Thought for April 20th. “MY PEACE I GIVE TO YOU”

Today’s readings.. Deuteronomy 3, Proverbs 30, John 13&14

    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 that 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 give to 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. 

Thought for April 19th. “THE WORD THAT I HAVE SPOKEN WILL JUDGE”

Today’s readings .. Deuteronomy 2, Proverbs 29, John 12

How challenging are the words of Jesus that form the closing verses in today’s 12th chapter of John’s gospel! “The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day.”  

The 2 verses which follow, the last in the chapter, are equally challenging!  Jesus says, “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. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.”

Oh the wonder of “eternal life”!  It is far beyond our comprehension! It is clear there is no neutral position, Jesus declared, “Whoever is not with me is against me” [Matt. 12 v.30]. What is our reaction to “the word that” Jesus has “spoken”?  So many ignore it today!  We cannot do that – we have to do the opposite! 

How close are we now to “the last day”? Is this the last year? It is 70 years since Israel became a nation again and soon their Saviour will appear – how astonished they will be!  But what about our astonishment! It is all beyond our imagining!  

Are the words we read at the end of Hebrews ch. 9 true of us?   “Christ … will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.”  Those eagerly waiting will have no fear about how “the word that” Jesus has “spoken will judge” them “on the last day.”  

Let us each examine our hearts to make sure that is true for you and for me.

Thought for April 18th. “GATHER INTO ONE THE CHILDREN OF GOD'”

Today’s readings.. Deuteronomy 1, Proverbs 28, John 11

    Disunity is a common feature in our world.  The nature of politics highlights this; there is constant debate between opposing voices.  In contrast the message of God’s word looks forward to a time of oneness.  The friction created by those who were jealous of the tremendous popularity of Jesus reaches its peak following the fresh burst of support and belief in him after he raised Lazarus. 

    The High Priest Caiaphas unwittingly prophesied “that one man should die for the people” [John 11 v.50].  But he saw it from his own jealous human perspective that Jesus should die – so that there would be no rebellion that would jeopardise and even destroy their own position of authority. 

    Then John adds the comment, that the death of Jesus would also “gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad” [v.52].  Initially Jews and Gentiles who believed in Jesus became one body in Christ. Their united appreciation of the plan and purpose of God was the catalyst.  

    Mary and Martha demonstrated their faith in God’s plan even before Lazarus came to life again. We read today, “I know that he (Lazarus) will rise again in the resurrection at the last day … that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.” [v.24,27] This is when “the children of God” will be one.   The principles that God’s children must willingly follow are well spelt out in Proverbs Ch. 28 which we also read today.  “Evil men do not understand justice, but those who seek the LORD understand it completely.” [v.5]  “Whoever walks in integrity will be delivered” [v.18] “A faithful man (or woman) will abound with blessings” [v.20] “Whoever trusts his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered.” [v.26]  Let us not trust in our own mind but feed daily on God’s word and look forward to being there when Jesus returns to “gather into one the children of God.” 

Thought for April 17th. ” … FOR THEY KNOW HIS VOICE”

Today’s readings… Numbers 36, Proverbs 27, John 9&10

    Today our New Testament reading confronts us with the picture Jesus paints of himself as the good shepherd and the sheep he is calling to follow him, “for they know his voice.” Many who listened to Jesus did not understand what he meant, and John comments, “This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.” [10 v.4, 6]

    Do we understand?  We “hear his voice” today by reading what John wrote.  But it is one thing to ‘hear’ or to read, but Jesus said, “Take care then how you hear” [Luke 8 v.18] Do you read attentively, seeking to correctly understand?  Many heard Jesus, many read the Bible and there are many different reactions. What motivates our reading?  Do we read because we are seeking?  Is it idle curiosity? Is it to find fault? Is it to boast of our knowledge?

    Another challenging statement Jesus made was, “For judgement I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind” [John 9 v.39] It is plain he is not talking of physical blindness but of the blindness of the mind. 

    When Jesus said this, “some of the Pharisees near him heard these things and said to him, ‘Are we also blind?’ Jesus said to them, ‘If you were blind you would have no guilt (sin) but now you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.” [v.40,41] There are many today who say, ‘we see’ – meaning they are convinced they are the highest form of evolved animals and this happened all by chance, the result of an almost timeless series of ‘creative’ accidents. For those who ‘see’ life in this way then this is the only type of life they will ever know and the comment of Paul about the philosophy of such, “Let us eat and drink for tomorrow we die” [1 Cor. 15 v.32] appears to be true of all to many. 

    But for those who “know his voice” there is a wonderful prospect, Jesus is “the good shepherd” and says “I came that they (the sheep) may have life and have it abundantly” [John 10 v.11,10] The more we read the more we discover the awesome nature of that abundance.

Thought for April 16th. “… HE WILL NEVER TASTE DEATH”

Today’s readings … Numbers 35, Proverbs 26, John 8

In our readings we have now reached the profound statements of Jesus that John alone records – but John was “the disciple whom Jesus loved”[John 21 v.7,20] and with whom he had a special relationship.  He was the only one to stand by the cross, together with his mother and 2 other faithful women (John 19 v.25-27); we notice that John never names himself. 

John records the sayings of Jesus in far more detail – he brings out the difference between dying (eternally) and to “have fallen asleep” [1 Cor. 15 v.6, 18,20]  On Saturday we will read the intensely moving account of the raising of Lazarus after being dead four days:  Jesus at first confused his disciples by telling them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep” [ch.11 v.11]  

Back in today’s chapter we have the inspiring, but challenging promise of Jesus, “’If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death.”[8 v.51].  The Jews, jealous of his popularity did not understand, let us make sure we understand.  Jesus told them, “You are of this world; I am not of this world” [v.23].    All around us are those who “are of this world.”  Their ambitions in life are focussed on the here and now – and they will taste death – eternal death!

Jesus had a wonderful and intimate relationship with his Father. He told them, “he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him.”[v.29] Let us so live, that we can say the same – and then we “will never taste death.”

Thought for April 15th. “RIVERS OF LIVING WATER”

Today’s readings … Numbers 34, Proverbs 25, John 7

    A really challenging saying of Jesus was, “If anyone thirsts let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water’” [John 7 v.37-38]  Jesus is obviously NOT speaking of people feeling a physical thirst!  What is the ‘water’ that will flow out of believers?  What Scripture had ’said’ this? Isaiah is the scripture and in the way the prophet makes the point we see more clearly what Jesus means.  Look at Isaiah 12  “You will say in that day … ‘Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid … he has become my salvation’ With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation” [v.1-3]    

    Then in Ch. 58, we read of times of failure when people put on a show of righteousness (v.1-4) that “did not make your voice to be heard on high”[v.4]. But for those who were genuinely righteous the time will come when, “the LORD will guide you continually and satisfy your desire … and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.” [v.11] This is the prospect of living on earth when the whole world becomes a Garden of Eden.

    Remember the conversation Jesus had with the Samaritan woman, when he said he could provide “living water” to drink – if the woman had asked for it! [John 4 v.10]  What did he mean?   Isaiah has made it clearer what he meant!  But until that time comes, John’s gospel provides a rich source of nutrients for those with a thirsty mind!  

    We must ask ourselves. “Is my mind thirsty? Remember what Jesus taught in the Sermon on the mount?  “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” [Matt.5v.6].  To do that you must have a genuine dissatisfaction with the nutrients this world provides.   Ask yourself; ‘ Am I satisfied with the way I think, the things that occupy my mind?  Do you go to bed at night thinking your day has included times of positive spirituality? It is sad that many are not conscious they are suffering from spiritual malnutrition.  This is a tragic situation, especially among young people, with so many looking for “kicks” in enjoying all the froth and bubble of life today, the very opposite of “living water”. 

    In the Bible’s final message we have God on the throne saying, “To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, I will be his God and he will be my son.  But as for the cowardly, the faithless …”  [Rev. 21 v.6-8]   Let us live today and all the tomorrows in this mortal life wearing “the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” [Eph. 6 v.17]

Thought for April 14th. “THEY CAMPED BY THE JORDAN”

Todays readings… Numbers 33, Proverbs 24, John 6

    Today’s chapter 33 in Numbers shows that the people had completed their wilderness travels and “they camped by the Jordan” [v.49] The chapter lists all the places where they had camped in those 40 years. The chapter  starts by telling us, “These are the stages of the people of Israel, when they went out of the land of Egypt … under the leadership of Moses and Aaron.  Moses wrote down their starting places, stage by stage, by the command of the LORD” [v.1,2]  So the LORD saw it was necessary to have a record of their wanderings. 

    In the New Testament the third and fourth chapters of Hebrews are devoted to drawing lessons from those 40 years.  They are lessons drawn from the failure of faith of almost all the adults who had left Egypt, those 20 and over in the 12 tribes, except for the 2 ‘good’ spies and most of the Levites. The writer, almost certainly Paul, quotes from God’s words in the Psalms, “your fathers put me to the test and saw my works for forty years.  Therefore I was provoked with that generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart; they have not known my ways.’” [3 v.9]  Humans can ‘see’ but not ‘know’ – like those who believe in evolution today.

    But they had seen!  They had seen God’s judgements on the Egyptians and trembled in awe at Mt. Sinai and been fed and watered in the wilderness. With this example the message to the Hebrews about 1400 years later is, “Take care, brothers (and sisters) lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.  For we share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.” [v.12-14]

   Numbers details all the places they had camped at – by the Jordan was the 38th time!  Little more than every 12 months they had had the big task of moving camp.  Imagine it!  They number some 600,000 adults (Ch. 26 v.51) Now the faithful remain, those who had come out of Egypt as children and those born in the wilderness. Apart from the faithful Levites, Joshua and Caleb and Moses, no-one was older than 59, the fleshpots and relatively ‘soft’ life in Egypt were a fading memory that had no appeal.  That is not so with us!

    In today’s Proverbs there are appropriate verses, “If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small” [24 v.10] “My son, eat honey: for it is good, and the drippings of the honeycomb are sweet to your taste. Know that wisdom is such to your soul; if you find it there will be a future, and your hope will not be cut off” [v.13,14] The word of God provides the ‘honey’ for us, let us make sure we take some every day.    

Thought for April 13th. “THE SON CAN DO NOTHING OF HIS OWN ACCORD”

Todays readings.. Numbers 32, Proverbs 23, John 5

    In our readings in John’s Gospel we start to encounter the many statements of Jesus about how he looks to the Father for guidance; that he does nothing out of his own initiative. His response in the time of his temptation in the wilderness demonstrated this. Three times he said, “It is written.”  His Father’s inspiration of the Old Testament writers was his inspiration and resultant guidance. What an example to us – and the more we read and meditate and digest the Scriptures the more our inner strength develops. The words of Jesus are a prime part of that inner strength for he said, “The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” [6 v.63]

    We read today in Ch. 5, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.  For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. [v.19,20]  We know the Father loves all those who commit their lives to believing in and following the Son and in making him their Lord.  For this reason we specially note Jesus’ words in v.24, “Truly, truly I say unto you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life.  He does not come into judgment but is passed from death into life”

     This means he does not experience the judgement of condemnation. This is made plain in v. 28,29, “ … an hour is coming when all in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgement”   

    Jesus then goes on to make the point, “I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me” [v.30]  This again makes it clear that Jesus was a separate being from his Father and had a separate will, distinct from God’s.  The man made doctrine of the Trinity of later centuries confused all this; theologians try to ‘escape’ from this confusion by declaring it a ‘mystery’ – but it is a man-made mystery.

    Finally we noted Jesus words’ to his critics, “I know you do not have the love of God within you.” [v.42]. We can talk of the love of God, but to truly love God means to have a prayerful relationship with him that transforms our lives. Daily Bible reading and meditation is an essential foundation for achieving this.  

Thought for April 12th. “UNLESS YOU SEE SIGNS AND WONDERS … “

Today’s readings… Numbers 31, Proverbs 22, John 4

    What caused people to believe in Jesus?  When Jesus called disciples he did not attract them by performing miracles.  We saw in John 2 that his disciples were with him when he performed “the first of his signs” in Cana [v.2,12]. No doubt it added to their belief, but true belief cannot be based on seeing miracles. When his teaching became challenging and harder to understand as we will soon see in Ch,. 6, “many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him” [v.66] except for the twelve (v.67/8).

    The comment of Jesus in today’s ch. 4,“unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe” [v.48]  has been a challenge ever since!  It makes us think deeply about the reasons we believe in Jesus.  It is sad that in the last hundred years or so Christianity has seen efforts to practice ‘miracles’ in order to stimulate belief and attract followers.  We recall years ago meeting one who had done this from her teenage years, but she had woken up to how meaningless it all was. One example of her disillusionment she said was when ‘I started to read the gospels and saw how different were the ‘healings’ my husband and I were doing, such as when the same person came week after week for ‘healing’ of a bad shoulder.’ 

     So we read today of Jesus saying, “the hour is coming and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.  God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” [v.23,24]  He was answering a Samaritan woman who had asked whether, “on this mountain (or) … Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship” [v.20]

    Jesus answers by saying it is not the place you go to – it is your ATTITUDE in worship that matters.  On one occasion he told a parable about a Pharisee who went into the Temple to pray and condemned him because his prayer was self-centred, all about what he was doing in serving God (Luke 18 v9)  In today’s chapter we noted how Jesus said, “The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers, will worship the father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.” [v.23].  Our worship must be true and sincere and from our heart, then it will become “a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”[v.14]

Thought for April 11th. “WHOEVER DOES NOT BELIEVE IS …”

Today’s readings.. Numbers 29&30, Proverbs 21, John 2&3

    Once again our readings remind us there is no middle ground, you either believe – or you do not.  There is a limit as to how long you can stand at the crossroads trying to decide, the signposts are clear to those with eyes to see and those who cannot see – are in darkness. 

    Today the contrast between right and wrong ways has never been greater. The right way is always narrow as Jesus plainly said (Matt. 7 v.14): and as we read words in John’s Gospel today, words which are very familiar to many; but maybe not so familiar are the words which follow, but they are just as significant. 

    “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.  Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already” [John 3 v.16-18]    

    Jesus uses the simple illustration of the contrast between light and darkness – half light is of no value. When the truth of the Gospel begins to “dawn” in our minds we must not turn away from it, nor can we hold it at a distance, although some might think they can.   Jesus sadly observes, “people loved darkness rather than light” [v.19].  

    Then we noticed how Jesus used the word “true” and relates it to “light.”  He says, “But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been carried out in God.” [v.21] Those who believe – must be conscious of this at all times and read God’s word constantly; remember David’s words, “Your word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path” [Psa.119 v.105] 

     Again today in Proverbs (Ch. 21) we had repeated reference to the contrast between the two paths; but note Solomon words, “Every way of man is right in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the heart” [v.2]. If our “heart” is guided by the light of the gospel then we will demonstrate the truth of v.11 – “when a wise man is instructed he (or she) gains knowledge” and v.29, “the upright gives thought to his ways”. Let us give thought to our ways, and make sure we see the light with ever greater clarity for it shines brightly in the darkness for those with “eyes” to see..