEES KNOCKED TOGETHER”

Todays readings.. 2 Chronicles 24, Daniel 5, Acts 3&4

       If you were doing a Bible Quiz and you were asked whose “knees knocked together” and why – what would you answer? Well, the answer is in today’s readings in Daniel.This is one of several lessons as to how quickly humans can forget the evidence of the power and presence of God in their lives or in those very near to them.

           King Belshazzar was probably the grandson of Nebuchadnezzar.   Daniel Ch. 5 tells of “1,000 lords” gathered together by Belshazzar and drinking wine.  They were using “the vessels of gold and silver that Nebuchadnezzar “had taken out othe temple in Jerusalem” [v.1,2].  As “they drank wine and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood and stone, immediately the fingers of a human hand appearing and wrote on the plaster of the wall …” [v.4,5]  

           It was such a dramatic happening that “the king’s colour changed, and his thoughts alarmed him; his limbs gave way, and ”his knees knocked together” [v.6]   His wise men cannot interpret the writing, but the queen mother comes in (v.10) and reminds him of the now aged Daniel.  

            Daniel is called and arrives to interpret the writing, a message of doom – “you have been weighed in the balances and found wanting” [v.27].  His kingdom is to be overthrown by Darius and “That very night Belshazzar … was killed” [v.30].

             Our Chronicles reading provides similar lessons. We read in 2 Chron. Ch. 23 of the boy Joash who was preserved to become king. He was guided by the aged priest Jehoiada and did great work to repair the Temple which had been desecrated by his evil grandmother who had seized control of the nation and killed all the heirs, but he had been hidden.  

              “But the Priest Jehoiada grew old and died … He was 130 years old” [24 v.15]; the then “the princes of Judah came and paid homage to the king (flattered him). Then the king listened to them.  And they abandoned the house of the LORD” [v.17-18} and great trouble followed

    These events are lessons for us.  This world has abandoned all meaningful belief in God – and so will not God, maybe soon, create situations in which knees will knock together – and worse!  The words of the prophets are that he will, let us heed the lessons of history that God’s word alone illustrates.

Thought for October 26th. “THOSE WHO RECEIVED HIS WORD”

Todays readings.. 2 Chronicles 23, Daniel 4, Acts 2

   Today we read the dramatic account of the events that followed after the disciples were empowered by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Led by Peter, they preached in such a way about Jesus, who he was and what he had done, and the terrible events to come that the hearerswere cut to the heart” [Acts 2 v.37]. 

   The words which had pierced their conscience were, “Let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified” [v.36]. What can you know for certain today?  More and more have convinced themselves that there is no God and they can live their lives just as they feel because they have no belief or faith: Australia’s has had Prime Ministers who have been an example of this.

    We have been reading of a similar state of affairs in Chronicles where Kings in Jerusalem followed Baal worship with all its immoral behaviour – and chaos followed. Peter in his address to the people at Pentecost quoted extensively from the prophet Joel in a passage which has an application to both the end of the Jewish age in AD70 and our Gentile age, events which are today soon to happen as God makes his power known in an awesome way.

   How literal are we to understand the words Peter quotes? We must not explain them away.  God declares, “I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke; the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day.  And … everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” [v.19-21]  

   Our final and most telling thought is the words Peter uses in responding to their reaction to his challenge, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation” [v.40] We partly quoted them in our heading  – “so those who received his word were baptised.”  Note the word “received”! 

It is one thing to read, to hear and to listen, but the only thing that really matters is when the words are received”   Have you “received” them?  If so, your life has been transformed and you have new – eternally significant – objectives as a result.

Thought for October 25th. “THIS JESUS WILL COME IN THE SAME WAY AS …”

Todays readings.. 2 Chronicles 21&22, Daniel 3, Acts 1

We started reading the Acts of the Apostles today – it was written by Luke; his “first book” [1 v.1] was his gospel.  He provides us with the plainest reference to what was said by the angels as Jesus left the disciples.  “Two men … in white robes… Men of Galilee … why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” [1 v.11] – as Jesus ascended into heaven.

Mark also records this event and states, “the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. “ [16 v.19]

We believe Jesus “will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”” – and how close are we now to that event!? Today’s generation, with God’s word available in all languages, is completing the task of taking the divine message to all nations and all languages “to the end of the earth.”  

Jesus words, as recorded by Matthew, are specific, “this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” [24 v.14] “The nations” are as God sees them, not as how man has split them – and tried to ‘meld’ some of them, with their different languages together.

And when the end comes, let us make sure we are among those waiting for their Master, who will see him “come in the same way as” he was seen, by human eyes, to go into heaven.” 

How close are we now to that event?  There have been many anticipations over the years, indeed – over the centuries – and now that the nation of Israel has been reborn – anticipations at first increased! Let us increase our faith – and remember the climax Jesus gave to his parable of the wise and foolish virgins as to when (our) bridegroom would return! “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” [Matt. 25 v.13]  Not even the hour!  How sudden!   It will utterly astonish the earth!  And us?

Thought for October 24th. “THAT BY BELIEVING YOU

Todays readings… 2 Chronicles 20, Daniel 2, John 20&21

We are inclined to feel that the 4 chapters we read today – are the most intensely meaningful of any of the days’ readings  throughout the year: they need to be read slowly so that we imbibe the fullness of their meaning.

The N T readings are the last 2 chapters of John’s gospel; and provide us with John’s intimate account of the resurrection and the events that followed. He and Peter ran to the tomb and Peter  entered the empty tomb and “saw the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself.  Then the other disciple (John), who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed …” [20 v.4-8]  At the end of the chapter John writes, ” Now 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.”  Believing?  We show whether we have real heart-felt belief – by our resultant actions. Let us ‘drink deeply’ into the reality of what John has written.

Our first reading showed us the belief of King Jehoshaphat when his nation faced an attack by numerous armies that are far greater than his. His resultant approach to God is a great example for us. In our second reading we saw the faith and actions of the young Daniel in the events which happened after God gave King Nebuchadnezzar a remarkable dream.  God gives Daniel the ‘insight’ into the meaning of the huge multi-metalled image that the King ‘saw’ in his God-given dream.

We see the great image of Daniel Ch.2 and its understanding have remained unchanged since the first Century, But what is important is how the dream points to the establishment of God’s eternal kingdom on earth, for, Daniel tells Nebuchadnezzar,” in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever” [2 v.44]  The kingdoms, or nations, of our world are to be “broken in pieces” and formed into a kingdom that will stand forever!   And so, as John told us and all his readers, he wrote his account so “that by believing you may have life” in this kingdom.

Thought for October 23rd. “AND HE KNOWS THAT HE IS TELLING THE TRUTH”

 

Todays readings.. 2 Chronicles 18&19, Daniel 1, John 19

John’s gospel provides us with the most intimate account of events in the life or Jesus – especially of those in the final hours of his mortal life. We read today in his 19th chapter of how the soldiers broke the legs of the 2 crucified with him – to make sure they were dead before the Sabbath began (v.31) “But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs.”[v.33].   

John, “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (v.26 – which is the way John refers to himself – without naming himself) then makes a significant declaration. “He who saw it has borne witness—his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truththat you also may believe. [v.35].  Let us believe – but when we declare that we do – we must act in ways that show we mean what we declare!

We must follow through with truthful words – and actionsthroughout our lives.  In his 20th chapter John makes a challenging statement – to us today – “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.” [v.31]   What kind of life? All those who believe, as John most evidently did, have no doubt that he means “eternal life” – beginning from “the last day” when Jesus returns to judge the world.

Let us finish by recalling the words of Jesus we read in John ch. 12 “the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day.  For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life.” [v.48-50]  Let us believe the words and commandments of Jesus – and acknowledge that John especially, who records them, “knows that he is telling the truth.” 

It is also of heart-challenging value to remember the words of Jesus we read in ch. 6 “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” [v.40]

  And how close are we now to “the last day.”?

Thought for October 22nd. “… THEY ARE NOT OF THE WORLD”

Todays readings.. 2 Chronicles 16&17, Ezekiel 48, John 17&18

          The final prayer of Jesus before his arrest is intensely moving – it provokes the profoundest thoughts as we absorb its meaning into our minds.  We could have expected Jesus to concentrate his thoughts inward, on himself and establish a conviction of mind that his will must become the same as his Father’s will – and the other gospels show that he did this in the garden by the Mount of Olives (see Luke 22 v.39-46 and other gospels)

          John’s record as “the disciple whom Jesus (specially) loved” (ch. 21 v.7, 20 &c)  enables him to record his Master’s intensely personal prayer that we read today in John ch. 17.  We read how Jesus “lifted up his eyes to heaven” and said, “”The hour has come …” [v.1] and there follows, after he has stated his deep awareness that his Father is “glorified” in what he has done and is about to do; he says (v.6) “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world.”  

           The “name” of the Father can be understood as his intimate involvement with those called to serve him, as the disciples were: they became “worthy” of his name” (see Acts 5 v.41).  They became worthy of some degree of ‘reflection’ in their characters, of his name.   Only one was “lost … the son of destruction.” [v.12]

For all the others, he said in prayer,  “I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me.  I am praying for them.  I am not praying for the world …” [v.8,9]  

      Then Jesus makes the point.  “I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.” [v.14]   What does it mean to be “not of the world”?  It is a way of emphasising the big difference between those who have their values and focus on this world and those whose minds are alive to “heavenly things.” (Remember what Jesus said to Nicodemus – ch. 3 v.12)

       Jesus prays that his father “will keep them from evil” (AV – the Gk. text does not have ‘evil one’)   Jesus then states again, “They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” [v.16,17] 

The word ‘Sanctify’ means to set apart to become holy – and “thy word” – God’s word, the Bible, is an essential ingredient for that to happen.  But how do we use that ‘ingredient’ in our lives?  We must each ask ourselves that question! 

Just how well-nourished is my mind?  Let us all give ourselves an honest answer.