Thoughts 26th Nov – 2nd Dec

Thursday 26th

Amos Ch 4 verse 1    Hear this word, you cows of Bashan on Mount Samaria, you women who oppress the poor and crush the needy and say to your husbands, “Bring us some drinks!”

You might consider this a strange verse for a daily thought?  The prophet Amos is addressing the wealthy women who oppress the poor and needy, and who live lives of plenty whilst the poor struggle.

It is a familiar message, spoken by numerous Old Testament prophets, one that speaks out for justice for the oppressed, and a call to return to the Lord.  A return to the Lord would be the precursor to a change in lifestyle, where God’s laws would be predominant.

Amos could come and preach the same words today and they would be relevant.  The ostentatious lifestyles of the wealthy in comparison with the poverty of many is an outrage to me, never mind God.  A world where the owner of Amazon is making $321 million per day, whilst half the world is living on less that $2.5 per day is utterly wrong.   A world which spends billions on exploring space travel, dark matter, and black holes, but which allows the holes in children’s stomachs to remain empty is ……………words fail me.

Amos spoke out for justice around 2,770 years ago, and still we live in a world of injustice, and if anything, it is worse.

I wonder what difference we could make to the cause of justice.  Support a charity seeking to eradicate poverty, support a child in a poor country, write to a politician, support a food bank?

What I do know is that as part of the richest 5% of people who have ever lived [that is us in the UK today], to do nothing is at best reprehensible, and at worst we risk God’s anger.  The parable of the talents [Matthew Ch 25 verses 14 – 30] intimates that we will be held accountable for what we have done with the resources God has put at our disposal.

Dear Lord Jesus, as we count our blessings may we not turn a blind eye to the needs of the many in this world who find every day a struggle, and who never seem to have enough.

Amen

 

Friday 27th

Psalm 97

This Psalm gives us some simple pointers to live by.  Contrary to the ungodly – those described in verse 7 as worshipping images and boasting in idols – we are called firstly as the people of God to turn away from these and worship Him alone.  This reminds me of what we join in saying with Baptism families and candidates in Church:  ‘I Renounce Evil…I Turn to Christ.’  By contrast, we who follow the Lord Almighty, the Living Lord are known as the righteous in verse 11.  Secondly therefore by His call, grace and mercy, we are called to hate evil and love the Lord (verse 10).  Thirdly, the encouragement in verse 12 is that we should ‘Rejoice in the Lord’ and ‘praise His Holy Name.’  There can be no better way to begin and end the day; looking up and towards Him-our Creator and Redeemer.

Lord as we read here, thank you that you love us, guard us and deliver us.  We pray today for our national and local governments that they would act with justice and mercy.

 Amen.

 

Saturday 28th

1 Thessalonians Ch 4 verse 13    Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.

In the midst of a world where injustice abounds, where many of us are wealthier than ever, but no happier, where depression and stress are widespread, and millions are on medication.  Where is your hope, that is of course if you have any?

Paul’s letter to the Church at Thessaloniki includes this section about how we might approach the issue of death but does so from the aspect of hope.  Whilst there were different beliefs about death around at the time Paul makes clear that death is not to be feared, and for the Christian it is the way in which they will be ‘with the Lord forever’ [verse 18].

Paul talks about being ‘uninformed’, well when it comes death, speculation and folk beliefs abound, but for followers of Jesus who have their hopes rooted in him, then Paul makes clear to them that there is nothing to fear or grieve over.

Our hope is in the one who has conquered death, and as the ‘firstborn’ from the dead he has gone before us to prepare the way, so that when we take the same journey he will be waiting to welcome us beyond death’s door.   In the context of eternity this life is but a blip, less than a grain of sand on a beach. 

As for the rest of mankind, for whom three score years and ten is as good as it gets, death offers no hope only uncertainty.

Dear Lord Jesus, take away our anxieties around death, and replace them with assurance and confidence, borne out of walking through life with the one who holds the keys to death and hell.

Amen

 

Sunday 29th

Psalm 46 verse 10    “Be still, and know that I am God

During lockdown I have noticed how differently, in my home, we approach everything we have to do – not just household chores, but administration, planning for Christmas and other events.

It seems that these days, we choose when to do them, whereas before we used to do things straight away – perhaps feeling a need to get all the tasks we set ourselves out of the way before we could relax. Now we might put some things off in favour of doing an activity that is good for our soul, like going for a walk, gardening or catching up with one another.

From personal experience I know that giving myself over completely to whatever I am doing right now means I enjoy the time I spend in the activity. However, reflecting on the words from the psalm, can you see that this also relates to letting go of our earthly thoughts before prayer.

We are sometimes directed to still ourselves, but emptying ourselves of the worries of the world is a practice easily neglected, and this can mean our prayers – our communion with the most high God – is frequently interrupted by intrusive thoughts.

Dear Lord God, please help us to find time in every day to practice letting go of the things we think we have to do, be still to simply observe the beauty of creation and experience coming to you in fulness of spirit. Encourage us to become better at being quiet so that we can experience the indescribable joy of knowing you deep within ourselves.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen.

Monday 30th

Eccles Ch 11 verse 4    ‘Whoever watches the wind will not plant; whoever looks at the clouds will not reap.’

I don’t know about you, but I think I am a fair weather person!  What I mean is that I will usually plan a run, walk, jobs outside and in the recent past meetings in parks on fair weather days!  However, these lines from Scripture made me stop, sit up and think.  The question came to me; are there things God is calling us to do (within the confines of our present circumstances!) that we are putting off unnecessarily for a ‘sunny day’?  Yesterday for example I picked up a long forgotten hobby, and it felt good to be stirring again the talents and gifts that God has given.  Is there a lurking, misplaced or idle skill or calling we should be resurrecting?  Could we lay hold of it again and nurture it once more in this strange time of times?  May you be blessed as you realise and utilise your God-given gifts.

Lord God, thank you for the precious gift of Jesus your Son and for all the blessings you give to each of us.  Help us use them wisely and for lifting others up in their time of need. 

Amen.

Tuesday 1st

Romans Ch 1 verse 8    First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, 

There is a lot in the New Testament about giving thanks, and about things that we should give thanks for.  Here Paul is writing to the Roman Christians, and he informs them that one of his first priorities is to thank God for them.

Romans is often held up as the most theological of Paul’s letters, it is full of deep theological truths, and is where he expounds the doctrine of ‘justification by faith’, as against works.  The great Protestant Reformer Martin Luther said of Romans, that “This letter is truly the most important piece in the New Testament.”

Yet in spite of some harsh words to the Christians in Rome, and the expounding of important doctrines for the Church, Paul tells the Christians that he thanks God for them.

It is always easier to receive some less than complimentary words if they are given by someone who we know appreciates us and wants the best for us.  Knowing that someone is praying for us and actually thanking God for us is really encouraging, not just for what we do but just for who we are.

There are many things in this world that either intentionally or circumstantially can knock our faith, but knowing that someone is holding us before God in prayer with thankfulness, can be just the thing that helps to sustain us when times are tough.

Why not thank God for the Christians in your life, or at Church?  You do not know just how much they might need and appreciate those prayers.

Dear Lord Jesus, help us to appreciate our fellow believers, to hold them before you in prayer and to be thankful for them.  Help us to develop thankful hearts.

Amen

Wednesday 2nd

Psalm 78 verse 38    ‘Time after time He restrained His anger and did not stir up His full wrath.’

This Psalm recounts the repeated unfaithfulness of God’s people even in the face of God’s mighty acts to save and rescue them in their recent history.  Wonders such as the ‘cloud by day’, ‘fire at night’ (v. 14) and ‘manna for the people to eat’ (v. 24) in the desert on the way to the Promised Land, which God was leading them to and providing for them.  Was this not enough for them to know and be assured of His love and care for them?  The verse for today though really speaks of God’s mercy and forgiveness.  This is wholly undeserved given their, and our, propensity to wander, forget and hide from our merciful God who yearns for us to follow and cling to Him.  We as a post Anno Domini people have even more reason to be thankful for God’s mercy.  Yes we have the hindsight of Scripture revealing God Almighty to us through His dealings with Israel; but especially we can look back with eyes of faith and see that the full weight of God’s wrath was heaped on Jesus’ shoulders so that we could walk free.  As the hymn goes: ‘Tis mercy all! Let earth adore, let angel minds enquire no more.’

Oh Lord, in Jesus’ name I receive your vast mercy today.  Dear God, come, call and draw others who desperately need your mercy and grace today. 

Amen.