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Daily Bible thoughts 1230: Friday 16th September 2016: John 12:1-11: Perfume.

 John 12:1-11: Perfume.(please click here for todays passage)

Worship is costly. It is a sacrificial response to the sacrificial love of Jesus. Our sacrifices are small by comparison, but if ‘the cross’ does not lie at the heart of our offering it is not worship. As far as we are concerned, if we are worshipping Jesus it will be costly. Someone said, ”Ministry that costs nothing accomplishes nothing.”

Worship that pays the price will perfume the world. There is a fragrance, a lovely scent, an aroma of Jesus surrounding those who are deeply in love with Jesus.

Worship involves abandonment and self-forgetfulness. Therefore those who worship may draw criticism from merely religious people. When it comes to spiritual things, there are those who can ‘talk a good game’; they can use the terminology, the vocabulary, but their hearts are deeply polluted wells of corruption. They hate genuine worship.

To truly worship you have to have a generous spirit. This touches every area of life – not just money. But it will be shown in our attitude towards finance, so that we give freely, joyfully and with faith-filled hearts.

”One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty.” Proverbs 11:24.

PRAYER: Lord, let me carry your fragrance everywhere.

Daily Bible thoughts 1229: Thursday 15th September 2016: John 12:1-11: Get your Lazarus.

John 12:1-11: Get your Lazarus. (please click for todays passage)

Here are three simple points from this passage:

  1. Jesus raised Lazarus to life (1): I am struck by the words, ”where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead.” If Jesus raises you – you live! There are no half measures where His work is concerned.
  2. Jesus raised Lazarus to intimate fellowship (2): He got to be ”seated with Christ” (Ephesians 2). He who had so recently been laid in the grave was once again able to enjoy food, and company and other blessings. In the East, the table was the place of intimate and leisurely communion. It’s a delightful picture. This actually happened to Lazarus, but it also portrays our experience. We honour the Lord Jesus who raised us by enjoying His company, feasting on Him, as it were, and ‘reclining’ on Him. Our life now is not one of self-reliance, but we lean on Him. We rest on Him and His finished work. A missionary was living with a remote tribe in order to translate the Bible into their language. He was, however, struggling to find the right word for ‘trust’. One day, a native came into his hut. He was weary from a long day’s work, and as he gratefully sank into the missionary’s chair, he expressed that it was good to be able to ”lean his whole weight” upon it. The missionary realised that he had found his word for trust.
  3. Jesus raised Lazarus to be living evidence of His power (9-11). The great Methodist preacher, Samuel Chadwick, asked the question, ”Do you want to know the secret of filling your chapels Sunday by Sunday?” He said, ”Get your Lazarus!” How obtuse people can be though. They wanted to put Lazarus back in the cemetery rather than accept what his life was saying about Jesus. It’s a wonderful thing to be given resurrection life by Christ, but it’s also dangerous! He calls us out of the grave into ‘risky living.’

Daily Bible thoughts 1228: Wednesday 14th September 2016: John 12:1-3: Living worship.

 John 12:1-3: Living worship.(please click for todays passage)

Although we ‘focus’ our worship in specific acts of worship, on a Sunday, and at other times; worship is actually a 24/7 calling. I read a book many years ago entitled ‘Worship the Lord’ by Jock Anderson. In it, the author said this: ”God wants worship that is living and living that is worship.” I think partly through the influence of that book, I came to see that everything we do should be offered to God in worship, and if we can’t worship by doing it, then we probably ought to avoid that particular thing.(David Pawson said that for the Christian, the whole of life is sacred, and the only thing that is secular is sin.) The worship of Jesus, who raised us to life, is a beautiful thing (3). There is a fragrance about worshipping people, and also in the very atmosphere they carry about them. But also, when we grasp that worship is about the lives we lead as well as the words we say and the songs we sing, we begin to experience that there is a cost to worship. When you worship with the whole of your life there is a price tag. It may even be true to say that the greater the cost, the sweeter the scent; the more powerful the aroma. Whatever, let us not be ashamed to show our love to Jesus. I once knew a girl who loved the Lord so much that her expression of worship, in church, was quite extravagant. But I am certain she was not being exhibitionist in any way. She just adored Jesus and was ‘lost’ in worship. She was oblivious to what anyone else thought.

As we see here, we may eat in Jesus’ honour (2). It reminds me of Paul’s words:

”So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).

The Lord wants living that is worship:

”And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17).

If Jesus has made you alive (1) you will surely want to do just that.

PRAYER: I am so aware Lord Jesus that you have imparted abundant life to me. So I ask that the life I lead in this world will be a beautiful and fitting response to you. Let me carry the scent of Jesus wherever I go.

Daily Bible thoughts 1033: Tuesday 15th December 2015: 1 Timothy 6:1, 2: He’s my brother.

 1 Timothy 6:1- 2: He’s my brother.(please click here for todays passage)

I heard a story about a private soldier who was attending a communion service. When it came time for him to leave his seat and go and receive the bread and wine, he noticed that his major was in the queue behind him. So he stood back to let the senior officer go first. But the man refused. As the story goes, he said, ‘Anywhere else, but not in here.’ We are on level ground before the cross.

Paul did not campaign against slavery. It would have been futile for him to do so under the Roman Empire. But it could be argued that he sowed the seeds of its destruction in his revolutionary teaching about masters and slaves. They could sit together in the same pew, you might say, and call each other ‘brother.’

However, Paul wanted the Christian slaves to understand that they should not abuse their privileged position of serving fellow-Christians (2). They were not to ‘short change’ them in any way.

Whoever we are; whatever we do; whether we are slaves or free, we need to understand that by our behaviour we can discredit the God we claim to love and the teaching we say we follow. There is urgency about understanding this point because so much is at stake. It really is important. Eyes are on us, and how we live matters.

‘’Whoever is a slave must make the best of it, giving respect to his master, so that outsiders don’t blame God and our teaching for his behaviour. Slaves with Christian masters all the more so – their masters are really their beloved brothers!’’ The Message.

Daily Bible thoughts 1032: Monday 14th December 2015: Jeremiah 24: Different destinies.

 Jeremiah 24: Different destinies.(please click here for todays passage)

‘’Jeremiah received the vision described in this chapter shortly after King Jehoiachin and other leading citizens of Jerusalem (including the prophet Ezekiel) had been carried into exile in Babylon (2 Kings 24:10-14); the year was 597 B.C., eleven years before the final destruction of Jerusalem. The purpose of this vision of the good and the bad figs was to show that those who were carried into exile (the good figs) were far better off than those who stayed in Jerusalem (the bad figs): the exiles would survive, prosper, and eventually return to Judah; those who stayed in Jerusalem would be destroyed along with the city.’’ Tom Hale: ‘The Applied Old Testament Commentary, p.1110.

It’s important to understand that both groups – those taken into exile, and those left behind were ‘bad’, in the sense that both had violated God’s Covenant, and both were being punished. It was by the grace of God alone that the exiles were chosen to survive and become a remnant, from which, in due time, the Messiah would come. The irony is that those who remained in Jerusalem thought they were the lucky ones. They were soon to find out otherwise.

God’s purpose in sending the exiles away was to purify them; to cleanse, and cure them of idolatry (6, 7). The ultimate fulfilment of the seventh verse would come in the inauguration of the ‘’new covenant’’ (Jeremiah 31:31-34), when the Holy Spirit came to live in believers following Christ’s death on the cross. He is the One who makes it possible to joyfully obey God’s law.

So it is not the case that the exiles were inherently good, and that those who remained in Jerusalem were intrinsically bad. The point at issue concerns the treatment they were going to receive, and this comes out in The Message: ‘’The exiles from here that I’ve sent off to the land of the Babylonians are like the good figs, and I’ll make sure they get good treatment…But like rotten figs, so rotten they can’t be eaten, is Zedekiah king of Judah. Rotten figs – that’s how I’ll treat him and his leaders, along with the survivors here and those down in Egypt.’’ Good figs have a useful purpose and are treated accordingly; whereas bad figs are useless, and get the treatment they deserve.

This passage reminds me that there is coming a day of judgment, which will be a day of division. People will experience different eternal destinies according to their acceptance or rejection of Christ. C.S. Lewis put it well. He said that in the final analysis there will only be two types of people in the world: those who say to God, ‘Your will be done’, and those to whom God says, ‘Your will be done.’

Prayer: In the light of the final judgment, help me to live seriously. Strengthen me to hold out Jesus to everyone I can. He is the only Saviour of the world.

 

Daily Bible thoughts 1026: Friday 4th December 2015: Luke 3:23-4:13: Resistance movement.

 Luke 3:23-4:13: Resistance movement.(please click here for todays passage)

Again, Jesus is seen to be rooted in history (23-28).

The Holy Spirit, who came upon Jesus at His baptism, led Him into ‘’the desert’’ (1). We must understand that God’s Spirit will sometimes guide us into challenging and difficult circumstances. We can expect this, and should not be surprised when it happens. He is the One who will also enable us to come out victorious at the other end of the ‘tunnel’ (4:14).

Times of physical need and weakness are also times of vulnerability, and we should not be surprised if Satan tries to capitalise (2). Every day in the wilderness Jesus was tempted. In (3) you can observe the same tactic employed by the serpent in the Garden of Eden, trying to cast doubt on God’s Word. God had clearly said that Jesus is His Son (3:22).

Note that Jesus did not dispute the devil’s claim to be able to do what he offered in (5-7). Satan is the god of this world; the prince of this world. But Jesus asked on another occasion what profit it was for someone to gain the whole world but lose their own soul. Our Lord would not capitulate in the face of Satan’s subtle wiles and advanced marketing techniques.

How did Jesus resist the devil so that he fled from him? Three times he wielded what Paul calls ‘’the sword of the Spirit’’ in Ephesians 6, i.e. the Word of God. There was so much Scripture in Him. He was steeped in it; immersed in God’s Book, and was able to draw on just the right verses at the critical time of need: ‘’It is written…It is written…For it is written…’’ They all came from the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy. This raises the question, ‘How much of the Bible is in us? ‘’Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly…’’ (Colossians 3:16).

No look at the temptation of Jesus can be complete without there also being reflection on Hebrews 4:14-16. Have a look at it now, if you can. Ask yourself, ‘What does Jesus’ success in temptation mean for me?’ I’m sure you will be encouraged.

Prayer: Thank you Almighty God for the revelation that Jesus, the Overcomer, lives in me, and in Him I never need be a slave to sin again.

Daily Bible thoughts 1017: Monday 23rd November 2015: Jeremiah 22:24-30: The cost of sin.

Jeremiah 22:24-30: The cost of sin.(please click here for todays passage)

‘’Let it be our care that we die in Christ, and then it will be well with us, whenever we die, though it should be in a far country.’’ Matthew Henry.

I note three things in this final section:

The seriousness of sin: God knew about this man’s sin and he was going to do something about it. Matthew Henry says that the king was going to exchange a crown for chains. In a way, we all do this when we choose the pathway of wrongdoing. We were created in God’s image to rule the earth under Him. But we have sold out to the devil and swapped the diadem for fetters. This king is actually ‘’Jehoiachin’’. He was also known as ‘’Jeconiah’’. Again, Henry suggests that his name may be shortened to ‘’Coniah’’ in this passage (as you find in some translations) to indicate that his reign would be. He was on the throne for just three months (2 Kings 24:8-17). The prophecy given to him was fulfilled only a few years later (2 Kings 24:15). This king the people may well have idolized as their leader quickly came to disappoint, and even to be despised. All our ‘idols’ will let us down. Jehoiachin would be found to be ‘’a leaky bucket, a rusted-out pail good for nothing…a man who will never amount to anything…’’ The Message.

The fact that sin separates: There is a picture of Hell here, and we have seen this point previously in the chapter. The language used is very strong; words like ‘’tear’’ (24, ESV), ‘’hurl’ and ‘’hurled’’ (26, 28). It’s the terminology of ferocity. Jeconiah was made to be near and dear to God, symbolised by the signet ring’’ on His ‘’right hand’’ (24, see Haggai 2:23). He was created to be close to God and to rule the nation out of that relationship with Him. But sin brings a massive rupture. There is something terribly final about the words in (27): ‘’You’ll be homesick, desperately homesick, but you’ll never get home again.’’ The Message (see Luke 16:19-31, and especially 26). Hell is like this, as we have noted before. It is to be exiled from our true ‘Home’ with no hope of return. It is eternal separation from the God we were created to know and love and serve. It is the ultimate in ‘homesickness.’

The surety of God’s purposes: ‘’Jehoiachin lived for many years in exile in Babylon (see 2 Kings 25:27-30; Jeremiah 52:31-34). Though he had children, none of them became king of Judah (verse 30). Jehoiachin was a direct ancestor of Jesus (1 Chronicles 3:17; Matthew 1:12); in Matthew he is called Jeconiah. In Hebrew, both names mean, ‘’The Lord establishes.’’ Jehoiachin was the last of Judah’s kings to die; with his death the throne of David became extinct – ‘’dis-established’’! Yet that is not the last word. The Lord was going to establish a new King on David’s throne, the Messiah Jesus Christ. And it is to this Messiah that Jeremiah turns as he begins the next chapter.’’ Tom Hale: ‘The Applied Old Testament Commentary’, p.1107.

Prayer: Thank you Lord for Jesus – and He is not a disappointment.

Daily Bible thoughts 1011: Friday 13th November 2015: Psalm 119:65-72: Better than gold.

 Psalm 119:65-72: Better than gold.(please click here for todays passage)

What would you rather have: your Bible or a massive lottery win? I hope you can say the former (72); that God’s Word is your ‘’delight’’ (70). ‘’Truth from your mouth means more to me than striking it rich in a gold mine.’’ The Message. Is God’s Word your most prized possession by far?

Verse 65 reads as a prayer in the ‘New International Version’: Do good to your servant according to your word, O LORD.’’ But in the ‘ESV’ it is rendered as a statement: ‘’You have dealt with your servant, O LORD, according to your word.’’ In the Bible, God promises good to His people, and in experience we prove this to be true: that He is good and that what He does is good (68). I knew a man who was an excellent servant of the church. When someone said this to him, his response was, ‘’Well, I have a good Master.’’ What God’s Word says about Him, and what we experience of Him; of His goodness, should encourage us to keep on praying for HIs help so that we can be His faithful people in this antagonistic world. Therefore we keep on asking, ‘’Teach me…teach me…’’ (66a, 68b; also see James 1:5-7).

Even when we go through ‘affliction’ (67, 71) we can affirm: ‘’You are good, and what you do is good…’’ We see the productive power in trials (see James 1:2-4) bringing us into an even closer relationship with God’s Word (67, 71), and ultimately, of course with the Word’s Author. During what I call my ‘nightmare year’ (which actually was around 18 months in reality) – a time of great trauma in the church – the Bible came alive to me in such vivid ways. I kept a journal that year, and it is full of jotted down Scriptures that became personal friends. They walked with me and put an arm around my shoulder and comforted me. At the end of it all I could see that it was good for me to be afflicted in the way I was. ‘’My troubles turned out all for the best – they forced me to learn from your textbook.’’ The Message. The context suggests that the psalmist’s affliction had to with persecution, but he would not allow the hostility of others to deflect him from the path of whole-hearted obedience (69). In the world we will often encounter hardness of heart, but the people of God have soft hearts towards Scripture, and ultimately before God Himself. They are malleable and He can shape them according to His truth. ‘’The godless spread lies about me; but I focus my attention on what you are saying; They’re bland as a bucket of lard, while I dance to the tune of your revelation.’’ The Message.

‘’We are pupils in his school of affliction (67, 70), he is the Principal of the school and the graduation award is the treasure of his word.’’ J.A. Motyer: ‘New Bible Commentary’, p.568.

Prayer: ‘’Be good to your servant, GOD; be as good as your Word.’’ (65). The Message.

Daily Bible thoughts 1010: Thursday 12th November 2015: Luke 2:1-20: Ordinary people.

Luke 2:1-20: Ordinary people.(please click here for todays Bible passage)

This familiar chapter opens with a historical note. This is Luke the painstaking historian at work.

Through Joseph and Mary’s obedience to the law of the land (and believers should be good citizens) God’s purpose was worked out and prophecy fulfilled (Micah 5:2).

This is a story of humble people and humble circumstances. The greatest event in history, up to that point, was barely noticed by most. It happened in such obscurity. (‘’How silently, how silently the wondrous gift is given…‘’). But God chose to make it known to certain people. Some of them were among the most poor and despised people of their times – the shepherds (8-21). They were just doing their duty that night (8). On any ordinary day God may unexpectedly appear in your work place and fill it with His glory.

The shepherds believed what they were told and eagerly went to see for themselves (15, 16); having seen, they then told (17). But they didn’t preach their experience, as vivid and as wonderful as it was: ‘’…they spread the word…’’ They told what they had been told; they passed on the revealed word about Jesus. That is reliable; it is solid rock beneath our feet. We will always find what God says to be true (20; see 12 & 16). The shepherds were, we might say, seekers, preachers and worshippers. All who seek Jesus and find Him are then called to go and make Him known. The question needs to be asked, ‘Are we ready to hear from God through the lips of unlikely people?’

The ‘’good news’’ about Jesus is ‘’for all the people’’ (10). It’s interesting to note that Luke was a Gentile writing for a Gentile readership

What a lovely picture of meditation is painted in (19; see 2:51). Job said: ‘’I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread.’’ (Job 23:12b).What thoughts are filling your heart today?

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