Monday, 26 January 2015

"OUR REFUGE AND STRENGTH" Thoughts from today's Bible Readings - Jan 26th

        Today's Psalm 46 fills us with a sense of awe; one cannot avoid concluding it is a prophecy that has its ultimate application to the climax of the era in which we live - an age when God is ignored and is believed by most not to exist. We are living in a time when people are saying, as Peter put it in his final letter in warning about the last days, "all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation." [ch. 3 v.4] – a time when "they deliberately" ignore the records of God's actions in the past, discounting them as fiction,.
            Let us memorise this Psalm as our prayer for this year.  It is the year when, the final '2 blood moons' (after 2 last year), for more than the next 100 years (according to NASA) will occur in succeeding years first at Easter (the Passover), and then during the Feast of Tabernacles.  Remarkably they occurred like this for the first time in about 500 years in 1949/50 as Israel was reborn and repelled all efforts to destroy it!  Then again in 1967/68 when the 6 day war occurred and they again took control of the Holy City.
             A ‘blood moon’ is when the shadow of the earth momentarily blots out the reflected light of the moon and, what is called, a lunar eclipse occurs and the ‘shadow’ of the moon reflects as a dull red.  We ponder the prophecy the LORD gave to Joel,  “The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to bloodbefore the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. “ [ch. 2 v.31]
            Back to our Psalm!  It tells us, "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,   though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble ... The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts.   The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. " [v.1-3,6,7]
            Those blessed of the LORD  to live in and through that time will be told, " Come, behold the works of the LORD, how he has brought desolations on the earth. " [v.8]   Then the wonderful news, "He makes wars cease to the end of the earth" [v.9]  This vision concludes by telling us, " 'Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!'  The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress." Imagine how urgently we are going to seek shelter in that fortress as, in some sense “the earth gives way”!  Our LORD and Saviour will truly be, more than ever “our refuge and strength” at that time.
              And the final chapter of the Gospel of Matthew we also read, concludes with the words of our Lord, "behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." Let us believe, with all our heart, the word that God has caused to be written and preserved.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

PSALM 23 Thoughts from Today's Bible Readings

“THE LORD IS MY SHEPHERD”                                                                                                                                                
            What is really so special about Psalms 23?  There are several popular hymns based on its words.  These must not be just words to us.  God’s words need to ‘live’ in our heart – not just go in one ear and out the other, as the saying is, which can happen so easily in today’s non-stop world. Thankfully today is a Sunday and for most there should be more time to pause and to meditate. 
            The Psalms’ words’ encourage peace of mind – and this can be a rare blessing for many today!  “The LORD is my shepherd!”  Have you ever thought that Jesus would have seen his Father as his shepherd and what these words would have meant to him? See John 16 v.32 and ponder Isaiah 60 v.6-9 and how our Lord knew the scriptures, they came alive in his mind!   And in ours?  
            The LORD shepherded David throughout his life, he “put away” his sin with Bathsheba and Uriah even before he asked, because he knew the overall condition of his heart.  However, David’s life went through more turmoil after that; but ponder the kind of Psalms this event caused David to write!  Then reflect on the value of those Psalms to many individuals ever since!   Truly, in God’s foreknowledge “all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose" [Romans 8 v.28]  Some of these things at first seem bad!  Have you had that experience?
            Good sheep are ever listening for their shepherd’s call.  If their motive is right they will never be in dire need, there will be “still waters” - and when life gets difficult the shepherd will make his presence felt and open the way forward..
            Of course the need for restoration indicates some difficult or even desperate situation when the sheep might, for the moment, cry out, “My God why have you forsaken me?”  We read this in Psalm 22 v.1 which surely indicates David had some moment of desperation himself – before his greater son used those words before giving his climaxing cry, “It is finished” [John 19 v.30]
            “He leads me in the paths of righteousness for his names sake”  [v.3] Notice it is “for his name’s sake”- it is because we bear his name, we belong to him;  that happened when we took on his name in baptism – but it might be that you haven’t done that yet?  When we have done that we can say,  “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil for you are with me” [v.4]
            There are few if any who have not experienced “valleys” at some stage – but it is the valleys that help us to appreciate the high hills and the vision they give to us.  Life that is lived on a flat plain provides no vision.
            What are the “rod and staff” that comfort us?  They are symbols, we suggest, of strength and support and the control (when needed) exercised by the shepherd.  How marvellous is the vision of the last verse, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever” 

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

"KEEP ME ... HIDE ME ..." Thoughts from Today's Bible Readings - Jan 7th

"KEEP ME ... HIDE ME IN ..."

            How inspiring are the Psalms of David.  We perceive that the more troublesome the circumstances that surround him, the closer he comes to God. In today's Psalm (17) we read his prayer, "Deliver my soul from the wicked by your sword,  from men by your hand, O LORD, from men of the world whose portion is in this life." [v.13,14] He is able to say, at this stage of his life, "You have tried my heart, you have visited me by night, you have tested me, and you will find nothing; I have purposed that my mouth will not transgress.   ...  by the word of your lips ...  My steps have held fast to your paths ..." [v.3-5]
            "The word of your lips" is of course, God's word; God’s words gave David the strength to hold fast to godly ways: but do we use his word today as earnestly as David did then?   David wrote, "I call upon you, for you will answer me, O God" [v.6]  David established an intimacy in his relationship with his God.  What an example this is for us - and we have the wondrous further blessing of a mediator and Saviour!
           David next prays, " Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings,  from the wicked ..." [v.8,9]  How urgently may we be making such a prayer as our world grows even more wicked, although it is already really bad in some countries?  Later this month we will read our Lord's anguished prayer for the people of Jerusalem, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!" [Matt 23 v.37]
            May our steps hold fast to God's paths that we may be “willing” as God’s judgements falls on our world, as they fell on Jerusalem long ago. May we, especially at that time, say to our Saviour as David said to God in this Psalm, "Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings, from the wicked who do me violence ..." [v.8,9]
            David then says, " Arise, O LORD!”  - and we read again his word,  “Deliver my soul from the wicked by your sword, from men by your hand, O LORD, from men of the world whose portion is in this life." [v,13,14]  Our "portion" is in the life to come.  The same Hebrew word occurred in the previous Psalm, which the A V translated as "inheritance".  May our Lord "keep" and "hide" us in safety - especially spiritually - until we receive our inheritance.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

"A SPIRIT OF GRACE AND PLEAS FOR MERCY" Bible Readings Thoughts for Oct. 23rd


             Zechariah’s remarkable prophecy (12 v.10) is quoted in today’s reading in John Ch. 19. John is completing his intimate account of the final hours of Jesus. The dying commission that was given to John by Jesus was to look after his mother.  John and Jesus’ mother stood near the cross.  John “the disciple whom he loved … took her to his own home” [v.26,27].  As to the others “they all left him and fled” [Mark 14 v.50], apart from Peter – and we know well the tragedy of his denial.
            Let’s consider the two Old Testament prophecies that John quotes as being fulfilled at this time.  The first is that “not one of his bones will be broken.”  This is an unexpected application of the Divine command to Moses that they were not to break the bones of the Passover lamb (Exodus 12 v.46, reaffirmed in Numbers 9 v.12).  Should we conclude that the purpose of the Passover had been fulfilled after the sacrifice of Jesus?  Maybe not, the religious Jews still celebrate the Passover today.  We believe the final awakening of its meaning for natural Israelites will happen and that could be very soon. 
            We note the other prophecy that John refers to in this chapter; “they will look on him whom they have pierced” [Zech.12 v.10]. This prediction of their looking “on him” surely applies to when Jesus returns. The complete prophecy is, “I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn …”  
            At Christ’s return, those who caused him to be pierced will need to be there. At the resurrection some of these will receive the “spirit of grace” as they make pleas for mercy”!    We serve a merciful God,  but tragically there will be anguish for some, for Jesus had warned, “when once the Master of the house has risen and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock … you will begin to say, We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.  But he will say … Depart from me … there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God but you yourselves cast out” [Luke 13 v.25-28].   
            Today God’s Word and its wondrous Gospel is there for the entire world to read!  Will some say, ‘We had a Bible in our home and we did read it sometimes’, as they seek that “spirit of grace” and make their “pleas for mercy” - for not only natural Jews will be involved on that day – but all who claim a relationship to him – and all he sees – as being accountable for judgement!  In John 12  we read, “The word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day” – especially those who “do not receive my words” [v.48]    Today it is the word that has been written!  What will Christ see – as to your real reaction to that word? Are we whole-heartedly receiving it – as we see many did - in the book of Acts?  As the hymn puts it – ‘We make the answer now’

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

"THE EYES OF THE LORD" Todays Bible Readings Thoughts - Oct, 22nd


            Today in 2nd Chronicles we read the climax of the life of king Asa – and it has vital lessons for us.  He had been a good king – for 35 years – but then he began to trust in his own ways of thinking – and not seek the LORD’s guidance when enemies came against him.  The northern kingdom of Israel provokes a war against him [16 v.1] and he contacts the king of Syria for help instead of the LORD. Hanani the seer is sent by the LORD to rebuke him saying,  "Because you relied on the king of Syria, and did not rely on the LORD your God, the army of the king of Syria has escaped you.   Were not the Ethiopians and the Libyans a huge army with very many chariots and horsemen? Yet because you relied on the LORD, he gave them into your hand." [16 v. 7,8]
            The next verse is one we should memorise and reflect on day by day, it should be a foundation principle in our awareness of God." the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him." 
 There was one fully  blameless heart - resulting in a blameless life, that of our Lord. His intensely personal prayer we read today in John 17 includes the significant point (for us) that he is "not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours." [v.9].  Later he prays  " "I do not ask for these only (the disciples), but also for those who will believe in me through their word ..." [v.20]
            We believe because we have accepted the word the disciples spread and recorded.   The time is coming when the disciples - and all who have believed through their word" (the Lord says in this special prayer as his arrest is immanent)  that they “may be with me where I am to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world." [v.24]   
            That verse takes us forward to the Kingdom era - it also challenges us to appreciate that timelessness is with God "declaring the end from the beginning" [Isa. 46 v.10  cf. Rev. 21 v.6] This further illustrates the truth that "the eyes of the LORD" constantly scan "throughout the whole earth"  We are reminded of Paul's words to the Athenians, that the one real God "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]
            May we embrace this 'vision' of the awesome reality of the unseen, and be able to sense "the eyes of the Lord" watching over us and rely on him and his Son to the end of our days - or until his Son, our Saviour appears - and that maybe very soon.

"DO YOU NOW BELIEVE?" Bible readings Thoughts for Oct. 21st


            We follow on from yesterday’s thoughts and the final climax of the conversation Jesus had with his disciples in the hours before his arrest – and his encouragement to them to “believe in God.” Today we have 2 of the most challenging chapters (15 & 16) in John’s Gospel. Jesus teaches them, in increasingly straight forward language, but even then, they only grasp part of what he is saying; even when they say, "Ah, now you are speaking plainly and not using figurative speech!  Now we know that you know all things and do not need anyone to question you; this is why we believe that you came from God." [ch.16 v.29,30]
            They are feeling positive now - after being perplexed by his words "saying, 'What does he mean by 'a little while'? We do not know what he is talking about." [v.18]  He tells them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy." [v.20]
            Can we see some parallels with our world today?  Many in our world seek a 'froth and bubble' kind of joy, passing pleasures that need constant 'chasing.'  It should be of real concern to us if we feel attracted to this to any degree at all - for we are in danger of going out into the night as Judas did.
            However, in response to their claim to “believe” – Jesus asks, “Do you now believe?”  The disciples then, in a physical sense went out into the night, but Jesus was with them – but he tells them, "also  you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.' [v.22]
            The "night" is coming on our world - and it maybe soon - even very soon - how essential that we possess and develop to the full that 'inner joy' that, as Paul told the Corinthians, we are able to "let light shine out of darkness," and, as a result, it "has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." [2nd. Ch 4 v.6]   This is not normal “knowledge” at all!
So our thoughts today is for each of us to most seriously ask ourselves, "Do I now believe?" Do I have a genuine conviction of mind that is ‘alive’ in my thinking?   Our minds go back to the words of Jesus just before he told his disciples, 'Lazarus is dead" – when he said, "if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him." [11 v.10]  We only really believe, in the sense Jesus is talking about, when the light is in us.  In these last days, we are going to need that "light" more than ever.

"BELIEVE IN GOD" Thoughts from Today's Bible Readings - Oct 20th


            In what circumstances did Jesus say, “Believe in God”?  What is it to believe in something?   When we or someone says. “I believe” there can obviously be varying intensities of meaning depending on the circumstances!  If someone rushes in and says, “I believe the house is on fire” everyone who hears immediately acts to verify its truth and to then take whatever action they can without delay.
            In our John readings we have the final message of Jesus before his arrest, a personal message to strengthen the disciples spiritually after Judas the betrayer has left.  Ch. 14 starts, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.”  They will need the deepest convictions of belief in their minds when, in a very short space of time he is arrested and they are overwhelmed with anxieties, only one of them was faithful to Jesus up until the end. When we come to ch. 19 where the frightful crucifixion scene is described our eyes light on v. 25-27, “… standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas and Mary Magdalene.  When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby … he said to the disciple, ‘Behold your mother!’ And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.”  
            In times of total stress acts of supporting one another will be essential.  Are not such times now more plainly on the horizon of our  world than ever!  The way we cope will show – to ourselves whether we really “believe in God.”  The hearts of the disciples were “troubled” – but after the resurrection they acted with heart-felt belief.  What dramas do we read about in Acts!  These excite and challenge us!  Ch. 4 tells us how the disciples were arrested for “proclaiming Jesus and the resurrection of the dead …  but many of those who heard the word believed …”  [v.2 - 4]  With what conviction the disciples believed now – and showed that conviction of belief by their actions.  
            Recall that after Jesus told the disciples to “believe in God” – he then said “Let not your hearts be troubled”  Surely he is saying that to believers now.  Notice how he says this again later in the chapter – it is so important.  Verse 27 – memorise it. “Peace I leave with you: my peace I give to you.  Not as the world gives do I give to you.  Let not your heart be troubled, neither let them be afraid”  Heartfelt prayer and meditation on God’s word provide the foundation for possessing his “peace.”