Daily Bible thoughts 504: Friday 6th December 2013: 1 Cor.16:5-

Clearly Paul wanted to spend quality time with the Corinthians (5-7) and it was his intention to do so:

I don’t want to just drop by in between other ‘’primary’’ destinations. I want a good, long, leisurely visit. (7) The Message.

I’ve been reading an edition of ‘Leadership Journal’ that has as its main theme: ‘e-ministry: Social media and spiritual impact.’ It contains a number of interesting and well-balanced articles, highlighting for pastors, both the opportunities and dangers of using social media. Tim Challies, a pastor at Grace Fellowship Church in Toronto writes: The pastor has many callings and many responsibilities, and so many of the best of them involve being there… the digital world, with all its attractions and distractions, hinders me from being fully here, fully present in life’s best times and places… I heard recently of a pastor who keeps a jar of marbles by his pulpit, each marble representing one week in the life of the pastor with an average lifespan. The marbles represent what remains of his ministry, what remains of his opportunity to be there with the people he serves. Each week, immediately before he walks to the pulpit, he removes one of those marbles. He does this to remind himself that he will only be with them so many more times, and that while he is with them he needs to take advantage of the opportunity, to preach truth, to bring comfort, to show love to the people assigned to his care. He knows the best of his ministry will come through presence… Ultimately, there’s no substitute for being there. (Leadership Journal: Summer 2013: pp22 & 24).

But however much Paul wanted to be with them, for the moment he was staying on in Ephesus (8, 9): A huge door of opportunity for good work has opened up here. (There is also mushrooming opposition.) The Message. Take good note that Paul did not allow the opposition to rob him of the opportunity. He was a courageous man; a heroic figure, by God’s grace. It was like he saw both an open door and a crowd of people in front of it trying to prevent him going through. But he would not allow them to obscure his vision of this great door for effective work that had opened before him. He kept his eyes on it and pressed through the crowd, just like the woman with the haemorrhage pushed through the crowd to touch the Lord.  Here is an important lesson: Christian fellowship is important, but it must not be at the expense of fulfilling our evangelistic duty. Paul wanted to be with brothers and sisters he loved dearly, but he would not allow that desire to override the sense of duty and responsibility to preach the gospel. Let’s ensure we don’t retreat into the often cosy, comfortable world of Christian social life, and stay there by the fire, just because ‘it’s cold outside.’ Outside there are opponents; inside there are friends. But where the opposition is, there also is the need, and the gospel will take root there if we take the time and trouble to plant it.

Daily Bible thoughts 503: Thursday 5th December 2013: 2 Chronicles 25: 11-28

‘I want to finish well’ my friend said. I often think of his words. I do too. But Amaziah is another tragic example of someone whose start was promising, but whose finish was catastrophic.

In the earlier part of his story we rejoiced to see his positive response to God’s Word. We celebrated it. We saw how he obeyed God’s written Word (3, 4), and took note of a prophetic word (7-10). That was all good.

But then suddenly and almost inexplicably, he turned the car around and headed for the cliff edge. He put his finger on the self-destruct button and would not remove it. On his return from the destruction of the Edomites, Amaziah brought back the gods of the men of Seir and installed them as his own gods, worshiping them and burning incense to them (14). The Message. That made no sense. He had proved the power of the living God in this victory, so why turn to false, dead gods? Why disobey the living Word he had previously been so committed to obeying? God was very angry about it, and sent a prophet to say, What is this? Why on earth would you pray to inferior gods who couldn’t so much as help their own people from you – gods weaker than Amaziah? (15) The Message. He was pointing out how illogical this move was, and, most of all, how spiritually wrong. Often, when people who have once walked with God are walking away from Him, they will do the strangest things. We will scratch our heads over their conduct. This was ludicrous.

Amaziah treated him roughly (16). There was no openness to the prophetic word now: Amaziah interrupted him, ‘’Did I ask for your opinion? Shut up or get thrown out!’’ (16a) The Message. But there was an ironic twist to come: The prophet quit speaking, but not before he got in one last word: ‘’I have it on good authority: God has made up his mind to throw you out because of what you’ve done, and because you wouldn’t listen to me.’’(16b) The Message.

The rest of this chapter tells the sad story of how he was thrown out. Amaziah strutted like a thug on the football terraces spoiling for a fight; asking the king of Israel if he wanted ‘some’. In the end Israel’s king got plenty! But in the short term he tried to avoid a fight. King Jehoash tried to tell him not to be a silly boy (18, 19). He read him the Sports Headlines: ‘Israel trounces Judah. It’s a walk-over.’ ‘You’re going down!’ Jehoash declared. But Amaziah was stubborn and got into the ring anyway, with the inevitable outcome. God was behind all this and determined to judge him (20; see also 27. It appears the conspiracy was brewing for at least 25 years)).

So, we take note, and express to God once more our desire to finish well. Someone who today is listening to the Lord and obeying Him, may tomorrow walk in the opposite direction. It happens. It’s hard to understand, but we’ve probably all watched it occur to someone. Determine, that by God’s grace it will not be you.

Daily Bible thoughts 502: Wednesday 4th December 2013: 2 Chronicles 25:11-13

How terrible it is to have to live with the consequences of forgiven sin!

What Amaziah did came back to bite him.

Verse 10 says: So Amaziah fired the soldiers he had hired from the north and sent them home. They were very angry at losing their jobs and went home seething. The Message.

That bubbling, boiling pot was to spill over onto Amaziah’s stove.

The point to consider is this: although, as we saw, Amaziah did well to listen to the prophet and respond to his word (7-10), he should not have gone to Israel in the first place. He should have had the spiritual sense to know that he was not to ally himself with them.

F.B.Meyer writes perceptively about this in Great Verses through the Bible, p.159: The soldiers of Israel committed depredations on their way back. This was the result of the folly and sin of Amaziah’s proposal. We may be forgiven, and delivered, and yet there will be after-consequences which will follow us from some ill-considered act. Sin may be forgiven, but its secondary results are sometimes very bitter. We must expect to reap as we sow.

When I was a teenager, a guest preacher spoke at my church in Wigan. He gave a most powerful and challenging message about David’s adultery with Bathsheba. Its theme was, as I recall, that although David’s sin was forgiven, the consequences lived on. They were terrible consequences. At the close of the message the speaker, Jack Osman, made an appeal for a public response. He asked people to stand. I can’t remember the content of his appeal. It may have been for a renewed commitment to personal holiness, but I’m not sure. Anyway, only one man stood. He was someone we all respected as being one of the godliest men in the church. When the service was over he came to talk to me. He said, ‘Every man in the church should have been on his feet tonight!’

Well that was his opinion, and he was probably correct.

It is a sobering truth that it is a devastating thing to have to live with the consequences of forgiven sin.

Daily Bible thoughts 501: Tuesday 3rd December 2013: 2 Chronicles 25: 1-10

How many professing Christians are there who are like Amaziah (2)? They are lukewarm, and this a condition the Lord Jesus detests in His people (Rev. 3: 15, 16). There are those who want enough salvation to keep them out of Hell, but not so much holiness as will ruin their lives on earth!! (That is how they wrongly see it. It’s a false perception, but a very real one that the devil succeeds in selling. He says, ‘If you are totally committed to Jesus it will spoil your fun.)

Here is an example of Amaziah’s commitment to do right (3-4). He knew what was in his Bible and he put it into practice. At least he did on this specific issue. It is always a good thing to obey Scripture. Whenever God’s Word contradicts your lifestyle do you contradict God’s Word, or do you seek to adjust your life to it? When the compass shows you are steering off course, do you make a necessary course correction or keep chugging towards the rocks? In obeying God’s revealed truth Amaziah did what was right. Do whatever he tells you (John 2:5).

He was also correct to listen to the prophet (7-10). We are again reminded of the danger of unholy alliances; of being unequally yoked. Amaziah must have known from his father’s experience (24:24) that a big army won’t save you if God isn’t with you. Amaziah was concerned because he’d spent a lot of money to buy in help from Israel, but the prophet told him that God could more than make up for his losses (9). The devil is always telling us that it is dangerous to get too close to God. He persuades you that if you live a fully devoted life of Christian discipleship you will lose so much. The truth is that you don’t have to let go of anything worth keeping. And although there will be a price to pay in living for God, what the Lord gives far outweighs anything we relinquish. Jim Elliot, who was martyred as a young man, whilst serving God among the Auca Indians in Ecuador, said this: He is no fool who gives up that which he could never keep in order to gain that which he could never lose.

If we can renounce all creature aid, and trust simply in the eternal God, there is no limit to the victories He will secure; but if, turning from Him, we hold out our hand towards the world, we forfeit his aid. O child of God, let not the army of Israel go with thee! Do not adopt worldly policy, methods, or partnership. F.B. Meyer: Great Verses through the Bible, p.159.

Daily Bible thoughts 500: Monday 2nd December 2013: 2 Chronicles 24: 21-27

What a salutary warning lies in this sad story. Joash, who at one time was so concerned to honour God’s Word in the restoration of the temple and in asking God’s people to give to the project, later on in his life was actually complicit in murder (21). Earlier, he had reminded Zechariah’s father, Jehoiada, of the truth of God’s Word (24:5) and challenged him accordingly. But now, when he felt the sharp sword of truth cut him deep, he responded with murderous anger. Here’s the clear warning. People of apparent spiritual stature can fall from a great height and end up splattered on the concrete beneath. It can and does happen. I shared a dorm at Bible College, for a short while, with a really nice guy. A year or two later I heard that this same man was in prison, doing time. So Zechariah was murdered in the very temple precincts that Joash had been so zealous over. What irony.

I always think it is a sad thing when people do not show appreciation and remember those who’ve been good to them (22). Who could have envisaged such a turn of events. Life throws up some surprises (and terrible shocks at times!) But the Lord did see this and called Joash to account. We may sin privately, but we never sin secretly. The eyes of Omniscience are ever upon us. ‘Thou God seest me.’  Many years later the Lord Jesus was to say: Therefore this generation will be held responsible for the blood of all the prophets that has been shed since the beginning of the world, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, this generation will be held responsible for it all. (Lk.11:50,51) Jesus was there. He is God and He saw. Payment had to be made.

God always settles His accounts. The bill came in (23 -26) and Joash had to put his hand in his pocket. Joash had a much bigger army than the Arameans, but that wasn’t a problem to God. A big company of soldiers wouldn’t and couldn’t save those who had resisted the Word of the Lord. Joash lived by the sword and died by the sword. He reaped what he sowed. We live in a moral universe and what we do has consequences. Joash let a most unpleasant genie out of the bottle, and once it was out it would not go back in. Not only did Joash die, but as we have seen, he didn’t even receive a royal burial (unlike Jehoiada who did). He died ignominiously and was dishonoured.

Reviewing the life of Joash causes me to think of some words spoken by a friend. He said, ‘I want to finish well.’ You can have a good start in the Christian race, and run the middle section well also, but if you pull out before hitting the tape how sad is that. Those who endure to the end will be saved and I want to be in their company.