Thoughts 27th Aug – 2nd Sept

Thursday 27th 

Philippians Ch 2 verses 5 & 6    In your relationships with one another have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;

When I bought my first car my uncle helped me out in showing me some basic car repairs, for which we used the Haynes workshop manuals.  Often the book would say ‘just undo nut x or bolt y’, which sounded easy, that was until you saw the location of the aforementioned nut or bolt, which was in a difficult to locate the place.  My uncle called these ‘just jobs’, ones that sounded easy but were anything but easy.

There are many verses in the Bible which fall into the same category, they sound straightforward, but in practice, they are not.  These verses refer to having the same mindset as Jesus, Ok, but then we find out what that means.  Well even though he was God, he chose not to use those advantages whilst living in human form.  Which sounds straightforward, in our human relationships we should not use whatever advantages we have but should lay them aside.

This is not as easy as it first seems, do we really treat everyone the same, irrespective of colour, creed, gender, or social position?  Do we never use the advantages we have of education, job, wealth, title, or one of the many other advantages we enjoy?  This is not just about how we act, but as verse 5 says, it’s about a mindset, and changing that is much more difficult than changing an action.

Dear Lord Jesus, by spending time in your presence, reading your word, and allowing your Holy Spirit to mould us into the likeness of Christ may our mindset reflect that of our Saviour.

Amen

 

Friday 28th

Matthew Ch 7 verses 24 – 27    Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock………….

The parables of Jesus were full of situations and circumstances of everyday life that were instantly recognisable to all who heard them.  Whether it was about keeping sheep, sowing seed, going on a journey, or as in this case building a house, Jesus used the normal situations of life to teach his listeners.

In this instance he could have just said, ‘do what I say and you won’t go far wrong’, but to illustrate his point he tells a story, and how many of us can remember the story, most if not all of you reading this.  That is the nature of a parable, we remember the message by the story.

But with regards this story, what about you?  What do you do with what you hear in Church, or the words of the Bible if you read it?  What about these thoughts for the day, or the Evening Prayer services and Sunday services we have put on YOUTUBE? 

Well, this parable helps to clarify whether we are building our lives on rock or sand, it’s about whether are we seeking to put what we hear into practice, which is quite simple really.

Dear Lord Jesus, give us ears to hear what it is that you are saying to us, that we may be counted amongst the wise in becoming doers of your word.

Amen

 

Saturday 29th

Joshua Ch 1 verse 8    Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.

What do you expect from reading the Bible or a sermon?  Good advice, encouragement, a challenge, clear direction, teaching, rebuke, or something else?  Personally, I have read portions of the Bible and heard sermons over many years that have included all of these and more.

One thing that is common to every sermon is that the speaker hopes that there will be a response in the heart and life of the listener.  That they will put into practice what they have heard.

This verse from the book of Joshua directs the reader to keep the Book of the Law, which would have been the law of Moses, [which is usually interpreted as the first 5 books of the Bible, and interestingly, this is the first chapter written following on from these books], on their lips.  In other words, close by you, that you might meditate upon it day and night, and then be careful to do everything it says.

This is the hope of any preacher that the hearer might ponder what was said, meditate upon it and then act upon it.  So next time you read the Bible or listen to a sermon you might like to respond as this verse directs, with the added bonus that prosperity and success will follow.

Dear Lord Jesus, open our hearts to receive your word, to ponder and meditate upon it, and to live out all that it speaks to us of.

Amen

 

Sunday 30th

Romans Ch 8 verse 1    Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus

I love the word ‘therefore’, when it is found in any of the apostle Paul’s letters, it signifies that what he has told his readers previously has a significance on what he is about to say.  In other words, this was the situation, but now this has happened and therefore things have changed. 

In the previous seven chapters, Paul has been explaining that humanity was lost to sin and that the law only revealed our sin to us but could not deliver us from it.  But since the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus, deliverance from sin has arrived for those willing to put their trust in him.

Therefore, because of this ‘there is now no condemnation’ [from God].  We can have the idea that God is a terrible judge just looking to beat us for our transgressions, to condemn us for our sin, but Paul says this is not true on the basis of his first seven chapters. 

Imagine you were a condemned person, living under the threat of retribution, year after year with this hanging over you, but then one day you are told that there will be no retribution, you are no longer condemned, but are forgiven because of the actions of another.  How would you feel, relieved, happy, liberated? This is Paul’s message to the Roman Church and to us today, we no longer live under condemnation, because of Jesus.

Dear Lord Jesus, lift from us today the burden of guilt, take away the condemnation of fear, and may we experience the euphoria of knowing that there is ‘there is now no condemnation’.

Amen

 

Monday 31st

Romans Ch 8 verse 18    I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us

It is easy to forget that the words of the Bible were written into specific contexts, and particularly Paul’s letters.  They were mostly written to specific groups of believers across Asia Minor, each dealing with different problems from, learning what Church governance might look like, Christian morality, generosity, Gentile conversion, and a myriad other issues. 

But a recurring growing theme was one of persecution, from both Judaism and the wider Roman Empire.  Church history tells us of the dreadful persecution that happened intermittently from around AD 64 onwards from the Roman Empire.

Suffering in every form tends to make us ask questions of God, with the most obvious being ‘why’.  Set in isolation there is usually no answer, or certainly, one which we are willing to hear.

This verse seeks to set all suffering in its proper context.  Firstly, that suffering will happen, it is not unusual and can happen to any of us.  But secondly that no matter what that suffering looks like, it is totally incomparable with the glory that will be revealed in us.  In the context of the present, suffering can be terrible, but in the context of eternity it is invisible in the glory we will be caught up in.

If our hope is in this life on earth, then suffering will be catastrophic, but if our hope is in eternity with God, then our present context will be set in the bigger picture, and  ‘our present sufferings’ will be incomparable ‘with the glory that will be revealed in us’.

Dear Lord Jesus, please give us an eternal perspective on life, a perspective that sets the present in the context of the future and sets suffering in the context of the glory that we will experience in eternity.

Amen

 

Tuesday 1st

Philippians Ch 2 verse 3    Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.

This second chapter of Paul’s letter to the Church at Philippi is famous for its focus on Christ’s voluntary humbling of himself, and God’s glorifying of his Son.

This verse, which comes before this focus on Christ’s humbling, is applied by Paul to the readers and hearers of his letter, and ultimately refers to Christ as the example that they should follow.  He challenges them to be selfless, not to pursue aims and objectives that are borne out of selfish ambition or are fuelled by vain conceit.  He goes on to say that they should value others above themselves.  This selfless life is at the heart of Christian discipleship and reflects Jesus words in the gospel of Mark, where he talks about dying to self and taking up ones cross and following him.  Paul’s letters constantly refer back to Jesus as the ultimate example, there is that sense of ‘don’t look at me but look at Jesus’.

I do wonder what Church life would look like if each of us pursued the agenda that Paul set before the Philippian Church, valuing others above ourselves and not seeking our own gain first?  Selfish ambition and vanity are the marks of a hedonistic culture, and the early Church faced similar issues to those we face today.  Which is probably why these words resonate with us in 2020 as much as they did in the first century.

Dear Lord Jesus, may we not be driven or influenced by the values of this world, but may we follow you on the road to humility as disciples seeking the absolute best for others.

Amen

 

Wednesday 2nd

Galatians Ch 6 verse 1    If someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore them gently.

The reality of this verse is that all of us are ‘caught in a sin’ on a fairly regular basis, it’s just that what we are doing is not always seen as a sin.  So, we do not always see the need to be restored.

There are two halves to this verse, the one half that makes it plain that even though we are part of the redeemed, restored, and forgiven family of God, we are still fallible and likely to sin.  Whereas the other half makes way for us to be restored, and to be restored gently.

In Roman’s Ch 3 Paul says that ‘all have sinned’, and so if all have sinned then all need to be restored.  The recognition that I am as fallible as the next person should cause me to be generous and gentle with others when their sin is exposed.  As I would like the same measure to be meted out to me when I am ‘caught in a sin’. 

All of us are quick to judge when it comes to the failings of others, maybe on reflection, our first thoughts should be about how we can aid their restoration.  The first step in that process is probably to refrain from strong words of condemnation, remembering that ‘all have sinned’.

Dear Lord Jesus, help me to be generous in dealing with the failure of others, that my first thoughts would be of restoration and not condemnation, remembering my own failings.

Amen